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What is Crime and Treatment?
The most advanced and accurate diagnostic methods are used to determine if a criminal defendant has a brain disorder, and, if so, the most effective treatment protocols are customized for the patient-defendant. The next step is to negotiate for a treatment-oriented plea bargain or proceed to a sentencing hearing to argue for treatment instead of incarceration.
Are you saying they are not guilty because of their brain?
Not at all. Crime and Treatment has three foundational principles:
Crime and Treatment simply asks a better question: Okay, the patient-defendant is guilty – now, what is the smartest thing for the Criminal Justice System to do?
Why do you use SPECT brain imaging as part of the diagnostic evaluation?
For the same reason an emergency room doctor uses an x-ray for a possible broken bone. The diagnosis is better. Also, when a physician is talking about a part of the brain and what that part of the brain does, the images make the explanation much easier.
How much does it cost and how long does it take?
Depending on the clinic and what all is needed, between $2,500 and $3,500. The complete battery of psychological and psychiatric tests takes two to three (2 to 3) days. Four (4) sets of brain images are produced and are part of the protocol much like how an x-ray is used.
It is covered by insurance?
Not at all. Insurance companies have a legal duty to put profits before people. When neuro-imaging becomes a mandatory standard of care, people will benefit, but profits will fall.
Is it controversial?
Highly – to insurance companies and the lobbyists they pay. They do everything possible to discredit the technology and the scientists in order to make as much money as possible by delaying the inevitable.
When did you start Crime and Treatment?
My first client underwent a SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) brain imaging evaluation in 2005. Since then, over one hundred clients represented by the Cobb Law Firm have had Advanced Diagnostic Evaluations and Multi-modal Treatment Plans as a part of their sentence mitigation strategy. The firm has handled more SPECT brain imaging cases than any other criminal law firm in the nation.
Why are you having these evaluations performed?
Most criminal cases are resolved with a plea bargain. Only about 1% of all criminal cases go to trial. Most crimes are a direct result of brain dysfunction, yet the criminal justice system is having a difficult time adjusting to this reality due to politics.
We use these evaluations to legally justify treatment-based sentences.
Are we saying that someone is not guilty based upon their brain scan results?
Bluntly, no. There is great concern that neuroscience will be used with greater frequency to suggest that people are not responsible for their actions. When one considers the Equal Protection argument alone, this is fertile ground for high-stakes litigation.
However, defense lawyers need to tread carefully in this area. In Florida, the most effective use of imaging-based diagnostic evaluations is going to be with sentencing mitigation grounds which are already well established.
Can you share an example of how it works with an actual case?
John Doe was arrested for Child Pornography, Traveling to meet a Minor and Felony Electronic Transmission of Pornographic Images. He had no prior criminal history and a detailed background check revealed nothing out of he ordinary before he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He saw combat in both theaters of operation. He returned to the United States a changed man. His mother would later remark that it was as if a part of her son never returned.
In Florida, a Punishment Code Scoresheet is used to calculate sentencing points. If the total number of points exceeds 44, then the judge must order a state prison sentence, unless the defense can prove the existence of a departure grounds by a preponderance of the evidence. John Doe’s points called for 61.4 months of mandatory prison under the point system. The prosecutor was asking for prison, probation and sexual offender designation.
As a practical matter, we confined the focus of the sentencing hearing to a treatment-oriented, non-incarcerative sentence and did not contest either sex offender designation nor probation.
Based upon his diagnostic evaluation and multi-modal treatment plan, John Doe looked like a candidate for a departure sentence under one of the 14 different departure grounds listed in Rule 3.992(b):
“The defendant requires specialized treatment for a mental disorder that is unrelated to substance abuse or addiction or for a physical disability, and the defendant is amenable to treatment.”
One look at the surface scans, and the brain impairment was obvious to a lay person. These are the actual surface scan images of “John Doe” that were used in court: even an untrained eye can tell that the images are not healthy, normal images. However, how bad are they? Without advanced neuro-imaging training, one could easily look at these surface images and come away with an impression they do not look seriously different. Until you see these:
The logic is quite simple: a healthy brain = healthy behavior. However, this man had an abnormal set of brain images, multiple brain problems and I believe that his brain abnormalities were directly responsible for his change in behavior. Brain SPECT is not able to date traumatic brain injuries, but I have reason to believe and do believe that his change in behavior and abnormal brain scan were a direct result of his deployment.
The judge adjudicated him guilty of the charges, sentenced him to a long period of probation, designated him a sexual offender but also ordered treatment instead of prison. This saved the taxpayers approximately $90,000.00.