The robbery of a convenience store by a teenager high on cocaine goes horribly wrong, and he is now on trial for attempted murder. The case is fiction, but the trial – presided over by a distinguished US District Judge – is being conducted as if it were real. The unfolding trial is the backbone of an exploration by Alan Alda of the brains of many of the participants in a trial such as this, including the defendant, key witnesses, jurors and judge. By visiting and participating in some dozen experiments in brain science, Alda gains insights into how, and even what, the trial participants are thinking – insights that may one day influence how the criminal justice system operates, and in some cases are already doing so. (Source: PBS)
On trial is Jimmy Moran, who at 18 took part in a store robbery during which the storeowner's wife was shot and grievously injured. Presiding is distinguished U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who has a longstanding interest in neuroscience and its conceivable effect on criminal law. The trial raises common questions: Is a witness lying? How reliable is eyewitness testimony? What's the best way to avoid a biased jury? How well can the defendant's intentions be judged? Alan Alda explores how brain-scanning technology is providing insights into these questions and discusses the implications of neuroscience entering the courtroom.