Several guidelines systems add penalty enhancers if the victim is “vulnerable,” and frequently this refers specifically to elderly victims. Here’s neurological evidence that aged victims may, in fact, have brain deficits that lend them easier victimization, to crimes that wouldn’t have occurred with “normal” brains.
"Our hypothesis is that older poor decision-makers have deficits in their prefrontal cortex," Denburg explained. "The next element of our study will be to complete structural and functional brain-imaging studies to see if we can identify differences between poor decision-makers and good decision-makers either in brain structure or in how the brain functions during decision-making tasks."
The team already is conducting structural imaging tests, and Denburg has just received a three-year, $100,00 grant from the Dana Foundation to do functional imaging studies.
Preliminary analysis of the structural imaging data suggests there are physical differences between the brains of poor decision-makers and those of the good decision-makers.
Understanding the neurological basis for impaired decision-making could also suggest potential medications that might help. Some studies have suggested that altering neurotransmitter levels may affect decision-making ability. However, Denburg notes that this approach is speculative at this time.
My question, though, is this: if this is used as evidence that an enhancer is justified (and it’s always been implied in the enhancer itself actually), then why couldn’t defense counsel turn around and use the brain deficit studies of certain types of offenders to lay claim to a mitigating sentence?
Keep your answers to 3 single-spaced pages and turn them in at the end of the hour.