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The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtrooms

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In 1991, the police were called to East 72nd St. in Manhattan, where a woman's body had fallen from a twelfth-story window. The woman s husband, Herbert Weinstein, soon confessed to having hit and strangled his wife after an argument, then dropping her body out of their apartment window to make it look like a suicide. The 65-year-old Weinstein, a quiet, unassuming retired In 1991, the police were called to East 72nd St. in Manhattan, where a woman's body had fallen from a twelfth-story window. The woman s husband, Herbert Weinstein, soon confessed to having hit and strangled his wife after an argument, then dropping her body out of their apartment window to make it look like a suicide. The 65-year-old Weinstein, a quiet, unassuming retired advertising executive, had no criminal record, no history of violent behavior not even a short temper. How, then, to explain this horrific act? Journalist Kevin Davis uses the perplexing story of the Weinstein murder to present a riveting, deeply researched exploration of the intersection of neuroscience and criminal justice. Shortly after Weinstein was arrested, an MRI revealed a cyst the size of an orange on his brain's frontal lobe, the part of the brain that governs judgment and impulse control. Weinstein's lawyer seized on that discovery, arguing that the cyst had impaired Weinstein's judgment and that he should not be held criminally responsible for the murder. It was the first case in the United States in which a judge allowed a scan showing a defendant's brain activity to be admitted as evidence to support a claim of innocence. The Weinstein case marked the dawn of a new era in America's courtrooms, raising complex and often troubling questions about how we define responsibility and free will, how we view the purpose of punishment, and how strongly we are willing to bring scientific evidence to bear on moral questions. Davis brings to light not only the intricacies of the Weinstein case but also the broader history linking brain injuries and aberrant behavior, from the bizarre stories of Phineas Gage and Charles Whitman, perpetrator of the 1966 Texas Tower massacre, to the role that brain damage may play in violence carried out by football players and troubled veterans of America s twenty-first century wars. The Weinstein case opened the door for a novel defense that continues to transform the legal system: Criminal lawyers are increasingly turning to neuroscience and introducing the effects of brain injuries whether caused by trauma or by tumors, cancer, or drug or alcohol abuse and arguing that such damage should be considered in determining guilt or innocence, the death penalty or years behind bars. As he takes stock of the past, present and future of neuroscience in the courts, Davis offers a powerful account of its potential and its hazards. Thought-provoking and brilliantly crafted, The Brain Defensemarries a murder mystery complete with colorful characters and courtroom drama with a sophisticated discussion of how our legal system has changed and must continue to change as we broaden our understanding of the human mind."


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In 1991, the police were called to East 72nd St. in Manhattan, where a woman's body had fallen from a twelfth-story window. The woman s husband, Herbert Weinstein, soon confessed to having hit and strangled his wife after an argument, then dropping her body out of their apartment window to make it look like a suicide. The 65-year-old Weinstein, a quiet, unassuming retired In 1991, the police were called to East 72nd St. in Manhattan, where a woman's body had fallen from a twelfth-story window. The woman s husband, Herbert Weinstein, soon confessed to having hit and strangled his wife after an argument, then dropping her body out of their apartment window to make it look like a suicide. The 65-year-old Weinstein, a quiet, unassuming retired advertising executive, had no criminal record, no history of violent behavior not even a short temper. How, then, to explain this horrific act? Journalist Kevin Davis uses the perplexing story of the Weinstein murder to present a riveting, deeply researched exploration of the intersection of neuroscience and criminal justice. Shortly after Weinstein was arrested, an MRI revealed a cyst the size of an orange on his brain's frontal lobe, the part of the brain that governs judgment and impulse control. Weinstein's lawyer seized on that discovery, arguing that the cyst had impaired Weinstein's judgment and that he should not be held criminally responsible for the murder. It was the first case in the United States in which a judge allowed a scan showing a defendant's brain activity to be admitted as evidence to support a claim of innocence. The Weinstein case marked the dawn of a new era in America's courtrooms, raising complex and often troubling questions about how we define responsibility and free will, how we view the purpose of punishment, and how strongly we are willing to bring scientific evidence to bear on moral questions. Davis brings to light not only the intricacies of the Weinstein case but also the broader history linking brain injuries and aberrant behavior, from the bizarre stories of Phineas Gage and Charles Whitman, perpetrator of the 1966 Texas Tower massacre, to the role that brain damage may play in violence carried out by football players and troubled veterans of America s twenty-first century wars. The Weinstein case opened the door for a novel defense that continues to transform the legal system: Criminal lawyers are increasingly turning to neuroscience and introducing the effects of brain injuries whether caused by trauma or by tumors, cancer, or drug or alcohol abuse and arguing that such damage should be considered in determining guilt or innocence, the death penalty or years behind bars. As he takes stock of the past, present and future of neuroscience in the courts, Davis offers a powerful account of its potential and its hazards. Thought-provoking and brilliantly crafted, The Brain Defensemarries a murder mystery complete with colorful characters and courtroom drama with a sophisticated discussion of how our legal system has changed and must continue to change as we broaden our understanding of the human mind."

