Predators and punishment

Steven K. Erickson, Michael J. Vitacco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Psychopathy is characterized as an emotional disorder tightly woven with persistent antisocial behavior. Prevailing legal doctrine and social norms hold psychopaths responsible for their conduct and punishment legitimately flows to psychopaths who violate the law. Recent scholarship, however, has challenged that view by claiming the emotional and cognitive deficits inherent in psychopathy should preclude culpability for some psychopaths. This view necessarily imposes a substantial modification on how the law conceptualizes culpability that is ultimately unwise. Legal responsibility entails the capacity for rationality and psychopaths comport with the established meanings of rationality as understood by the law and the communal intuitions which guide it. Extant scholarship indicates psychopaths are rational agents and can be fairly subjected to punishment for conduct which violates the law. The law should reject efforts to include psychopaths within its excuse jurisprudence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012

Keywords

  • Antisocial behavior
  • Criminal law
  • Insanity
  • Legal responsibility
  • Psychopathy
  • Punishment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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