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Legal implications of genetics and crime research.

by D W Denno
Ciba Foundation symposium ()

Abstract

Two controversial topics dominate discussions of the legal implications of genetics and crime research; (1) the viability and politics of such research, which has sparked fervent debate in the USA; and (2) the current status of new or atypical criminal law defences, which would include a genetic-defect defence to criminal behaviour. This chapter begins by examining the scientifically discredited XYY chromosome syndrome defence, the major genetic-defect defence that defendants have attempted, albeit unsuccessfully. It then focuses on attorneys' efforts to test for evidence of genetic abnormality in the recent and highly publicized case involving convicted murderer Stephen Mobley, whose family history reveals four generations of violent, aggressive and behaviourally disordered men and women. Mobley is currently appealing his death sentence before the Georgia Supreme Court on the basis that the trial court denied his request both to have genetic testing performed and to have such testing allowed as evidence into court. This chapter concludes by emphasizing that the question is not whether genetic evidence will ever be admitted into court, but when and under what kinds of circumstances. No doubt, genetic evidence, and comparable kinds of biological evidence, will have a major impact on juries when such evidence is more fully accepted by the legal and scientific communities.

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