30 review for The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtrooms

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dave Cullen

    I loved this book so much in galleys that it's the only book I agreed to blurb this year. I guess I'll post that here, since it forced me to be succinct: The Brain Defense is a stirring ride into a fascinating new field. Can a tumor or traumatic brain injury explain rape or murder? Can they diminish culpability? If your instinct screams no, read page one. The first staggering case will challenge your assumptions; the book that follows may alter them permanently. The vividness and urgency of Kevin I loved this book so much in galleys that it's the only book I agreed to blurb this year. I guess I'll post that here, since it forced me to be succinct: The Brain Defense is a stirring ride into a fascinating new field. Can a tumor or traumatic brain injury explain rape or murder? Can they diminish culpability? If your instinct screams no, read page one. The first staggering case will challenge your assumptions; the book that follows may alter them permanently. The vividness and urgency of Kevin Davis’s storytelling, along with his artful touch, draw you in from the first line, and never let you go.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ammar

    This book bad over 35% of it notes and sources. The last of the written chapters ended at around 62% and the rest was references and notes. That shows that it is well researched and the chapters alternate between the key case in the book and the history and development of neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry and its relationship to the law. In 1991, Herbert Weinstein a sixty-five-year-old advertising executive with no prior history of crime or violence after an argument strangled his wife Barbar This book bad over 35% of it notes and sources. The last of the written chapters ended at around 62% and the rest was references and notes. That shows that it is well researched and the chapters alternate between the key case in the book and the history and development of neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry and its relationship to the law. In 1991, Herbert Weinstein a sixty-five-year-old advertising executive with no prior history of crime or violence after an argument strangled his wife Barbara, opened the window and threw her out of their 12th-floor apartment. His defense team had a structural brain scan done using MRI and PET scan. The images showed a big piece missing from the prefrontal cortex of the brain, i.e., a subarachnoid cyst was growing in his left frontal lobe. Did this growth cause Herbert to commit this violent crime ? Did it cause him to snap in his wife's face and murder her ? Was he able to understand what he did and did he know it was wrong ? The author does a great job in answering those questions while connecting this case to the growing literature of cases past and present and how it influenced future cases since it was the first case to have PET Scans allowed as evidence.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    I have been very interested in the subject of traumatic brain injuries since my husband had a home accident in 2008, which caused him life-threatening head injuries. He has since recovered and is doing very well with zero side effects (other than a metal plate in his head.) However his brain surgeon wanted me to keep a close watch on him for personality changes. When I read a review of Kevin Davis's new book "The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtr I have been very interested in the subject of traumatic brain injuries since my husband had a home accident in 2008, which caused him life-threatening head injuries. He has since recovered and is doing very well with zero side effects (other than a metal plate in his head.) However his brain surgeon wanted me to keep a close watch on him for personality changes. When I read a review of Kevin Davis's new book "The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtrooms," I knew I had to read it. The author explores a history of cases (of mostly men) whose personalities changed after they received either a TBI or had tumors/cancers in their brain. Were they morally responsible for any crimes they committed? How do we punish them? Should we bring this medical knowledge with us into the courtroom? He tells the story of Herbert Weinstein, a sixty-five year old man with no history of violent behavior, who strangles his wife and throws her body off a twelve-story building. Noting his strange demeanor, his defense lawyers ask for a MRI of his brain and he is shown to have a cyst the size of a orange pressing on his frontal lobe. The frontal lobe of the brain governs judgement and impulse control. Could this man not be responsible for his wife's murder? His lawyers went with the insanity defense and he got seven years for manslaughter. This is the case that changed the American legal system regarding neuroscience. Many questions arise when reading this book so I think this would be a interesting novel to discuss in a book club. Should criminals be excused because their brains made them do it?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    This book explores the intersection between neuroscience and the law. Can and should lawyers use CAT Scans & PET Scans as evidence of brain disorders to mitigate the degree of criminal responsibility? What I liked: 1. The complicated material was well described. 2. I loved the case studies and real life situations. For example, a retired mild mannered man strangles his wife and throws her off a 13 story building. They discover he had a has a brain tumor, so is he guilty? The book keeps revisitin This book explores the intersection between neuroscience and the law. Can and should lawyers use CAT Scans & PET Scans as evidence of brain disorders to mitigate the degree of criminal responsibility? What I liked: 1. The complicated material was well described. 2. I loved the case studies and real life situations. For example, a retired mild mannered man strangles his wife and throws her off a 13 story building. They discover he had a has a brain tumor, so is he guilty? The book keeps revisiting his case making it interesting and suspenseful. What I did not like: 1. The material presented is still soft science. 2. As a psychologist I already knew some of the information. 3. If you are looking for definitive answers, this book does not supply them. If you are looking for interesting stories and provocative information about the brain's role in crime you may have found your book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

