We stay abreast of scientific developments that may help our clients. One such exciting development that we are exploring is that of the Warrior Gene. The Warrior Gene appears on the X chromosome of some people and its presence, along with evidence of being abused as a child, can make someone up to five times more likely than normal to be homicidal. The gene is the MAOA gene which has been shown scientifically in individuals having a special propensity for violent behavior or the presence of history of abuse.
We have all known cases where someone has committed a rage killing without any explainable reasons. But men (and only men since it involves the X chromosome) with this genetic disorder can become homicidal with little provocation. They are men who could otherwise be very gentle. The abuse that they have suffered can be physical, sexual, or even verbal. This genetic disorder can cause them to fly into an uncontrollable rage.
The way this genetic issue can become a defense is a bit complicated. Under Tennessee law in State v. Phipps, people who have a mental condition or disorder that does not amount to insanity can use their diminished mental capacity in order to negate the specific intent to commit a crime. One such crime is first degree murder. If one has the Warrior Gene and has been abused then this diminished capacity can sometimes be used to defend against the charge of first degree murder and hopefully cause the charge to be reduced to second degree murder. That represents a drastic change in punishment. First degree murder can carry sentences including the death penalty, life without parole, or life with the possibility of parole after 51 years. Second degree murder for one without a significant prior criminal record carries 15-25 years.
We will continue to develop this defense and any other scientific defense which can be used to help our clients.