Wired says the insanity defense of convicted Colorado movie theater mass killer James Holmes is the latest example of how the American criminal justice system ignores science. Psychiatrists no longer call patients “insane.” It's not a clinical diagnosis. Yet the term persists in the courtroom—along with many other practices unsupported by modern psychology and neuroscience.
Americans have a legal system shaped by history, not by science. “The legal system is resistant to change and resistant to paying attention to scientific research,” says Adam Benforado, a law professor at Drexel University. The system assumes that innocent people don't confess to crimes they didn't commit. It presumes that eyewitness testimonies are reliable. It counts on the impartiality of jurors. Yet none of those things are borne out by evidence.