    Fascinating and well researched with plenty of notes to support and follow up. I have read of these cases casually and enjoyed very much hearing the medical history and true story behind the scenes. Very comprehensive in the cases presented that involve neuroscience from criminal defense and prosecution perspective. I loved the presentation of each case as a story that you follow from inception to conclusion. I was drawn in and read straight through. A good read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    Disclosure: I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. I really enjoyed this book. I have always wanted to read books on landmark cases, so this is a good introduction. I would say for the most part that the author is objective in regard to this topic which can be rare these days. This book was way better than I anticipated. I am a layman in regards to law and neuroscience, but the author did a stellar job explaining various terms. I will look into this author's future releases; as long as, they Disclosure: I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. I really enjoyed this book. I have always wanted to read books on landmark cases, so this is a good introduction. I would say for the most part that the author is objective in regard to this topic which can be rare these days. This book was way better than I anticipated. I am a layman in regards to law and neuroscience, but the author did a stellar job explaining various terms. I will look into this author's future releases; as long as, they are in the same vein.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christina Dudley

    While this book covered ground I've traveled in other brain books (the ubiquitous Phineas Gage puts in his usual appearance), it took the unique angle of tracing how neuroscience entered and has impacted the law courts. Author Davis uses the case of a middle-aged Manhattan man who got in a tussle with his second wife, strangled her, and threw her out their twelfth-story window as a jumping-off point, so to speak. Was it your run-of-the-mill crime of passion, or did the cyst pressing on Mr. Weins While this book covered ground I've traveled in other brain books (the ubiquitous Phineas Gage puts in his usual appearance), it took the unique angle of tracing how neuroscience entered and has impacted the law courts. Author Davis uses the case of a middle-aged Manhattan man who got in a tussle with his second wife, strangled her, and threw her out their twelfth-story window as a jumping-off point, so to speak. Was it your run-of-the-mill crime of passion, or did the cyst pressing on Mr. Weinstein's frontal lobe make him unable to control the natural impulses that arose to fight back, when his wife clawed at him? Along the interesting way we encounter lots of violent criminals, including a few NFL players. It's sad to me that, once you remove our inhibitions and "impulse control," what's left to us humans is basically awful behavior. Which means John Calvin was right, I suppose, and we are indeed depraved. Otherwise, why wouldn't removing our impulses and reasoning result in unexpected acts of kindness? Many of us are just one traumatic brain injury away from alienating our loved ones, taking up substance or gambling addictions, losing our jobs, and possibly flipping out and running someone through with an ice pick. Read at your own risk.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Nixon

    RIVETING! Most gripping nonfiction book I've ever read. That perfect balance of science, application, memoir/historical account with a "what-happens-next" suspenseful pace. Most interesting tidbit: Military veterans suffer brain damage much like NFL players or boxers because they are near explosions that make them fall and hit their heads. This has never occurred to me. (The Movie "Concussion" is the perfect pair to this book). I was also surprised (even as a lawyer) to learn how rarely the "insa RIVETING! Most gripping nonfiction book I've ever read. That perfect balance of science, application, memoir/historical account with a "what-happens-next" suspenseful pace. Most interesting tidbit: Military veterans suffer brain damage much like NFL players or boxers because they are near explosions that make them fall and hit their heads. This has never occurred to me. (The Movie "Concussion" is the perfect pair to this book). I was also surprised (even as a lawyer) to learn how rarely the "insanity" defense is used in criminal trials... and how woefully unsuccessful it is (and why). Finally, although this book does not come out and say this specifically, the dots connect throughout with one clear conclusion: the death penalty is not justice. Life in prison? Sure, but that time in prison should also include therapy or other medical treatment that can repair the brain, if possible. "Faulty wiring" or "brain damage" is not an absolute defense in that it gives the person a pass or pardon. What it does provide is understanding. Our current legal system wants to access blame and personal responsibility with a focus on free will. Neuroscience changes that and change is difficult. Punishment is still warranted, but we need to start having more compassion and accept that these people "know not what they do."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mike Bushman

    Author Kevin Davis' deeply researched story of how neuroscience is being erratically grafted with our legal system is compelling and thought-provoking. Even though the brain, the law and neuroscience are complex topics individually, Davis makes sense of their integration while engaging us emotionally in the stories of people he writes about. Told through multiple cases and from multiple angles, The Brain Defense is a must read for anyone interested in the law, mental health, public policy or bra Author Kevin Davis' deeply researched story of how neuroscience is being erratically grafted with our legal system is compelling and thought-provoking. Even though the brain, the law and neuroscience are complex topics individually, Davis makes sense of their integration while engaging us emotionally in the stories of people he writes about. Told through multiple cases and from multiple angles, The Brain Defense is a must read for anyone interested in the law, mental health, public policy or brain injuries. For those interested in justice and philosophy, you'll also explore deep questions surrounding people whose brains become damaged through mental illness and physical brain injuries. You might even find that it helps you better understand individuals in your own community, allowing you to contribute to and advocate for better outcomes than we are achieving today.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Darcia Helle

