Insanity and the offender’s character: neuroscience in the courtroom

by Sofia Moratti & Dennis Patterson

The relationship between character, mental disease or defect, and criminal responsibility, is (and always has been) problematic in every legal system. We will focus on the Italian legal system.

We will start with a brief historical introduction presenting the terms of debate among criminal law scholars in the past decades. We will discuss a recent landmark ruling by the Italian Supreme Court, on the relevance of the offender’s personality to the determination of criminal responsibility. We shall discuss the implications of the prohibition (article 220 of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure) to admit expert assessments aimed to ascertain the defendant’s “personality and character” as means of evidence in the criminal trial. We will discuss the use of neuroscience in expert assessments aimed to assess the offender’s capacity in a recent notable Italian criminal trial.