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Criminal Law

2009

Faculty Scholarship

American Law Institute (ALI)

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The Cultural Defense: Reflections In Light Of The Model Penal Code And The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Kent Greenawalt Jan 2009

The Cultural Defense: Reflections In Light Of The Model Penal Code And The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Kent Greenawalt

Faculty Scholarship

I wrote this essay after participating in a 2006 workshop on Criminal Law and Cultural Diversity, which discussed, among other subjects, the wisdom of providing a "cultural defense." Uncertain just how far such a defense might expand on defenses already available, I undertook to explore that topic.

The phrase "a cultural defense" suggests an either/or choice that any legal system might make. That matters are much more complex than this is part of the burden of this essay. A "cultural defense" in its most general sense refers to a wide range of ways in which evidence about a defendant's cultural …