Chapter 14: Forensic Psychology
1. What is forensic psychology?
“Forensic” from the Latin forensis
A psychologist acts as an expert
applying psychological principles & knowledge to individuals involved in legal issues and
Various areas that require testing, test development, prediction, evaluation
2. How do Law and Science differ in their philosophies?
Law (mutually exclusive positions)
Act: freely chosen or not chosen
Decisive: G or NG
Mutually exclusive approach
Psychology (dimensional positions)
Will is not entirely free
Indecision is tolerated
Will is not entirely free.
Indecision is tolerated.
3. What is the difference between an eye witness & an expert witness?
Cannot offer opinion
Speak to direct observation only
Offers an expert opinion Restricted to profession
Expertise must be established in court
4. Discuss some ethical considerations in forensic psychology?
New area—no formal training
Informed consent different
Limited confidentiality – in the forum
Fees NOT contingent but prior to service
Sufficient data, fidelity
Impact on others, ST & LT & personal life
5. What is Criminal Competency?
Criminal court—society protecting society (not civil issues)
Competency is the client’s ability to stand trial & be sentenced
Based on social values:
◦Immoral to punish person for acts of which they have no control
◦Every person has right to just representation
6. What are conditions for criminal competency in the USA?
Requires that the defendant:
Understand the charges
Understand the proceedings of the court
Understand implications and able to assist in own defense
◦Competency does not require intelligence
7. How do Forensic psychologists assess criminal competency? Shift of the burden of proof
Evaluates only present competency--Usually a Structured Interview
Previous records required for evaluation of past and present
30-00% found to be incompetent –usually severe disorders such as schizophrenia
Incompetency results in treatment
8. Describe 3 issues related to psychological evaluations for sentencing.
Treatment---Need? Potential value of treatment?
Culpability---Identify bio and social factors that might have contributed to the act
◦Valuable information to court for sentencing & parole or probation
9. What is the insanity defense and how often is it used?
Insanity- is a legal term
Guilt requires 2 elements: mens rea-intended (mindful)
actus rea-voluntary (will full)
NGRI-refers to the psychological state of the person at the time of the crime
NGRI-argues mens rea---Not used often; Usually unsuccessful
◦Placed the burden of proof on the defendant (clear and convincing evidence)
◦40-70% released within 2 months
10. What are some common personal descriptors associated with successful with
Female (Towers, 1996; Morris, 1992)
Better educated (Morris, 1992)
Single History of prior hospitalization (82% had been hospitalized at least once)
Considered extremely disturbed (89% were schizophrenic or mentally retarded)
Details of the crime are unusual (Pickel, 1998)
Race and SES (McGinley)
11. What are the results after pleading NGRI?
People who plead NGRI and win
-spend more time in mental hospital than they would have in prison
People who plead NGRI and lose
-spend more time in prison than if hadn’t
-receive sentences 22% longer than non-NGRI pleaders •
-67% of unsuccessful NGRI pleaders went to prison compared to 11% of all felony arrests
12. What is diminished capacity/ GBMI?
NGRI- usually resulted in hospitalization INSTEAD of incarceration
GBMI – Guilt