That guy, whom the show called “Kevin,” didn’t start buying the child porn until after a second surgery for epilepsy which removed part of his brain. Kevin started out watching a lot of adult porn post-surgery but progressed to porn with teenagers, toddlers, and even infants.
Kevin was later diagnosed with Klüver — Bucy, a rare syndrome caused by damage to the anterior temporal lobes of the brain. People with Klüver-Bucy often have insatiable appetites for food and sex. Kevin was arrested in 2006 for possessing the child porn, and he used Klüver-Bucy as a defence during his trial.
The more we know about the brain, the more frequently people like Kevin will argue that they had zero control over their criminal actions. An entire field called neurolaw has cropped up to deal with how the law should treat criminals with neurological conditions.
For his part, Kevin expressed disgust for his crime when speaking to Radiolab. He also seemed detached from the acts and mystified by his own ability to purchase and enjoy such awful images. He watched child porn, but he also consumed porn involving defecation, sex with animals, bondage, and xenosex.
“I still don’t understand it,” Kevin told the show. He added, “It was me, but it was me with a complete lack of neurological control.”
Neurosurgeon Orrin Devinsky gave testimony to that effect during Kevin’s trial. He’d been treating Kevin for years and told the judge that anybody with his condition could have done the same thing.
“This could be you. This could be me,” Devinsky recalled telling the judge. “… And we would have no control over what we did.”
When Kevin got brain surgery, Devinsky said, doctors removed the filter that stops normal people from downloading terrible images. “The cork was off,” he told Radiolab. “There was no lid on his sexual desires.”
The prosecution pointed out that the lid might not have been off completely because Kevin didn’t download child porn at work. They wanted him to go to prison for five years. Devinsky countered by arguing that neurological conditions aren’t always “24/7.” The tics that accompany Tourette Syndrome, for example, can go away for a time, Devinsky pointed out.
The judge overseeing Kevin’s case fell down somewhere in the middle of the prosecution and the defence. She accepted his Klüver — Bucy as a mitigating factor but also said he could have made a bigger effort to stop downloading the child porn. Kevin got 26 months in federal prison.
Renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks — along with Devinsky and Julie Devinsky — have written about Kevin in a paper about Kevin called “Brain Damage, Pedophilia, and the Law.” In it, they argue that Kevin’s brain damage shouldn’t have just been a mitigating factor that got him a lighter sentence. They say it should have gotten him off completely, according to a Discover Magazine blog about the paper.
“Was he criminally responsible?” they said in their paper. “Did his behavioural actions warrant imprisonment? We believe the answer is no to both questions.”
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