Skip to main content
  1. News
  2. Top News

Study reports an increasing use of genetic information in courts

See also

Criminal and civil courts have begun to add a genetic dimension to the proceedings as new genetic studies offer a high probability that criminal behavior is genetically predisposed. Dr. Paul Appelbaum, who directs Columbia University's Center for Research on Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic, and Behavioral Genetics, explored the ramifications of this new trend in courts and genetics. The study was reported in the June 4, 2014, edition of the journal Neuron.

A small body of research using small populations has linked some genetic traits to a higher probability that a person will commit a violent crime. The continued elucidation of genetic connections to all kinds of behavior can and probably will become a part of legal proceedings according to Dr. Paul Appelbaum. Dr. Appelbaum urges restraint in using genetic evidence as a means to adjudicate criminal and civil cases.

Genetic evidence of diminished capacity for control of oneself has resulted in the reduction of sentencing for a violent defendant by an average of one year in three cases to date. Genetic evidence may be used to prove that an accident at work was the result of disease making the company not liable for damages and the plaintiff not eligible for disability. Genetics may be used as a basis for the decision of what party is the most competent parent in divorce cases.

The decision to allow genetic evidence of any form has to date been the decision of individual judges. No national policy exists addressing the admissibility of genetic evidence in criminal or civil cases. Judges, attorneys, and prosecutors may in future be required to become genetic experts if they are to perform their tasks responsibly.

Alabama is the only state in the United States that allows the victim to be a part of the sentencing process. Considering the lack of knowledge of genetics that is required to make a decision about predisposition to criminal behavior, one can only conclude that admission of genetic evidence will increase the length of sentences in Alabama courts. The result of using genetic evidence could increase the backlog in all courts and increase the prison population in an already overburdened prison system.

Advertisement

News

  • Baseball Hall of Fame
    The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown welcomes six new inductees
    Video
    Video
  • 2012 do-over
    If we were to re-do the 2012 election, a new poll suggests Romney would win
    Politics
  • Boko Haram
    Boko Haram kidnaps the wife of the vice prime minister of Cameroon
    World News
  • Ceasefire breaks
    Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu claims Hamas broke another brief ceasefire
    Gaza
  • Close call with CME
    Scientists tell how Earth survived a giant solar flare back in 2012
    Space
  • Comic-Con
    What's going on at Comic-Con? Get all the latest updates here
    Comic-Con