    "My brain made me do it." Sounds like a ridiculous defense but, with this book, Kevin Davis shows us the science making that phrase a real possibility. While I'm tempted to rehash some of the excellent material within, because it's a really fun topic to discuss, I'll instead stick to my thoughts on the book in general. First, the material is impeccably researched. The author builds from a solid base of one particular case, with a man who, after murdering his wife, was found to have an enormous c "My brain made me do it." Sounds like a ridiculous defense but, with this book, Kevin Davis shows us the science making that phrase a real possibility. While I'm tempted to rehash some of the excellent material within, because it's a really fun topic to discuss, I'll instead stick to my thoughts on the book in general. First, the material is impeccably researched. The author builds from a solid base of one particular case, with a man who, after murdering his wife, was found to have an enormous cyst on his brain. From there, we explore what it means to be sane, and is the question of sanity different from being criminally responsible? In reading this book, it's difficult not to question the issue of free will. How much of our behavior is governed by the inner workings of our brains? We start to wonder where the line sits between choice and biologically-governed behavior. Kevin Davis's writing is thoroughly engaging. This isn't a dry, textbook kind of read. Yet, it's also not light pop science. The content is compelling and thought-provoking. Davis doesn't claim to have all the answers, and he doesn't lead us in any specific direction. He gives us room to ponder the questions and reach our own conclusions about a topic that is likely to become more controversial over the years. *I was provided with an advance copy by the publisher, via Amazon Vine, in exchange for my honest review.*

  11. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Really interesting history of the ways in which neuroscience has been used in courtroom defenses. The book is straightforward, engaging, and Davis doesn't shy away from the controversy and complexity surrounding the ethical issues surrounding defenses that are based on emerging understanding of scientific findings. Definitely worth a read. Really interesting history of the ways in which neuroscience has been used in courtroom defenses. The book is straightforward, engaging, and Davis doesn't shy away from the controversy and complexity surrounding the ethical issues surrounding defenses that are based on emerging understanding of scientific findings. Definitely worth a read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    Interesting overall but I was surprised that not a single woman's case was discussed. Isn't PMS still in the DSM?. The book might deserve 4 stars, but I just feel like it's a respectable 3 today. Wise to remember to be careful what you wish for in claiming an insanity defense: you may be stuck with a life sentence. Interesting overall but I was surprised that not a single woman's case was discussed. Isn't PMS still in the DSM?. The book might deserve 4 stars, but I just feel like it's a respectable 3 today. Wise to remember to be careful what you wish for in claiming an insanity defense: you may be stuck with a life sentence.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Wenqi

    This is a book that explored the collaboration between neuroscience and law. The ultimate questions that this book attempted to answer are, whether a person is responsible for his behaviour if he is not in his right mind? And are brain scans able to determine whether a person is sane? The author presented us with a variety of court cases in which the defense attorney tried to mitigate the sentence received by the defendant through brain scan that showed a region of the brain which is diseased or This is a book that explored the collaboration between neuroscience and law. The ultimate questions that this book attempted to answer are, whether a person is responsible for his behaviour if he is not in his right mind? And are brain scans able to determine whether a person is sane? The author presented us with a variety of court cases in which the defense attorney tried to mitigate the sentence received by the defendant through brain scan that showed a region of the brain which is diseased or underfunctioning. The cases describing the change of behaviour following brain trauma or disease are both fascinating and disturbing at the same time. It is fascinating to learn that a person is able to transform into another person with a totally different personality, while disturbing to know that a person that you loved is capable to harm or even kill you after a brain disease or trauma. However,  some experts are skeptical towards the assumption that a brain scan result, that is obtained through imaging and calculation, might be able to determine the sanity of a person, and that the defect seen on the scan is able to explain away the crime of a person. I for once think that neuroscience is still too premature to jump to that conclusion. I agree with the school of experts who think that neuroscience should not be applied to individual court cases as evidence but to help shape a law system that helps to rehabilitate people rather than incarcerate them. With the advance of neuroscience, there are still endless areas left to be explored, and many more fields that would benefit from this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Diane Yannick

