Crim 155 Biology of Crime
the case of People v. Weinstein, Herbert Weinstein was indicted for murder in
the second degree of his wife, Barbara. Weinstein allegedly strangled his wife
and threw her body from a window to make her death appear to be a suicide. Weinstein
had no prior record of criminal history nor violence.
Weinstein’s defense claimed that he lacked criminal responsibility for killing
his wife due to mental disease or defect. Specifically, it was an abnormal cyst
burrowed in his arachnoid membrane.
support this claim, scans of Weinstein’s brain which were taken through
positron emission tomography (PET) as well as results of skin conductance
response (SCR) tests of his autonomic nervous system. PET scans were taken
after is indictment in order to enable neurologists and psychiatrists to study
the evidence that clearly displayed Weinstein’s brain functions metabolically
in more than one region. Weinstein’s results matched those of tested
individuals who were confirmed as having lesions in the frontal lobes of their
brains. It more specifically demonstrated that Weinstein had abnormally low
levels of glucose metabolism in areas of his bran that were compressed by the
cyst as well as in regions opposite to the cyst. A psychiatrist could rely on
these scans to further show Weinstein’s diagnosis which is that due to mental
disease or defect he was not criminally responsible for the death of his wife.
This conclusion was reached by studying Weinstein’s results as well as
interviews and other information available to the psychiatrist.
District attorney argued that these sort of test scans and results should not
be allowed to be entered as evidence or testimonies due to the lack of sufficiently
reliable diagnostic devices for brain abnormalities. At the time, such devices
were new technology and untested. The prosecution also argued against the
thought of hypo metabolism in the frontal lobes being the cause of frontal lobe
dysfunction as it broadly was not accepted in the psychiatric and neurological
community. Furthermore, whether or not the uncertain relationship could be
established between the presence of a congenital cyst and a single violent act
was also called to attention.
similar instance happened in Frye v. United States. Fry was convicted of murder
in the second degree. During his trial, Frye’s attorney attempted to provide an
expert witness to testify to the results of a deception test that was taken by
Frye. This deception test is described as the systolic blood pressure deception
test. It has been shown that blood pressure can be altered by modifications in emotions
of an individual and the systolic blood pressure rises are produced by nervous impulses
sent to the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Prior to the
trial Frye was given the test and his counsel requested to introduce an expert witness
to explain the results in the presence of a jury which was denied. In this case
the defense was basically trying to use a lie detecting test which has been
proven unreliable various times as evidence to support the defendant’s
innocence. This is not science nor does it prove anything.
my own personal opinion I do believe there was enough evidence to support
Mr.Weinstien’s brain abnormality having played a crucial role into his violent
criminal behavior. When looking at the totality of the circumstance as opposed
to just the criminal act, one could conclude that criminal behavior for
Weinstein was not constant in his past nor present whatsoever. Furthermore,
with proper scans taken displaying the defects of his brain clearly establish a
credible reason as to how his decision making was effected making him not
criminally responsible. A lie detecting test is obviously unreliable since
people can beat it and display no change of emotion and heart rate while being deceitful,
while on the other hand, medical results do not lie. Photographs displaying the
abnormalities of Weinstein’s brain should be more than enough to prove that
there was a biological reason for his actions that he had no control over.