“The field of psychology and law began to develop within the last century and is currently in its greatest period of growth and expansion. ” (“Psychology and The Law. “). Psychology is defined as the scientific study of the way the human mind works and how it influences behavior, or the influence of a person’s character on their behavior. The term forensic is often referred to as the scientific method for investigation of crime. Combine the two and you have forensic psychology, which is the intersection between psychology and law.
In 1962, Judge Bazelon made a decision that left an impression and confirmed he status of psychology/psychiatry in the legal system. In the criminal case of, Jenkins v. United States, Judge Bazelon told the jury to disregard a testimony based on mental health by a psychologist. He argued that psychologists were not qualified to give a medical opinion. It was later appealed to the Court of Appeals, where the decision of Judge Bazelon was overturned and the following statement was made, “some psychologists are qualified to render expert testimony in the field of mental disorder. (Forensic Psychologists).
The Court of Appeals determined that psychologists are qualified to give expert dvice and can be a considerable expert in various court cases. Therefore, forensic psychologists play vital roles in legal matters! The court continued by suggesting the appropriate criteria for a qualifying psychologist to give an expert testimony in court. Over the years, the criteria have expanded. Although, there are some differences among states, as well as, between states and the federal government, psychologists are regularly called upon as experts in every area of law the courts see fit.
For example, the courts reserve the right to decide if a psychologist’s xpertise are appropriate and up to criteria in any legal matters concerning criminal, civil, family, and administrative law. Forensic psychology has established growth in numerous ways, such as specialty programs in forensic psychology began emerging at law schools in the 1970’s. Then, in the 1980’s, several professional organizations concentrating on forensic psychology developed, such as American Board of Forensic Psychology (actually established in 1978) and the American Psychological ASsociation Membership created the Division of Psychology and Law. ole in punishing, convicting, and preventing crime, convicting, nd preventing crime(s).
Determining a person’s competency is often left up to the psychologist’s expertise and diagnosis. The Handbook of Forensic Psychology: Resource for Mental Health and Legal Professionals stated, “The defense of insanity is based on the premise that those who are mentally disturbed or insane cannot be held criminally responsible for their acts because they lack the requisite intent to complete the elements of a crime. ” (Robitscher & Haynes, 1982).
There are three key elements that must be addressed by a forensic psychologist in Forensic psychologist often plays a ach case that Includes an assessment of an individual’s capability/competency are: 1) disorder that causes a weakening or impairment to the brain The existence of a mental that causes the Individual to commit the action or not understand the consequences of the crime they committed. 2) Specifications of the practical impairment or weakening. 3) The discrete legal capabilities vital to the case(s) that are artificial.
The legal test for insanity differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, most tests include the offender’s cognitive awareness of the consequences of the crime(s) in question. In other words, most of the test Includes the person’s thought process and brain activity to determine whether they were capable of understanding their actions and consequences. Tests that report some of the “uncontrollable impulse” standards have in some cases shaped into a question as to whether the person in question would engage in the same behavior whether law enforcement was present or not.
Some states, use the terms “guilty but mentally ill” and others have adopted a different term; such as “not guilty by reason of insanity. ” The terms generally mean the same thing; someone ommitted the crime during a state Insanity. In other words, the Individual was not aware of their actions or their consequences and cannot be held accountable for his or her actions at the time the crime was committed. An Individual can claim Insanity or temporary Insanity. For example, a mental disease that impairs the individual’s judgment or unwillingly act deviant.
In some cases, psychologists may be called to help with interviews and interrogations because the way a question is asked can influence the individual’s answer. Author Gary Wells, author of the article, Eyewitness Evidence: Improving Its Probative Value, rote, “A subset of the variables that affect eyewitness accuracy fall into what researchers call system variables, which are variables that the criminal justice system has control over, such as how eyewitnesses are instructed before they view a lineup and methods of interviewing eyewitnesses. (Wells, Gary L). For example, suggestive questions are questions asked to victims and other witnesses that risks the possible change in the original answer. If witnesses are asked leading questions containing a potential “correct” answer to the question, such as “Was his shirt, blue? , and they respond with “Yes”, it is not clear if the answer was because of a judgment that the interrogator probably knows the correct answer and is looking for approval.
Or, the suggestion may actually change the witness’s memory and on rare occasions, the witness may actually answer “Blue” with full confidence and firm belief they know the answer. Psychologists often ask multiple choice questions to avoid any leading answers. Another method commonly used, is open ended questions, such as “Tell me everything you can remember about the clothes the assailant was wearing”. Open ended uestions reduce the risk of influencing a witness or victim’s answers and are viewed as the best method to use when asking questions.
Just like in interrogation and interviewing, how one word in a question can lead to untrue parts in the person’s memory. If there is any indication that an eyewitness has been suggested an answer or the memory becomes/seems distorted, it is not valid in a court of law. Making sure eyewitness identify a suspect accurately is key to solving a crime precisely. Any glitches in or during the identification or testimony from a witness, could lead o a mistrial, evidence being thrown out, an innocent person going to jail, or law enforcement to lose the case.
Therefore, psychologists are called in to prep witnesses for testimony and make sure they are ready and capable of taking the stand to testify. “Because of the potential negative impact of divorce on the child’s functioning, child custody evaluations are conducted to determine the placement (or visitation schedule) that is most likely to promote the psychological health of the child (Bradley, April R). ” The American Psychological Association Guidelines for Custody Evaluations are guidelines posse the legal criteria in the best interests of the child.
They state it is important to use various methods of data collection, such as observations, interviews, speaking with third parties, obtaining school reports and records, as well as formal psychological assessments, in order to offer reliable recommendations to the courts. When dealing with children, the courts use a gentler approach and pay close attention to the care and well-being of a child. Forensic psychologists have the ability to determine the child’s emotional state and help them cope. Children may also find it easier to open up to a psychologist rather than an official officer of the courts.
Jury behavior is one feature of the legal system that has been the subject of extensive psychological research for several decades. ” (Malpass, Roy S). Forensic psychologists are frequently asked to research; the subjects of jury behavior that are most researched are: • The effect of court case strategies. The influence of diverse witnesses. The effects of juror or petitioner characteristics. The research provided by forensic psychologists helps determine the criteria for potential jurors. This research reduces the risks associated with juror tampering or of irrational jurors being a part of the case.
It Is Important for each juror to be questioned and analyzed to make sure the outcome of the case Is fair. For example, a defense attorney may try to pay off members of the jury; jurors need to be able to conduct themselves in a professional manner and say no, as well as, Inform officials of the bribe. Also, a jury member could suffer from a mental disorder and not be a good “fit” for the trial, meaning they would not be mentally capable of handling or making a rational ecision based on the evidence presented in the case.
The core reason for the involvement of the psychologist in the courtroom is that the law concerns human behavior and psychologists have some expertise in this area. ” (“Preface. “). Forensic psychologists bring numerous methods and approaches to help in court cases. Keeping up with the latest information, such as laws and modifications of the law, combined with clinical approaches allows forensic psychologists to be of service to the legal system. Therefore, Forensic psychologists play vital roles in legal matters!