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A Primer on Criminal Law and NeuroscienceA contribution of the Law and Neuroscience Project, supported by the MacArthur Foundation$
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Stephen J. Morse and Adina L. Roskies

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199859177

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199859177.001.0001

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Adolescent Competence and Culpability

Adolescent Competence and Culpability

Implications of Neuroscience for Juvenile Justice Administration

(p.179) 7 Adolescent Competence and Culpability
A Primer on Criminal Law and Neuroscience

Barry C. Feld

B. J. Casey

Yasmin L. Hurd

Oxford University Press

Roper v. Simmons (2005) and Graham v. Florida (2010) held that immature judgment, susceptibility to negative peer influences, and transitory personality development diminished criminal responsibility and precluded execution for murder and life without parole sentences for non-homicide crimes committed by youths younger than eighteen years of age. These developmental characteristics also affect adolescents’ ability to exercise Miranda rights and the right to counsel, and competence to participate in legal proceedings. Developmental psychological research bolsters Roper and Graham’s conclusion that adolescents’ immature judgment and limited self-control reduce culpability and adjudicative competence compared with adults. Neuroscience research provides preliminary biological support for the behavioral findings of juveniles’ immature judgment, impulsiveness and limited self-control. Widespread neurobiological differences in the structural and functional development of prefrontal cortical and subcortical limbic structures in adolescents compared to adults may contribute to their poor judgment, reduced self-control, risk taking and heightened reward-responsiveness.

Keywords:   Juvenile Justice, Adolescent Culpability, Adjudicative Competence, Developmental Psychology, Neuroscience

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