ONLINE Seminar - Constructing Mental illness and Criminal Responsibility in Capital Cases: Psychiatric expertise, Folk Psychology, and the Power of Stereotypes

A Centre for Political Thought seminar
Date23 June 2021
Time12:30 to 14:00

Organised by the Centre for Political Thought and Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at the University of Exeter

To participate, please register through Eventbrite. You will be sent a Zoom link 24 hours in advance of the event.

Chair: Robin Durie (Politics and Wellcome Centre)

Chloé Deambrogio
Lecturer in Criminology
Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology (Exeter)

The paper examines the ways in which expert and lay actors have contributed to the construction of specific interpretations of mental illness and criminal responsibility in US death penalty proceedings, with a particular focus on Texas. Drawing from psycho-legal theory, Texas trial transcripts, and opinions by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals spanning the 20th century, the paper highlights the existence of an underlying tension between scientific and legal views of human psychology and behavior and challenges several false beliefs that have historically informed trial actors' understandings of mental incapacity claims. It shows that rather than being dominated by scientific views of human psychology and behaviour, trial proceedings are powerfully informed by a widespread common-sense view, which routinely ignores the empirical evidence provided and defers to myths and stereotypes about what mental disabilities are, how they manifest themselves, and how they relate to the crimes committed.

Background paper to be circulate closer to the event.

Chloé Deambrogio is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Exeter with interests in capital punishment, mental health law, gender and sexuality, and racial discrimination. She holds a Doctorate and a Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Oxford, along with a Master of Philosophy and a Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary History from the University of Florence, Italy. She is currently working on two projects at the intersection of critical legal theory, death penalty scholarship, and race and ethnicity studies. One explores the development of psychiatric and legal concepts of mental illness and criminal responsibility in Texas capital cases over the 20th century. The second is a genealogical analysis of due process and antidiscrimination law in Texas, Georgia, and Alabama from the 1960s to the present


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