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Orange County, CA Criminal Defense Law Blog

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Brain Scan Testimony As a Defense in Violent Crimes

A high-tech criminal defense tactic has its critics, but may have the power to alter verdicts in some cases.

People have always been curious about what makes criminals "tick" or operate, and what causes them to commit a crime? For well over a decade, Dr. Joseph C. Wu of UC Irvine in California has worked to answer this question.

His method? Evidence provided by the brain-scanning equipment at the school’s PET Brain Imaging Center. Dr. Wu served as the center’s director from 1988 to 2007, remains on its staff and has provided testimony based on brain imagery in dozens of homicide cases. Dr. Wu claims that PET brain image scans can be reliably used in court to “reflect earlier brain damage or anomalies that might explain violent actions.”

His method and claims are not without controversy. Critics wonder whether both the use of UC resources and the cost of testimony ($20,000 per case!) cast a shadow on Dr. Wu’s credibility. Critics also question what can actually be learned about an alleged criminal’s crime from a brain scan, with one detractor stating succinctly that Dr. Wu can show “a pretty picture of a scan with a color indicating an abnormal area. But he can’t say it is abnormal or what it could cause.” Perhaps most importantly to some, critics have questioned Dr. Wu’s choice of clients, who include an individual who led six men on a bat-wielding killing spree, an individual charged with raping then burying a young girl alive and a woman charged with torturing and murdering her housekeeping via the forced ingestion of bleach followed by strangulation.

Yet others in law enforcement and the judiciary believe that PET brain image scans can provide needed insight into criminals’ impulses to commit specific crimes, with one public defender stating that brain scan imaging “is complex, but it provides great benefit in understanding a defendant’s brain, offering an explanation of how — and hopefully why — something happened in [the accused’s] life.”

Whatever the outcome of the increase of PET brain image scans, one thing is clear: criminal defense and prosecution tactics are complex and will continue to increase in complexity. For this reason, it’s a good idea to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you are charged with a serious crime. If you need legal help following criminal charges in the Los Angeles area, call The Law Offices of Mark Raymond McDonald in Orange and San Bernardino, at 888-686-7874.

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Archived Posts

2014
September
August
Rapper Arrested in Orange County, California on Gun Charges
Further Changes to California’s Three Strikes Law
July
Change in California Criminal Law Likely to Reduce Deportations
Convicted Embezzler Receives Light Sentence Over Prosecution Objections
June
Lab Error in Methamphetamine Testing
New Mental Health Law Proposed After Tragedy in Isla Vista
May
Crowd Sourcing Law Enforcement - Can It Result in Criminal Charges against Innocent Parties?
Understanding California’s Implied Consent Law
April
March
The Impact of Additional Charges On a California Murder Case
"DUI" May Be a Matter of Opinion
February
Alternative Sentencing Options in the Orange County Area
Warrantless Cell Phone Data Searches: A Violation of the Fourth Amendment?
January
California Lawmaker Seeks Ban on 'Affluenza' Defense
Challenging the Accuracy of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Test Results
2013
December
California Supreme Court Deals a Blow to DUI Defense
Guns and Weapons Charges in Orange County
November
October
Domestic Violence in California
An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney can Help you Through the Toughest Situations
September
California Lawmaker Supports U.S. Attorney General’s Stance on Drug Crime Reform
Irvine Murder Investigation Reopened
August
2012 “Crime in California” Report Just Released. What Does the Information Mean to Offenders?
Child Pornography and Child Molestation Charges and Sentencing
Nationwide Sting Highlights Law Enforcement Officials’ Focus on Sex Crimes
Motions: Paving the Way to Defense Victory
Sex Crime Charges in California: What Can You Expect Following a Conviction?
The New Three Strikes Law
Probation, Parole and Ankle Bracelets: What Does the Future of Electronic Monitoring Look Like?
July


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