Behavioral Sciences & the Law

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Volume 4 Issue 1 (Winter 1986), Pages 1-102

Amnesia and criminal law: A clinical overview (pages 27-46)


The use of amnesia as a legal defense raises complex issues for both psychology and jurisprudence. Our review of the legal literature suggests that recent advances in the understanding of clinical disorders of memory have not yet found their way into the courtroom. In this paper, we address the assumptions that amnesia means simply having a very bad memory and that amnesia is a unitary syndrome. We then review recent neuropsychological research on amnesia and its implications for the judicial process. Emphasis is placed on describing the amnesic disorders that most often arise in criminal proceedings. It is concluded that both psychologists and legal professionals should ensure that research findings from the clinic and the laboratory are applied appropriately in cases of defendants claiming amnesia.

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