Role of a Forensic Psychologist Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Courtroom Psychology

This assessment addresses forensic psychological assessment. This question addresses some of the differences in forensic psychological work and clinical work. Most forensic psychologists are clinical psychologists who specialize in forensic work. These clinicians bring their clinical skills to the forensic assessment; however, there are unique circumstances in the forensic assessment that the clinician must consider. For example, it is infrequent that a client would lie, malinger, or withhold information in a clinical setting.

Differentiate between forensic assessment and clinical assessment.

The critical distinction between forensic assessment and clinical assessment is its juncture with law ("ABFP," 2009). Clinical assessment is focused on determinations of the mental, physical, and functional states of an individual, and on a determination of what -- if any -- interventions are needed to assist the person with adaptation ("ABFP," 2009). Forensic assessment is located in the intersection between clinical assessment -- the necessary basis for determinations that impact the individual -- and legal statutes and procedures ("ABFP," 2009).

Forensic psychologists perform a more limited scope of functions than do clinical psychologists, however, this is not to say that the duties of a forensic psychologist are less important (Huss, 2001). Indeed, the influence of a forensic psychologist on the lives of those they assess has substantially greater potential impact than the assessments of clinical psychologists whose work is centered on the overall functioning of the individual in society or in some particular context (Huss, 2001). A forensic psychologist working with the courts might become involved with the following types of activities:

Some of the functions typically performed within forensic psychology include: Child custody evaluations, competency evaluations, sentencing recommendations, evaluations of the risk of reoffending, and testimony as an expert witness.

2. What are some response styles that a forensic psychologist needs to consider and how are these responses assessed? Include examples.

As the clients of a forensic psychologist are typically not participating in their assessment as a matter of choice, the characteristics of a voluntary evaluation arrangement are absent (Huss, 2001). The individual undergoing assessment by a forensic psychologist generally has a propensity for taking positions and engaging in behaviors that are self-protective and that obfuscate information that can erode the portrait the individual seeks to convey (Huss, 2001). The lack of free regarding assessment is often a challenge to the forensic psychologist, as diagnosis and treatment may be impaired when a client willfully resists the evaluation process (Huss, 2001).

3. Support your response and remember to cite any references using APA format.

According to House Bill 6106, (July 12, 2012):

"The term "forensic science" means the basic and applied scientific research applicable to the collection, evaluation, and analysis of physical evidence, including digital evidence, for use in investigations and legal proceedings, including all tests, methods, measurements, and procedures" (112th Congress, 2nd Session, H.R. 6106).

Note the emphasis in the definition on "use in investigations and legal proceedings,

2) Address the differences between criminal and civil court and the roles mental health professionals play in these two types of courts.

1.Identify some of the differences between criminal and civil court. These differences involve who the parties are, types of complaints, penalties, and how the process proceeds.

Civil courts deal cases in which a crime has not been committed -- unlike criminal courts -- but are cases in which the participants need to consult the law. Civil court cases most often involve family and juvenile matters, disputes related to housing and contracts, small claims, and probate. Criminal court cases only involve those cases in which a crime is alleged to have occurred. Civil court cases typically permit victims or alleged victims to actively seek legal counsel to make and file a case against some defendant. However, in a criminal court, a case may be filed or not filed according to a decision made by a prosecutor without consideration of the wishes of the alleged victim. Civil court convictions force those who violated civil law to reimburse the plaintiffs for damages or to give up personal property according to the decision handed down by the court.

Certainly, a wider range of outcomes are available to criminal courts, including fines, rectification, and incarceration time. Generally speaking, the protections according defendants in civil court are not as robust as those in criminal courts. Defendants in criminal court are protected from ex post facto law, double jeopardy, compelled self-incrimination, and are generally permitted trial by jury. The standard of preponderance of evidence of guilt applies in civil court, whereas, in criminal court, convictions are handed down only when defendants are seen as guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

2.Then identify what types of activities a mental health professional would perform in criminal court and civil court; include some examples of these activities.

Mental health professionals connected to criminal and civil courts work to provide assessments for offenders who are likely to be imprisoned, and subsequently connecting these offenders to long-term treatment services that are often based in the community. These professionals perform mental health assessments, develop individualized treatment plans, and provide ongoing judicial monitoring that supports the public safety plans of communities and meets the treatment needs of the offenders. The scope of their court work can include advisory participation to community courts, domestic violence, drug courts, and problem-solving courts. A mental health professional generally strives to prevent the overrepresentation of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system; in this effort, they may be a member of a team working in jail diversion programs, specialized probation and parole, and other multi-disciplinary collaborative efforts.

3) Identify the standard that courts use to qualify someone as an expert witness. Then discuss the standards used to allow that individual's testimony in court. Here, you will want to refer to the Federal Rules of Evidence as well several other important landmark cases. Include in your response the Saint Leo core value of integrity.

An individual wishing to qualify as an expert witness must be able to accurately answer a specific set of questions related to their particular area of expertise or specialty. Once a person has successfully responded to these questions, he may be qualified as an expert witness and permitted to offer testimony and opinions that center on topics related to his specific training, knowledge and expertise. The Federal Rules of Evidence state:

"If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case."

Roughly 70 years before Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, the case that established the Frye (general-acceptance) test occurred, in Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923). This case focused on the admissibility of opinion evidence when an early version of the Polygraph was used. The D.C. Circuit Court deemed admissible scientific technique generally accepted as reliable in the scientific community. This also applied to Expert Testimony on the assumption that deficiencies or flaws in the expert's conclusions would be exposed through cross-examination. Then, in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court changed the standard for admissibility of expert testimony.

In the 1993, U.S. Supreme Court decision, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed. 2d 469, (U.S. Jun 28, 1993) (NO. 92-102), the Daubert test was established. Under Daubert, a trial judge has a duty to scrutinize evidence more rigorously to determine whether it meets the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702. Daubert outlined four considerations: testing, peer review, error rates, and acceptability in the relevant scientific community (a gatekeeping function of trial judges to keep junk science out of the courtroom).

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court significantly broadened that Daubert test and the trial court's gatekeeping role. In Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 143 L.Ed. 2d 238 (U.S. Mar 23, 1999) (NO. 97-1709), the Court held that the trial judges must also function as gatekeepers with respect to both scientific testimony and expert opinion testimony.

4) What is the role of the forensic psychologist in sentencing in capital cases? Juries typically must weigh the aggravating and mitigating circumstances surrounding a capital crime. What role does the forensic psychologist play? Include in your response examples of mitigating and aggravating circumstances. It is also important to consider the potential ethical conflicts this role may present.

The role of a forensic psychologist in a capital case generally includes one or more of these key considerations: 1) Competency to stand trial; 2) temporary insanity; and 3) risk assessment. As defendants are accorded the right to participate in their own defense, a forensic psychologist may be engaged…

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