criminal law; neuroscience; neurolaw


This symposium comes at a propitious time for me. I am reviewing the sentences I was obliged to give to hundreds of men—mostly African American men—over the course of a seventeen-year federal judicial career. As I have written elsewhere, I believe that 80 percent of the sentences that I imposedwereunfair,unjust,anddisproportionate. EverythingthatIthought was important—that neuroscientists, for example, have found to be salient in affecting behavior—was irrelevant to the analysis I was supposed to conduct. My goal—for which this symposium plays an important part—is to reevaluate those sentences now under a more rational and humane system, this time at least informed by the insights of science. The question is how to do that: How can neuroscience contribute to the enterprise and what are the pitfalls? This Article represents a few of my preliminary conclusions, but my retrospective analysis is not complete.