Tennessee Killing Case Issue: Can Genes Cause Murder?


National Public Radio, in the third of a series, dissects the Tennessee case of Bradley Waldroup, who killed a woman and attacked his wife in 2006. “It wasn’t a who done it?” says defense attorney Wylie Richardson. “It was a why done it?” Forensic psychiatrist William Bernet of Vanderbilt University found that Waldroup has a variant of the “MAO-A gene – also known as the warrior gene because it has been associated with violence.” Says Bernet: “His genetic makeup, combined with his history of child abuse, together created a vulnerability that he would be a violent adult.”

A jury convicted Waldroup despite the genetic evidence, but it did not impose the death penalty. NPR says that “scientists and legal experts expect to see more cases like this as neuroscience makes inroads into the courtroom, and presents guilt and innocence – not in terms of black and white – but in shades of gray.”

Comments are closed.