    Since I have a brain injury, this topic is of utmost interest to me. I seriously don’t think I’m going to murder anyone or need a lawyer to defend me using brain scans, but I did get kicked out of a department store once. This book is clearly well researched and reported. Repetitive sport assaults, as well as other brain abnormalities were investigated. Scientific data was often used in court to attempt to exonerate those who committed crimes. The author clearly examines the line between holding Since I have a brain injury, this topic is of utmost interest to me. I seriously don’t think I’m going to murder anyone or need a lawyer to defend me using brain scans, but I did get kicked out of a department store once. This book is clearly well researched and reported. Repetitive sport assaults, as well as other brain abnormalities were investigated. Scientific data was often used in court to attempt to exonerate those who committed crimes. The author clearly examines the line between holding people accountable for their actions and understanding the mind of the offender. It is hard to know what the future holds as neuroscience continues to advance. I do know that this book was a slog for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah at Sarah's Bookshelves

    The case studies were interesting, but I kept zoning out during the history sections.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sheena

    Some interesting stuff here, but felt a bit disorganized. Definitely left me with lots to think about though...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Wall

    Audiobook during my commute this week. Extremely interesting look into mental health/brain function as explanations, not excuses, for crime. Some of the current studies are going on at Vanderbilt. If this subject interests you, I recommend. The cases are explained well for non legal or psychiatric expertise.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia

    I very much enjoyed reading The Brain Defense, it's very well researched and written. Can a tumor or a brain injury cause someone to commit a murder or to rape someone? Can they diminish culpability? When does someone plead for insanity and why it makes sense. I think doctors say that all tumors are individuals and that they have very different effects on people so I think Davis chose a very interesting topic to write a book about. Davis also uses good examples, different bizarre and horrific sto I very much enjoyed reading The Brain Defense, it's very well researched and written. Can a tumor or a brain injury cause someone to commit a murder or to rape someone? Can they diminish culpability? When does someone plead for insanity and why it makes sense. I think doctors say that all tumors are individuals and that they have very different effects on people so I think Davis chose a very interesting topic to write a book about. Davis also uses good examples, different bizarre and horrific stories of Phineas Cage, Charles Whitman, Herbert Weinstein & Ronnie Cordell among other.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    "Neuroscience could have an impact on the legal system that is as dramatic as DNA testing [...] Neuroscientists need to understand law, and lawyers need to understand neuroscience." This book covered the intersection of neuroscience and law, tracing the history of its appearance within the courtroom and how that has influenced both judges and juries in terms of the verdict and sentencing for defendants. I thought that overall it was well researched and well written (there are a lot of notes a "Neuroscience could have an impact on the legal system that is as dramatic as DNA testing [...] Neuroscientists need to understand law, and lawyers need to understand neuroscience." This book covered the intersection of neuroscience and law, tracing the history of its appearance within the courtroom and how that has influenced both judges and juries in terms of the verdict and sentencing for defendants. I thought that overall it was well researched and well written (there are a lot of notes and sources at the end of the book!) though I did unfortunately find that whilst it started off really strong (with the titular "Murder in Manhattan" case), it did seem to me that by the end things had kind of fallen to the wayside. As a result of these developments, judges and juries are being asked to consider complex science, evaluate conflicting opinions about human behaviour, and ponder whether there is such a thing as free will. For me, I felt that there were just too many people introduced without this and without sufficient background so that every chapter I was chasing the who of the present case, along with keeping track of the who of the previous case. And yet, despite just how many different cases there were in this... there were no female defendants at any point. And I truly want to know why. There has got to be cases where females have plead insanity (or temporary insanity) and had lawyers who presented brain scans (or other neuroscience-related material) as a potential defence. And if not... why not? Why was there no mention of women in this unless they were a researcher, the victim, or the family of the victim/defendant? "If we have any ounce of humanity in us, it's not to excuse but to understand. I think it behooves us all to gain an understanding because if we don't try to understand, we'll never progress." I think overall it was definitely interesting, but I couldn't truly immerse myself in this and 100% enjoy it. Started off strongly but I quickly found myself losing interest due to the many chops and changes. There just wasn't one cohesive narrative, or a clear succession between the cases and the stories behind them. Still, it was well researched and works well as an educational text, and I have to give credit for that. "Humane treatment means that we regard punishment as a necessary evil, not as an aggrieved society's path to emotional satisfaction and "true justice". We should punish only to the extent that the punishment causes people - both the person punished and others who may be deterred - to behave better. Punishment that makes it harder for people to return to society as law-abiding, productive citizens should be eliminated - even if it feels good and right."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    As a science major who has always had an interest in law, this was a fascinating read. While there is no definitive brain injury that causes criminal behavior, there is a great deal of correlation between brain injuries, tumors and other brain abnormalities and people who demonstrate criminal behavior. The author deals with the difficult issue of using brain abnormalities as an excuse to absolve people from their own criminal behavior (as in not the not guilty by reason of insanity defense) and As a science major who has always had an interest in law, this was a fascinating read. While there is no definitive brain injury that causes criminal behavior, there is a great deal of correlation between brain injuries, tumors and other brain abnormalities and people who demonstrate criminal behavior. The author deals with the difficult issue of using brain abnormalities as an excuse to absolve people from their own criminal behavior (as in not the not guilty by reason of insanity defense) and using brain abnormalities as a mitigating factor in judicial punishment. The author discusses various technologies such as PET scans, fMRI scans, EEG studies and SPECT (single photon emission computerized tomography) to explain how these technologies help scientists to understand how the “normal brain” is working in order to compare it to the brains of those who have committed serious criminal acts. While we have all heard of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury), I was amazed at how much brain damage can be experienced by soldiers who are not visibly injured in an explosion (such as an IED blast) but who were in close proximity to the blast. An explosion triggers a very quick and intense rise in atmospheric pressure with sufficient force to push internal organs and then release them when the pressure returns to normal. Even if a soldier has no penetrating wounds and appears to be physically unscathed, the jerking of the head, along with the blast pressure can shear brain tissue, tear arteries, veins, connective tissue and as well as nerve fibers in the brain. A bomb blast can stretch, pull and twist neurons in the brain and cause serious brain damage. Combat veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan referred to it as the invisible injury. This type of injury changes behavior, ability to concentrate, impulse control and is correlated with aberrant behavior. The same behavioral changes have been found in NFL athletes who have experienced repeated concussions and suffer from chronic traumatic encephalophathy (CTE) as a result. This area of science is, over time, going to have a similar impact on criminal law that DNA sequencing has had. Thought provoking read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amber Schroer

