Another phenomenon that my opposing blogger was inaccurate about, was the high that psychopaths feel when doing something wrong. An NPR Interview, conducted in March of 2010, relayed facts concerning a study conducted at Vanderbilt University, where a new system in the brain was found to be involved with psychopaths’ antisocial behavior. This system is called the mesolimbic dopamine system. Yes they do get high, but not because they are doing something wrong; in fact, it’s the dopamine that drives them to do wrong in the first place. Theoretically, the mesolimbic system pumps quantities of dopamine into the brain which creates a surge of radical stimulus in the psychopath, and this combined with the aforementioned abnormal orbital frontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus, makes the psychopath intentionally go out on the prowl, seeking out money, sex, and power; often leading to antisocial behavior. So the dopamine high is not a result, it’s part of the continuous cycle of faulty equipment located in the psychopathic brain (“Study: Psychopaths’ Brains”). Who can be held culpable for that? I think society is under this fallacious impression that psychopaths roam the earth, doing wrong purposely, because it feels good, just because they can, when really it’s more of an instinct.
An article from 2010, written by Dr. Christopher Ferguson, a professor in forensic psychology at Texas A&M, analyzed a study where over 50% of psychopathic behavior was found to be caused by genetics, 33% from all other influences, including biological and social (other than family), and less than 15% from family upbringing. The study was conducted on adopted children, especially twins, and focused a lot on the MAOA “warrior” gene. Having this gene does not guarantee psychopathy, but it does greatly increase your chances (160-176).
- Aggravating factors being introduced to the jury, which must proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Mitigating evidence being produced by the defense to sway the jury away from handing down a death penalty verdict; this must only be proven by a preponderance of evidence (US Code § 3593).
- Aggravating Factors are facts and secrets about the offender that really have nothing to do with the current trial, but the prosecutor will bring them up anyway. This dirty laundry is intentionally meant to make the jurist vengeful toward the offender. The prosecution wants a death verdict, because they work for the District Attorney, an elected or appointed official, so they always feel that their job is on the line, and they think this verdict will make them appear competent, so right off the bat, this is a competition and a trial.
- Mitigating evidence also has nothing to do with the trial, and serves the opposite purpose. It’s meant to make the juror rationally sympathetic toward the defendant and less likely to vote to kill them. The Supreme court ruled in Bigby v. Dretke that it is an eighth amendment violation to not instruct the jury about mitigating evidence concerning the mental health of the offender.
- Each state has different standards for what can be entered as aggravating and mitigating factors, but they are governed by US Codes.
- These state set standards were all adopted in 1976 after Gregg v. Georgia, a Supreme Court Decision, that set a country wide precedent to standardize death penalty sentencing procedures so that they didn’t violate the cruel and unusual punishments clause of the eighth amendment. The decision made it clear that once you’re dead, you’re dead, and you just can’t go around handing out automatic final sentences like death, based on the nature of the crime; you’ve got to get down to the very core of the human being. An automatic “eye for an eye” was sent packing. Wait, what year was this again? 1697? No 1976.
- If this murderer is not eliminated from society, will they still continue to be a threat? “Future Dangerousness” is considered an aggravating factor in 21 states (La Fontaine). Prosecution attorneys love this. They love to confuse jurists into thinking that if they don’t send the convicted psychopath to death row, there might be a chance they will get out in a few years. The defense attorney can object to this all he wants to. The Judge can strike it from the record, and advise the jury to disregard, but we all know that once the jury hears something and develops a schema, they are forever tainted; and let me tell you something, it’s NOT going to happen. A person convicted of a capital crime is either sentenced to death, or life in prison without parole. The only way they are getting out is by a governor or the president pardoning them. In all seriousness, would this happen for a convicted psychopath? No.
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Bigby v. Dretke. 402 F. 3d. 551. US Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit. 2005. FindLaw. Web. 14 Nov. 2010. .
“Capital Punishment, 2008 — Statistical Tables.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. Office Of Justice Programs, 3 Dec. 2009. Web. 14 Nov. 2010. .
Death Penalty Information Center. Ed. Kenneth England. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2010. .
“Eighth Amendment.” Law Library, American Law and Legal Information. JRank Free Legal Encyclopedia, 2010. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. .
Gao, Yu, et al. “The Neurobiology of Psychopathy: A Neurodevelopmental Perspective.” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 54.12 (2009): 813-823. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.
La Fontaine, Eugenia T. “A Dangerous Preoccupation with Future Danger: Why Expert Predictions Of Future Dangerousness in Capital Cases are Unconstitutional.” Boston College, 17 June 2010. Web. 24 Nov. 2010. .
Sandys, Marla, Heather C. Pruss, and Sara M. Walsh. “Aggravation and mitigation: Findings and implications.” Journal of Psychiatry & Law 37.2/3 (2009): 189-236. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 13 Nov. 2010.
Special Hearing to Determine Whether a Sentence of Death is Justified. USC. Title 18. Pt. II. Chpt. 228 § 3593. 1 Feb. 2010. Web.
Without Conscience. Ed. Robert D. Hare, MD. Darkstone Research Group, Ltd, 28 Oct. 2008. Web. 29 Sept. 2010. .