Responsabilité criminelle des malades mentaux à l'épreuve des neurosciences: enjeux éthiques et juridiques

L'équipe | Descriptif de la recherche


Projet de recherche mené par Georgia Martha Gkotsi sous la direction:

- Prof. Lazare Benaroyo, Université de Lausanne, Faculté de biologie et de médecine, Unité d'éthique et Ethos Plateforme interdisciplinaire d'éthique de l'UNIL.

- Prof. André Kuhn, co-directeur de thèse, Professeur Associé, Faculté de droit et des sciences criminelles de l'Université de Lausanne, Institut de criminologie et de droit pénal.



Descriptif de la recherche

Neuroscience evidence and principles have come to play a part in criminal adjudications, influencing all stages of the criminal procedure from investigation to the assessment of criminal responsibility and punishment. Neuroscientific knowledge, research and techniques are being used in the courts of law, with the purpose of acquitting or diminishing the responsibility of the offender – in most cases - because of insanity.

Evaluating the responsibility of mentally ill offenders has long been a problem for jurists and psychiatrists. At present, because courts rely largely on behavioral assessments to decide whether a defendant is mentally ill, there is the worry that some criminals might deceive their psychologists by feigning symptoms of the illness. Neuroscientific research promises to overcome this difficulty by helping detect lapses in the rationality of the offenders or describe the mental state in which they committed the crime (two elements of the legal excusing condition) in order to discover whether they were responsible or not. According to defense lawyers, Neuroscience introduces “Hard evidence”, a solid kind of proof, as opposed to the “soft data” of psychiatry which has been available until now.

Our goal is to scrutinize the validity of this statement by examining law cases where neuroscientific research and techniques were used. We will respond to the following questions: a) In which ways is neuroscientific evidence different from the traditional means of evidence previously used in courts b) How is neuroscientific language translated into a legal language, and how can judges perceive and interpret neuroscientific findings and expertise c) ultimately, can neuroscience help us answer a legal question i.e. how to assess the criminal responsibility of a mentally ill person?
This case-law study will point out/investigate the limits and some problems of the legal use of neuroscience in court.