    Well written science based, true crime, but mostly research novel into the history and present state of neuroscience in the courtroom through the telling of the case of New York vs Weinstein - a 1992(?) case that first introduced the "broken brain" as a defense for a crime - more specifically- murder. Different than the "insanity" plea, this case was the first to use PET scans of the criminal showing a dramatic image of a large cyst in his brain that may have explained why a 65 year old, well re Well written science based, true crime, but mostly research novel into the history and present state of neuroscience in the courtroom through the telling of the case of New York vs Weinstein - a 1992(?) case that first introduced the "broken brain" as a defense for a crime - more specifically- murder. Different than the "insanity" plea, this case was the first to use PET scans of the criminal showing a dramatic image of a large cyst in his brain that may have explained why a 65 year old, well respected, former "ad man" who had a clean criminal history and by all accounts - an all around "good guy" who had never shown any act of violence or aggression- would have violently attacked his wife after she had scratched him and then managed to throw her body from their 12th floor penthouse on the UpperEastSide. The author uses research and other criminal cases to help readers understand Weinstein's case as well as question the idea of using neuroscience in the courtroom and for what reasons. It is a very interesting book, but if you're expecting a retelling of the crime in the traditional true crime novel, you will be disappointed. This is not the purpose of the book, but rather it poses philosophical questions concerning neuroscience in the courtroom and the idea of free will bs free "won't ". He interviews multitudes of expert to really get into the depth of this idea that at first, to many, seems like a no brainer..."why wouldn't we want PET scans and MRIs in the courtroom possibly showing traumatic brain injuries or physical ailments that ultimately, no doubtedly could help jurors decide the fate of criminals who may not have had 100% fault in their crime?" Well, my friend , their are several reasons with the biggest one being that neuroscience just isn't ready yet and the implications of that are shown throughout his case studies and interviews. I particularly enjoyed the last section where he talks to "experts" who are using neuroscience in a profound way when it comes to sentencing and/or actually treating criminals rather than locking them up and potentially damaging their brain even more so that they end up more damaged.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Natalia Soler

    I first came across this book during my cognitive psychology class. It interested me because of its cross of subjects between the legal system and neuroscience. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was engaging and I was constantly learning something new the entire time (For example I never knew what a mitigation specialist was: someone whose job it is to dig into a person's past to explain why they are the way they are). I appreciated how it touched upon some bigger picture reflections about I first came across this book during my cognitive psychology class. It interested me because of its cross of subjects between the legal system and neuroscience. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was engaging and I was constantly learning something new the entire time (For example I never knew what a mitigation specialist was: someone whose job it is to dig into a person's past to explain why they are the way they are). I appreciated how it touched upon some bigger picture reflections about society such as the existence of the death penalty, general society's views of mental health, and incarceration in the United States. While all of these subject areas are complex and can be broken down in various directions, I think the writing introduces these concepts in a way that invites readers to reflect upon their own ideas. I always appreciate when I book challenges me to think about my own personal views. At times I did find myself having to put the book down and take a break. Davis describes the horrible acts people have done in a candid way I am not accustomed to. Perhaps because of the scientific nature of the book he does it in a way where it feels like he's merely telling you this to present the reader with all the relevant information. I had trouble not focusing on how families of victims must feel when neuroscience is brought into the courtroom to defend these horrible actions. Overall I would definitely suggest this book. My favorite parts being the exploration of the nuances of the science perspective working in a context with individuals who have a legal point of view. One of my favorite quotes came from Adrian Raine, "I think the adversarial system of justice is a game of persuasion, whereas I believe the goal of science is understanding the truth. In court, it's a battle; it's about persuasion and getting the slickest expert witness." I think the reality being that despite the validity of the research of the neuroscience presented in the courtroom the end results provide insight into how our society generally views mental health, rehabilitation, punishment, and most fascinating to me desperately seeks to understand why horrible things happen.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tinika

