Pedophilic Designation Overcomes Tentative Brain Dysfunction in Child Pornography Case
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
In October 2021, the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the lower court and denied Jay Eugene Reed’s motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his 70-year sentence for possession and production of child pornography and witness tampering. An MRI scan and expert testimony was offered to argue that Reed’s sentence should be reduced due to brain dysfunction.
In January 2017, Reed pled guilty after a grand jury charged Reed with possession and production of child pornography and witness tampering in September 2015. At sentencing, the court heard testimony from defense expert psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Silverman, who had evaluated Reed prior to sentencing. Reed’s sentence was statutorily capped at 90 years in prison, but Reed’s attorney successfully argued in favor of a downward variance, so the court sentenced Reed to 70 years imprisonment.
Reed filed a pro se motion in April 2021 asserting four counts of ineffective assistance of counsel: sentencing resulting in a “substantively unreasonable sentence” of 70 years, misadvising that the Court would impose a sentence no greater than 15 years’ imprisonment, failing to argue that the indictment was defective, and failing to prevent disclosure of an unfavorable expert report generated by a psychologist whose report Dr. Silverman had reviewed prior to testifying at sentencing.
Count four, consideration of expert testimony at sentencing, revolved around the argument that Reed was had a brain dysfunction at the time of the offense. Psychologist Dr. Franklin M. Dattilio determined that Reed was a pedophile during preliminary evaluation. Reed argued that Dattilio’s report was not meant to be disclosed to Dr. Silverman and resulted in unfavorable testimony when the government used the report to cross-examine Dr. Silverman. Furthermore, Dr. Dattilio never explored any brain dysfunction in his analysis, even though Dr. Silverman’s testing revealed a brain dysfunction.
Dr. Silverman noted that his opinions were “tentative,” and opined that if Reed did not have previous pedophilic urges, they may stem from a brain disorder, damage, or disease. Furthermore, Silverman testified that Reed’s MRI scan showed something “equivocal” that was not a brain tumor. He also found Reed to have sleep apnea, which “might have” caused brain dysfunction. He testified that Reed may have dementia, and that mental health issues including ADD, panic disorder, and substance abuse can be a contributing factor to “various problems.”
However, both the lower court and Court of Appeals largely disregarded Dr. Silverman’s brain-related testimony because of a “lack of persuasiveness.” The court did not believe that the proceedings would have been different if the report was undisclosed, so the court found that there was no indication of ineffective assistance of counsel on any counts.
Citation: Reed v. United States, 2021 WL5003407.
Keywords: Pennsylvania, pedophilia, child pornography, MRI, expert testimony
This post is the 117th 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.