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Screening IDs kids prone to be criminals, ASU professor says

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ASU law professor Gary Marchant ASU law professor Gary Marchant
TEMPE, AZ (CBS5) -

One Valley man claims that you could find out if your child would grow up to be a criminal, possibly even before your baby is born.

Faces of violent crime include Jared Loughner who was convicted of killing six people in Tucson and James Holmes, who is suspected of opening fire in a Colorado theater.

"You see these parents of these criminals who committed these horrible acts saying, 'what did we do wrong?'" ASU law professor Gary Marchant said.

"It raises very controversial issues," Marchant said.

With a background in genetics, Marchant said screening children for predisposed criminal tendencies may be the way of the future.

"It's possible 10, 15 years in the future, every kid will be screened by this in our schools and so on," Marchant said.

The technology is starting now.

"We can now identify children at age 3 or 5 or even in some cases even younger that they are at risk of 80 percent or 70 percent of committing violence crimes in the future," Marchant said.

Marchant said it works be looking at different types of brain scans. The activity is compared to that of a violent criminal.

"Some of the brain scanning studies are actually finding them in the fetus before the child has even been born," Marchant said.

There's also genetics, but it's mostly found in males.

"The gene is called MAOA," Marchant said.

Marchant said about one third of males in North America have the mutated version of the gene called MAOA.

"It's not just genetic," Marchant said. "The environment can make a difference."

Combine that mutated gene with a bad upbringing and you could have a child on your hands capable of committing extremely violent crimes when they grow up.

"I don't think we should screen the children unless we think there is something we can do about it," Marchant said.

And critics agree.

"It could be very unhealthy to label a child as potentially criminal," said ASU psychology professor Tom Dishion.

Dishion believes the child may grow up to believe they are destined to commit crime no matter what.

"The adults around you might give up because they think that 'what does it matter,'" Dishion said.

This technology is likely to be used more and more in our justice system. Marchant said murderers could get a lesser sentence if they can prove they have this gene.

As for the kids, Marchant said because the child's environment plays into it so much, some treatments could be as simple as taking vitamins or having more family time.

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