    In the last few decades, neuroscience has been uncovering phenomenal amounts of information about the brain. How may of our actions are due to choice? Is there such a thing as free will? The answer is that no one knows for sure - yet - but that does not stop gung-ho lawyers from bringing the latest research into the courtroom to excuse or mitigate their clients culpability. Time and time again in The Brain Defense, Kevin Davis goes back to the case of Herbert Weinstein who killed his wife and th In the last few decades, neuroscience has been uncovering phenomenal amounts of information about the brain. How may of our actions are due to choice? Is there such a thing as free will? The answer is that no one knows for sure - yet - but that does not stop gung-ho lawyers from bringing the latest research into the courtroom to excuse or mitigate their clients culpability. Time and time again in The Brain Defense, Kevin Davis goes back to the case of Herbert Weinstein who killed his wife and threw her body out of their high rise window in 1991. The cyst on his brain was allowed into court as evidence though it ultimately did Weinstein no good - he was still found guilty - but he has been a topic of interest amongst neuroscientists and lawyers ever since. There is little agreement about the things claimed. What impressed me most about The Brain Defense is how balanced the reporting is. Davis is as sympathetic to the lawyers arguing that evidence of a damaged brain is crucial to a good defence as he is to those who believe it is all smoke and mirrors. The brain researchers, too, are all over the map when it comes to opinion on whether their science belongs in the courtroom. Davis speaks to many of them, including experts on the juvenile brain, those studying athletes who have experienced multiple concussions, and researchers on PTSD; his exploration is extensive. The lay reader will come away from The Brain Defense with a lot more information than they started with and a lot of viewpoints to consider. It may even change their ideas about guilt and consequences.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tracy St Claire

    This book was a well-written summary of brain imaging and criminal defense strategies in the United States for defendants with brain trauma or disease. It summarizes some case studies of those with trauma from football or war injuries, or tumors or other growths inside their brains and how the court system is and isn’t sympathetic to their defense. The main case covered from start to finish was a man who strangled his wife and threw her from a twelfth-story window while she may or not been still This book was a well-written summary of brain imaging and criminal defense strategies in the United States for defendants with brain trauma or disease. It summarizes some case studies of those with trauma from football or war injuries, or tumors or other growths inside their brains and how the court system is and isn’t sympathetic to their defense. The main case covered from start to finish was a man who strangled his wife and threw her from a twelfth-story window while she may or not been still alive. He has a large brain cyst but showed no other symptoms before or after of issues. Other cases involved pedophilia, mass murder and serial killers, and family abuse. I started out this book being against the death penalty, and as a side note I have significant brain injury from multiple sclerosis. As I read these case studies, I realized that I am not very compassionate and sympathetic to these perpetrators who were abused as children, or injured or went through war and committed the horrific acts possibly beyond their control because of a brain injury. I was not there, even though the book sort of leaned in that direction, that brain injury can do that. Maybe it was because these case studies were entirely men. Throwing your wife out of a window in a high-rise building, $&*#@. No, no defense that you are OK now to walk safely in public, that it was a one-time thing. Jail for life at least in my opinion.

  25. 5 out of 5

    K. Lincoln

    I'm a layman- not a scientist or medical professional of any kind. Most of this book uses the framework of mild-mannered Herbert Weinstein who beat, strangled, and threw his wife out of a high-rise window one day over an argument, and spent most of the rest of his life in prison. It turned out that Herbert had a kind of benign cyst that his defense lawyers tried to use as a mitigation factor in his sentencing. This is presented in the book as one of the primary cases where neuroscience imaging abo I'm a layman- not a scientist or medical professional of any kind. Most of this book uses the framework of mild-mannered Herbert Weinstein who beat, strangled, and threw his wife out of a high-rise window one day over an argument, and spent most of the rest of his life in prison. It turned out that Herbert had a kind of benign cyst that his defense lawyers tried to use as a mitigation factor in his sentencing. This is presented in the book as one of the primary cases where neuroscience imaging about the shape/state of a brain was used to suggest that leniency should be given to the defendant because of the question of how that abnormality intersected with free will. That's a theme that is brought up throughout this book and its description of how neuroscience began to be used in U.S. courtrooms (mostly as mitigation defense during sentencing and not during the trial phase). I found that question to be quite interesting, and also the discussions of how many scientists are deeply uncomfortable with making any kind of connection between the shape of a brain or presence of an abnormality and the responsibility for someone's behavior. Interesting book, but I felt the focus on the Weinstein case somewhat limited the topic, and I wished for a bit more of the science behind the intersection of psychiatric diagnosis and the brain imaging.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sadie

