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DNA Defense Not Convincing

Lawyers trying to get their clients reduced sentences or otherwise affect outcomes have been introducing genetic data into the courtroom, Popular Science reports. But, it notes that such information doesn't appear to sway judges and juries.

In a recent commentary in Nature Human Behavior, the University of California, Irvine's Nicholas Scurich and Columbia University's Paul Appelbaum write that lawyers have become interested in behavioral genetics, as it could offer an explanation of why someone acted in an antisocial manner. For instance, they note two people convicted of murder in Italy successfully had their sentences reduced after their legal teams introduced evidence they low-activity monoamine oxidase A alleles.

However, Scurich and Appelbaum add that studies examining the use of behavior genetics defenses have found they aren't too successful. They say this could be because that such evidence could actually suggest to judges and juries that someone is more likely to repeat their offense, because judges and juries don't understand behavioral genetics, or because they view the evidence as one of many factors influencing behavior.

"Whether or not it ought to be the case, it doesn't seem that people think that this is the type of evidence that is convincing," Scurich tells PopSci.