Law in Contemporary Society
I imagine many of us are familiar with Implicit Association Tests, and have probably taken the Skin-tone IAT on this list. Somewhat less familiar is the advent of a blood pressure drug with the purported side effect of abolishing this particular form of racism. Studies of the drug, propranolol, shed light on the little-understood underlying neurobiology of "implicit racism." As law professor Adam Kolber explains, "one possibility is that propranolol reduces certain fear responses in the amygdala, and these fear responses affect performance on the test of implicit racial bias." Intriguing legal implications abound...

We are all vividly aware of the conviction and sentencing biases juries display based on the race of the defendant. What if your next jury summons came with instructions to take an enclosed pill with a glass of OJ before reporting for duty?

Another legal debate revolves around the admissibility of neuroscience evidence in the courtroom. Suppose a neurologist is able to map a defendant's brain and show affirmative scientific evidence of implicit racial bias. Assume for a moment that such evidence is admitted in a trial in which the prosecutor seeks to persuade a jury that the crime was racially motivated. Given the existence of the insanity plea and other charges or defenses based on mental state, perhaps this is not too far-fetched to be undeserving of consideration. Would that evidence help or hurt the defense? Should it be used to prove an allegation of racial motivation or to excuse the defendant of that charge? There are serious, if not fatal, flaws to either of those arguments, but that alone won't stop overzealous attorneys from making them, nor impressionable juries from being influenced by them.

Or what if our fictional defendant is convicted, and this judge, in charge of the parole hearing ten years later, decides to include mandatory medication as a condition of parole?

What other arguments do you see for or against the use of a drug like this in our legal system, in any of the ways mentioned or in other ways that you can imagine? These questions may seem premature, but if science advances faster than the law, we will be left with a system ill-equipped to serve its goals.

-- CamilaTapernoux - 10 Apr 2012


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r2 - 22 Jan 2013 - 18:08:21 - IanSullivan
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