Even the legal system is being bombarded with brain information. In many cases where the defendant has suffered some sort of brain injury or trauma, defense attorneys are bringing MRIs and CT scans into court for the jury to examine. And the courts are unsure how to handle this information. Was the crime committed because of impaired reasoning ability or was the crime committed because of the defendant’s free will? And there is question of what is legal competency in a number of growing cases.

According to the newest issue of ABA Journal, there is “a growing number of cases involving neuroscientific evidence …..that involve combat veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq.”The National Veterans Foundation, a Los Angeles based non-profit, has created The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court which covers traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

David Eagleman, who directs Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and the Law,  “believes that it doesn’t make sense to try to determine blameworthiness or to ask whether a person’s brain or the person is at fault.” Mr. Eagleman feels that what is important is where we go from here; how do we get help for these people; and what kind of help is needed? He feels strongly that neuroscience should help guide the creation of new laws, determine how criminals are punished, and how we develop rehabilitation programs.

We know that the brain is enormously complicated and that who we are as individuals is determined from our experiences, our genes, and interactions of our environment. It appears that the legal system’s thinking and “due process” does not apply well to brain injured defendants. As we learn more about behavior and the brain, new laws may need to be created to best serve the public and ensure real justice.