Deborah W. Denno

FLS Faculty Deborah Denno 240x240 SM

Arthur A. McGivney Professor of Law
Director, Neuroscience and Law Center

Curriculum Vitae
SSRN (academic papers)
Telephone: 212-636-6868
Office: Room 8-114

Deborah W. Denno is the Arthur A. McGivney Professor of Law and Director of the Neuroscience and Law Center at Fordham University School of Law. She received her BA from the University of Virginia, her MA from the University of Toronto, her PhD in sociology with a specialty in criminology from the University of Pennsylvania, and her JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was the Managing Editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Prior to joining the Fordham Law faculty in 1991, Professor Denno clerked for the Honorable Anthony J. Scirica of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and worked as an associate at Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett.

Professor Denno’s Neuroscience and Law Center provides evidence-based information to academics, lawyers, and the public about legally relevant advances in neuroscience with the goal of fostering legal scholarship and the use of neuroscience in legal circles. Also at Fordham Law, Professor Denno teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, torts, and seminars on topics such as law and neuroscience as well as advanced criminal law and advanced criminal procedure. Professor Denno has visited on the faculties of Columbia Law School and Vanderbilt Law School. She has also been a Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, a Visiting Senior Fellow at the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, and a British Academy Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. In 2007, the National Law Journal selected Professor Denno as one of its “Fifty Most Influential Women Lawyers in America.” In 2013, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ renowned magazine, The Champion, selected Professor Denno’s 2011 Michigan State Law Review article, “Courts’ Increasing Consideration of Behavioral Genetics Evidence in Criminal Cases: Results of a Longitudinal Study,” for its Getting Scholarship into Court Project.

Six of Professor Denno’s articles have been cited by the United States Supreme Court. In Glossip v. Gross, 576 U.S. ___ (2015), the Court’s most recent major pronouncement regarding execution methods, Justice Sotomayor’s dissent cited two different articles by Professor Denno. In the Court’s prior execution methods decision, Baze v. Rees, 128 S. Ct. 1520 (2008), Chief Justice Roberts's plurality opinion and the concurring opinions of Justices Alito, Stevens, and Breyer together cited four different articles by Professor Denno. 

One of the two articles cited in Glossip was Lethal Injection Chaos Post-Baze, 102 Georgetown Law Journal 1331 (2014), in which Professor Denno documented her unprecedented study of over 300 cases citing Baze and analyzed states’ rapidly-changing lethal injection drug protocols. This article represents the culmination of questions Professor Denno has raised about the Baze decision since its release, beginning with a symposium she organized in 2008 on the law and science of lethal injection which identified weaknesses in Baze and some of the expert witnesses who testified.  Professor Denno, who testified as an expert in the case at the trial court level, published numerous post-Baze book chapters and other pieces challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection. Lethal Injection Chaos Post-Baze received enormous publicity both before and after its publication, solidifying Professor Denno’s position as the leading authority on Baze and its impact on execution methods.

Chief Justice Roberts cited a sixth article by Professor Denno, Testing Penry and its Progeny, 22 American Journal of Criminal Law 1 (1994), in two separate opinions in 2007. The article was based on an innovative longitudinal study in which Professor Denno empirically analyzed hundreds of biosocial factors that correlated with an increased likelihood of violent crime among 1,000 youths. More recently, Professor Denno completed what is poised to become a landmark study of every criminal law case that has addressed neuroscience evidence over the last two decades. This unique study of 800 cases is the topic of her forthcoming book, Changing Law’s Mind: How Neuroscience Can Help Us Punish Criminals More Fairly and Effectively, to be published by Oxford University Press.

Professor Denno has conducted pioneering research on topics such as rape law, gender differences, drug offenses, jury decision-making, and the impact of lead poisoning, as well as on criminal law defenses pertaining to insanity, postpartum psychosis, and consciousness. Prior to designing her own empirical research studies, Professor Denno engaged in a wide range of other quantitative criminological research. For nearly a decade, she directed one of the country’s largest longitudinal studies of biological and sociological predictors of crime in her capacity as Senior Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Sellin Center for Studies in Criminology and Criminal Law. Professor Denno detailed the results of this study in her book, Biology and Violence: From Birth to Adulthood (1990). Criminologist Marvin E. Wolfgang, in his foreword to the book, noted that Professor Denno had “mastered the language of medical science, quantitative analysis, and sociological concepts to such an extent that in her person there is an interdisciplinary that many of us have called for in criminology over the years.” A paperback version of this book was published in 2007. Professor Denno has also contributed to a nationwide study of plea bargaining at the Georgetown University Law Center, and to the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender’s study on disparities in the application of the death penalty.

Professor Denno has published on a broad range of topics relating to criminal law, criminal procedure, neuroscience and the law, social sciences and the law, and the death penalty. She was a co-editor of, and contributor to, the Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice (2nd ed. Macmillan, 2002). Professor Denno has also been cited in leading medical journals, and has maintained a career-long focus on the intersection of law and science. Professor Denno frequently testifies and writes affidavits based on her findings, such as her groundbreaking discovery of the link between lead poisoning and criminal behavior as well as challenges to the methods by which lethal injection procedures are created and conducted. She serves as an Advisor to the American Law Institute’s Revision of the Model Penal Code’s Sexual Assault and Related Offenses Project, and as a member of the ALI’s Consultative Groups for Sentencing and Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct on Campus. She has also been a member of the United States Sentencing Commission’s Drugs/Violence Task Force. Professor Denno has previously been recognized as Fordham University’s Top Newsmaker of the Year (2006-2007). She is often quoted in the media and has appeared on numerous television news reports and documentaries.

Research and Teaching Areas

Criminal Law; Criminal Procedure; Torts; Law and Neuroscience; Death Penalty; Advanced Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure


  • University of Pennsylvania, PhD, JD
  • University of Toronto, MA
  • University of Virginia, BA