Neuroimaging technology gives researchers the ability to see structures and functions of the human brain. As the technology advances, it is beginning to change the way the legal field understands the brain and its impact on legal concepts of capacity, sanity, guilt, and innocence. However, the sophisticated technology poses risks that juries will misunderstand the limits of the science or misapply the technical findings to a particular case. To combat the risk of undue prejudice, this Note proposes a cautionary jury instruction designed to remind jurors of the technical and legal limits of bringing neuroimages into the courtroom.

Part I of this Note reviews the admissibility standards for scientific evidence and briefly examines some additional devices that courts may use to ensure that jurors receive only relevant and reliable evidence. Part II examines some current uses for neuroimaging in the courtroom, focusing on its use during the guilt phase of criminal trials. Part III identifies a variety of risks posed by neuroimaging evidence including the risk that the jury will misunderstand the technical limits of neuroscience, will be overly-influenced by the evidence, or will misinterpret the significance of the evidence as it relates to a defendant’s behavior and mental processes. Part IV suggests a jury instruction that includes warnings reflective of such risks.

Note Author: E. Spencer Compton

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