Minnesota Law Review

Mind, Body, and the Criminal Law

Because we hold individuals criminally liable for infliction of “bodily” injury, but impose no criminal sanctions for infliction of purely “mental” injury, the criminal law rests in large part on a distinction between mind and body. Yet the criminal law is virtually silent on what, exactly, constitutes “bodily injury.” This Article explores the content of the bodily injury construct through the lens of cognitive neuroscience, which poses new challenges to traditional mind-body distinctions. Combining a review of bodily injury definitions in criminal assault statutes and a series of empirical analyses, the analysis finds that: (1) jury-eligible lay people exhibit much confusion and disagreement about what constitutes a “bodily” injury; (2) jury instructions, with different definitions of the term, significantly affect how lay people determine bodily injury; and (3) neuroscientific evidence, if unchecked by a limiting jury instruction, will likely expand the bodily injury concept to include injuries that have traditionally been seen as non-physical. Taken together, the findings in this Article suggest that—if the criminal law were to recognize the biological and thus physical basis for mental injury—the limits of criminal liability for harms against the person might be increasingly contested as the distinctions between mind and body for purposes of criminal liability shift. To avoid this confusion, and the potential injustices that might emerge, the Article argues that legislatures should carefully revisit bodily injury definitions. The Article provides a series of options that legislatures can employ.

 

:: View PDF

News & Events

  • Minnesota Law Review Alum Remembered 45 Years After Death

    Minnesota Law Review alumnus Tom Cranna was honored at the Annual Banquet this Spring, 45 years after his death. Mr. Cranna was remembered for his contributions to the journal, the school, and the positive impact he had on his family and friends. The Devil’s Lake Journal published a memorial which [...]

  • Follow MLR on Twitter!

    The Minnesota Law Review is proud to announce that we are now on Twitter. Follow us @MinnesotaLawRev for information and updates concerning the petition period and deadlines, the opening and closing of article submissions, our 2014 Symposium: Offenders in the Community, and all other news concerning our authors and publications. [...]

  • Vol. 97 Lead Piece Cited in Al Jazeera Opinion Piece

    A recent Al Jazeera opinion piece that criticizes the Supreme Court’s Daimler decision cites to Volume 97′s lead piece, How Business Fares in the Supreme Court. You can read the Al Jazeera piece here. Share this: on Twitter on Facebook on Google+

  • Masthead for Volume 99 Board

    The masthead for the Board of Volume 99 of the Minnesota Law Review is now available. You can view the masthead here. Share this: on Twitter on Facebook on Google+

  • Above the Law Post Highlights MLR‘s Jump in Journal Rankings

    A recent post on Above the Law highlights the fact that the Minnesota Law Review was ranked 11th in the most recent 2013 edition of the Washington & Lee Law Review Rankings. You can read the post here. Share this: on Twitter on Facebook on Google+

Newsletter

cforms contact form by delicious:days