I was searching for something good to read in the New York Times when I stumbled upon an interesting article that was relevant to our NeuroLaw class. Back in October of 2005, Peter Braunstein, committed a bizarre crime in which he dressed up as a firefighter, staged a fire to get into his victim’s apartment, and then tied her up to the bed and sexually molested her. Braunstein’s defense attorney presented PET scans to suggest that Braunstein suffered from undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. This application of neuroimaging in the courtroom reminded me of how much technology has progressed and how neuroimaging is beginning to play an integral role in the courtroom. Furthermore, the all encompassing question of whether Braunstein’s disease caused him to commit the crime or whether it was his own intent has yet to be determined.In my own opinion, I think Braunstein is guilty of his actions, whether or not he suffers from schizophrenia. I think that the crime was much too elaborate for someone suffering from a disease. He obviously exhibited some sort of rational reasoning as he thought up the idea of staging of a fire, and then knew that dressing up as a firefighter would grant him access to the victim’s apartment. Such critical thinking ability makes me think twice if Braunstein’s action were really caused by his supposed mental illness. But that is the question; Is Braunstein solely responsible for his actions or will the jury be convinced that he is actually insane? Reference:
Hartocollis, Anemona. “Disease Drove Sex Attack, Defense Says.” New York Times April 30, 2007.