Criminals have concocted, "experts" have agreed with and society has accepted over the years, some of the most extraordinary excuses for illegal behavior. "Temporary insanity" comes to mind. How about the absurd "Twinkie Defense" used by the murderer of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk? Now, we may have another wacky defense on the horizon. According to a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, via Discovery News, scientists from MIT, Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center . . .
are able to scramble the moral center of the brain, making it more difficult for people to separate innocent intentions from harmful outcomes. The research could have big implications for not only neuroscientists, but also for judges and juries.
In a test, subjects read a story while scientists applied a magnetic field using a method known as transcranial magnetic stimulation. The magnetic fields created confusion in the neurons that make up a certain part of the brain, causing the subjects to conclude different moral judgments about the story. The scientists admit the differences weren't dramatically different and that in order for a jury to be affected, there's have to be one pretty big magnet hanging over them.
Still, we're not surprised such research is going on and that it's caught the attention of some enterprising ne'er-do-well and criminal defense lawyer, not to mention scoundrel politician. Just remember that when the next sensational crime hits the headlines, and the suspect claims the magnet defense, or a lawyer claims jury tampering by magnet, you read it here first.