Indiana Supreme Court Reduces 138 Year Sentence, Citing Adolescent Brain Science

Recent Cases in Law and Neuroscience, Curated by the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior and the Shen Neurolaw Lab with support from the Dana Foundation

Above: Defendant Matthew Stidham — Image Source: Star Press

“Both the U.S. Supreme Court and this Court have recognized that, ‘[b]ecause juveniles have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform,’ they ‘are less deserving of the most severe punishments.’ This conclusion flows from the recognition of three important differences between children and adults. First, juveniles’ ‘lack of maturity and . . . underdeveloped sense of responsibility’ leads to ‘recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking.’ Second, their susceptibility ‘to negative influences and outside pressures,’ along with their limited ability to control their environment, can leave them lacking ‘the ability to extricate themselves from horrific, crime-producing settings.’ Third, ‘a child’s character is not as well formed as an adult’s; his traits are less fixed and his actions less likely to be evidence of irretrievable depravity.’ These salient characteristics mean that ‘[i]t is difficult even for expert psychologists to differentiate between the juvenile offender whose crime reflects unfortunate yet transient immaturity, and the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.’”

This post is the 27th post as part of an ongoing Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB) series tracking the latest developments in law and neuroscience cases. To see previous posts about recent cases, see the full case archive on the CLBB website. To see updates on legal scholarship, see the Neurolaw News, hosted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. This project is made possible through support of the Dana Foundation.

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