Felony Murder and Frontal Lobe Studies
Democratic Delegates in Maryland proposed bill that will prohibit anyone under the age of 25 from being charged with felony murder?
The latest studies in neuroscience suggest that the frontal lobe of the human brain doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25. However, in 2022, Kate Mills, a neuroscientist, said, “We’re still not there with the research to say the brain is mature at 25 because we don’t have a good indication of what maturity even looks like.”
Neuroscientists define maturity as the point when changes in the brain level off. That means neuromaturation is different from maturation in emotional, social, and moral development. So far, there is little empirical evidence that links neurodevelopment and adolescent real-world behavior.
The legal system is struggling with the implications of these frontal lobe studies. Since law is not science, lawyers and policymakers use frontal lobe studies for their persuasive power, not for their scientific precision.
For example, a juvenile can be charged as an adult based on the severity of the crime. Lawyers representing juveniles charged as adults use frontal lobe studies as evidence as to why punishing a child as if he or she is an adult is tantamount to child abuse. When trying to convince the legal system not to charge a child as an adult, the frontal lobe studies are persuasive despite their lack of precision.
But there are other times when frontal lobe studies don’t apply.
Recently, a group of Democratic Delegates in Maryland proposed House Bill 1180 — the Youth Accountability and Safety Act. This bill will prohibit anyone under the age of 25 from being charged with felony murder. The supporters of the bill insist that the brain is not fully developed until 25 years old and “those that commit heinous crimes like felony murder may not have intended to do so.”
At first glance, House Bill 1180 sounds like radical soft on crime legislation until closer attention is paid to what the Democratic delegates are trying to prevent.
According to the legal database Justia, the felony murder rule is a rule that allows a defendant to be charged with…