NeuroLaw of Self-Defense: Reptile Vs Neocortical Brain

In the history of the law of “Self Defense” defendants had the burden to prove that he/she were unable to avoid a threat to their life and as a last resort had no choice but to kill the aggressor. The neuroscience of self-defense law is based on the concept that actions that arise out of impulse and the lower level lizard brain of hatred and amygdala fear do not justify taking another person’s life if the opportunity to avoid a threat is available. This accepted standard means that higher levels of the neocortex involving judgment must be demonstrated by the defendant trying to avoid the threat before taking deadly action. The wrongheaded Florida “Stand Your Ground law” for self-defense in which a defendant only needs to convince a jury that they “felt threatened” has turned this long history of neuroscience on its head and has removed the burden of the neocortex and replaced it with made up fears and hatred like a dog barking in the basement. california king snake for sale

A recent example is the case of the “State of Florida vs Michael David Dunn” (The “Loud music” trial) shows why this law is a “Lizard Brain” law because it allows for imagined and false statements of fear to justify murder.

In this case, the defendant drove into a gas station and four black teens were sitting are in a car playing loud music, the defendant tells his girl friend “I hate that thug music” before she goes into the gas station to make a purchase and then he asks the teens to turn down the music. One of the teens curses at him and the white defendant reaches into his glove compartment shoots the teenager three times and then continues to shoot seven more times into the car even as the teens drive away to avoid more gun shots.

The charge is 1st degree murder and the defendant uses the Florida “Stand Your Ground” defense. The Florida, “Stand your ground law” as mentioned this means that if you “feel” that there is a threat to your life you are not obliged to avoid the threat and you have the right to kill the person or persons that you feel are threatening your life.

The defendant testified he feared for his life and he thought he had seen a “gun” or “weapon” and felt that he was going to be killed and therefore he grabbed his gun and shot the teen and then continued to shoot nine more times. The defendant then waited for his girlfriend to return to the car and he drove to a motel and relaxed, ordered pizza, had a drink and spent a day and night with her and did not mention to her that he saw a gun or anything threatening to him. Also he did not immediately call the police and instead the police later arrested him.

Nonetheless, given the Florida “Stand your ground law” the jury was unable to decide on the charge of 1st degree murder because one or more of the jurors believed the defendant’s state of mind was indeed one of “fear” for his life (i.e., the amygdala rules in the juror’s mind according to the law). In short the jury could not find in favor of murder based on the Judge’s instructions about the State of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The jury did find the defendant guilty of 2nd degree murder and with intent to murder the three innocent teenagers in the car and faces a possible 60 year sentence.