forensic psychology psychology & the legal system fsu-pc dr. kelley kline
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- Forensic Psychology Psychology & the Legal System FSU-PC Dr. Kelley Kline
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- Psychology and Law Psychology- is the study of human behavior & mental processes. The Legal systemis used as a formal method by which society uses laws to regulate human behavior. The concepts of psychological & behavioral science are relevant to every area of law.
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- I. What is Forensic Psychology? It is the application of psychological findings to legal processes. This means forensic psychologists may be involved in the assessment, evaluation, & treatment of criminal offenders as well as other areas of the legal system (determining mental fitness for trial, etc.)
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- A. Forensic Psychology-development Two branches of development in this field: 1. Psychological research findings have increasingly been used to inform various legal processes. 2. The practice of clinical forensic psychology has become an integral part of the overall field of forensic science.
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- II. Historical Origins of Forensic Psychology: Eyewitness testimony Hugo Munsterberg (1908) argued on the basis of psychological research that eyewitness testimony was unreliable & shouldnt be used by the legal system to bolster convictions. In 1974, Buckhout published the results of an experiment in which subjects (Ss) witnessed a purse-snatching crime & were asked to identify the perpetrator. Only 7 of 52 Ss made the correct identification. Buckhout concluded, after a series of similar findings, that memory is selective, influenced by other factors, & fallible. He argued that eyewitness identification is faulty over 90% of time.
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- Why are there so many problems with eyewitness identifications? 1. Humans are fairly unreliable in how we process information. We are heavily influenced by our emotions at the time of the crime (e.g., rape, assault), may focus our attention on salient features of the crime (e.g., weapon), unsuitable environmental conditions (e.g., darkness; rain) & stress may impair recollection. 2. Procedures employed by law enforcement to obtain eyewitness accounts may be flawed. Kassin et al., (2001), cite the numerous criminal justice procedures that can seriously affect an eyewitnesses accuracy. Some such procedures used by police include: problems in the wording of questions, line-up instructions, mug shots, induced bias, child witness suggestibility, attitudes & expectations, etc.
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- DNA to the rescue!!!!!! Despite the dearth of research clearly debunking the reliability of eyewitness accounts, the legal system clung to this as a means to improve conviction rates. This changed, when DNA evidence became widely available!!!! DNA evidence proved conclusively that many defendants had been falsely convicted, solely on the basis of uncorroborated eyewitness testimony.
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- DNA (contd.) In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno familiarized herself with the literature on the fallacy of eyewitness identification. Reno then ordered the National Institute of Justice to develop national guidelines for use by law enforcement officials when conducting interrogations & collecting eyewitness evidence.
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- Current view: Forensic Psychology plays a greater role in the legal system than ever before. However, it is still new to the field.
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- III. What does it take to be a Forensic Psychologist? 1. The traditional approach--- Ph.D. in clinical psychology with additional training in forensic science. 2. New approach--some universities now offer doctoral degrees in Forensic psychology. These programs have a broad background in basic clinical skills & specialized training in areas of law & criminal behavior.
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- IV. What do Forensic Psychologists do? Assessment (conduct tests to assess mental state, IQ, competency, etc.). Treatment (providing services to offenders in prisons, treatment/detention centers, & following release from prison). Provision of testimony in a variety of legal cases in areas such as family law (custody, visitation), civil law (personal injury, workers compensation, wills & contracts), and criminal law (competencies, sentencing).
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- V. Problems distinguishing Clinical from Forensic Psychology: 1. Clinical psychologists are trained to administer tests, make assessments, evaluate mental state, & to determine therapeutic outcomes. These methods arent the most appropriate for dealing with potential offenders. E.g., Clinicians arent overly concerned with corroborating the defendants version of events, since they are often trained to believe their clients. The defendant may be lying or malingering!!!! 2. Clinicians who are trained in a sub-specialty have to be careful when dealing with new defendants. They may overlook important information that may change their assessment. E.g., the Forensic psychologist would make sure they ask for corroborating evidence to support defendants story & ask for all the details outlining the defendants past behaviors, criminal offenses, family history, etc.
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- A. Case Study 1: Defendant (A) --22 yr-old male arrested for murder of 18 yr-old friend. Versions of events given by A (see below) regarding the murder: Version 1: A said his cousin (recently released from jail) did it & that he was only acting as an assistant since he feared for his life. Version 2: A later tells police his previous statement was false & that he did it by himself. Akilled his friend during a quarrel, removed his friends clothing, & buried the body by the stream.
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- Case Study1 contd. Version 3: Days later A, changes story again & says he was attacked by 5 youths, who killed his friend, & left him lying there. He awoke to find them burying the body. Version 4: A then said he was with a group of friends, & they killed the victim after he passed out from alcohol & marijuana. Version 5: A told the psychologist that he heard voices that commanded him to choke his friend & bury him. What do you think happened???
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- The psychologists view of defendant A After the fifth version of events, the expert psychologist argued that the defendant was psychotic & insane at the time of the murder. Here, the expert approached the defendant as if he was a patient, not a murderer trying to avoid a conviction & sentence. A forensic psychologist must always question the defendants motives & version of events.
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- B. Case Study 2 Defendant (B) --38 yr-old female with 20 year history of drug abuse, selling drugs, & prostitution. B rented a room in a boarding house occupied by other drug addicts. There B, met C, a 42 yr- old drug dealer. They became involved & B started selling drugs for C. B carried a gun & used intimidation to get other users to pay. She pistol whipped a few of them & hit others over the head with a pipe.
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- Case study 2 contd. Crimevictims were drug users who owed B & C, $600.00. According to multiple witnesses, B urged C to track down the victims, who were then abducted by B & C, taken to the boarding house, & then at Bs instigationkilled. People in the hallway heard events. Female victim begged B for her life & struggled as B strangled her. B choked the male victim, by shoving a newspaper down the victims throat, while C held a gun to victims head.
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- Case study 2 C & B were arrested & B gave 4 different versions of what transpired. In Bs versions she implicated others, but finally conceded that she only assisted C who was the primary killer. B was sentenced with murder & imprisoned to await trial. A therapist examined B & argued that she was the victim of battered womans syndrome. (B had been going to battered woman syndrome meetings the 3 years she was in jail).
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- Psychologists comments of B B was intimidated at the time of the murders into helping C, which would be considered reasonable for any person in that situation, even more so for someone who was battered and who was passive and compliant. One could attribute to her the status of being a kidnapping victim or the victim of a terrorist. She was the victim ad had to comply in order to save her own life. What do you think??? Was she battered or just manipulating the system??
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- VI. Forensic psychologists & psychological testing Forensic psychologists can administer a number of tests to assess a defendants mental state. However, there are some criticisms with using these tests, which are meant for individuals in the general pop.
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- General criticisms of conventional tests used in forensic practice 1. Many of these tests havent been validated for forensic science. 2. Tests do not address legal issues, norms gathered for the population may not apply to the individual, & tests tap current behavior when past behavior is of more interest to forensic scientists.
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- Some tests are useful for insight they give: Projective tests- Standard stimuli are presented to the defendant (inkblots or drawings) ambiguous enough to allow for variation in responses. Defendants responses may reveal unconscious processes, his/her true feelings, thoughts, motives, etc.
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