    So I really liked this book. It was filled with really interesting case studies of the use of neuroscience. It addressed topics from veterans to CTE to attempts to use PET scans to prove insanity or mitigate sentences. It felt comprehensive and thorough. That being said, this book was definitely more of an overview of the history and applications of neuroscience in law, than a coherent narrative about the Weinstein case. It aims to inform lawyers, so although there is an underlying discussion abo So I really liked this book. It was filled with really interesting case studies of the use of neuroscience. It addressed topics from veterans to CTE to attempts to use PET scans to prove insanity or mitigate sentences. It felt comprehensive and thorough. That being said, this book was definitely more of an overview of the history and applications of neuroscience in law, than a coherent narrative about the Weinstein case. It aims to inform lawyers, so although there is an underlying discussion about one case in most chapters, it jumps around from case to case, mentioning some only in a paragraph and never really linking it to an overwhelming argument. I haven't read many books aimed at lawyers, so maybe that's the style for this type of book. I really enjoyed this book and found the information inside of it interesting.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (LiteraryLatinax)

    A lot.....A LOT of information in this book but needless to say it was interesting to read about the many cases that involved how different circumstances where the brain affected an individual made them become unknown to many including themselves. This book is very detailed on brain fingerprinting, PTSD, cyst on the brain, murder, self harm, abuse, you name it. Many of the cases mentioned are those that we have read on TV or read online which really surprised me. I think this can be overwhelming A lot.....A LOT of information in this book but needless to say it was interesting to read about the many cases that involved how different circumstances where the brain affected an individual made them become unknown to many including themselves. This book is very detailed on brain fingerprinting, PTSD, cyst on the brain, murder, self harm, abuse, you name it. Many of the cases mentioned are those that we have read on TV or read online which really surprised me. I think this can be overwhelming for some with all the details on medicine, neuroscience, statistics and so forth. Some may even find it boring but for me, it was enough to keep my interest even though at times I may not have understood what was being discussed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    Covers so many aspects of brain injury and the tests used to examine the extent of damage. I liked the way the various trials were spread throughout the chapters rather than revealing them all at once as I believe it kept me more engaged. In some ways I would have liked to have had cases where neurofeedback was used, but perhaps cases like that don't exist--and the book was revealing diagnostic and not therapeutic tools used in brain injury cases (so it is not an book flaw, just my wishful think Covers so many aspects of brain injury and the tests used to examine the extent of damage. I liked the way the various trials were spread throughout the chapters rather than revealing them all at once as I believe it kept me more engaged. In some ways I would have liked to have had cases where neurofeedback was used, but perhaps cases like that don't exist--and the book was revealing diagnostic and not therapeutic tools used in brain injury cases (so it is not an book flaw, just my wishful thinking). I read this for a book challenge about a real life crime and the story of Weinstein is what drew me in. Glad I was able to read this one.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Viral

    An interesting book covering an important topic, about how neuroscience is making it's way into legal proceedings, and how the use (and misuse) of neuroimaging techniques towards insanity defenses and other legal efforts needs to be reckoned with. As someone who is training to be a neuroscientist, and as someone who is passionate about criminal justice reform, I found this book lacking in depth in both ends. I felt the science was lacking at times, and that the discussion about the law and about An interesting book covering an important topic, about how neuroscience is making it's way into legal proceedings, and how the use (and misuse) of neuroimaging techniques towards insanity defenses and other legal efforts needs to be reckoned with. As someone who is training to be a neuroscientist, and as someone who is passionate about criminal justice reform, I found this book lacking in depth in both ends. I felt the science was lacking at times, and that the discussion about the law and about criminality and morality was incredibly paperthin. I'm sure a better version of this book exists, it's just not this one. A good primer, but nothing more.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne Petrella

    Fascinating topic I had a brain tumor myself, the third ventricle with a craniotomy and subsequent shunt surgeries. I lost my breath at times to read how lives can change and psychologists and the criminal justice system have handled these facts. Sentencing, I didn't realize, would be such a controversial issue in the courtroom with neuropsychological evidence presented. Enjoyed discovering all this information. Fascinating topic I had a brain tumor myself, the third ventricle with a craniotomy and subsequent shunt surgeries. I lost my breath at times to read how lives can change and psychologists and the criminal justice system have handled these facts. Sentencing, I didn't realize, would be such a controversial issue in the courtroom with neuropsychological evidence presented. Enjoyed discovering all this information.

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