Friday, August 5, 2016

Forensic Friday: Forensic Psychology

Forensic Friday: Forensic Psychology

According to Wikipedia, forensic psychology is the "intersection between psychology and the justice system." What does this mean exactly?

A forensic psychologist may be used for numerous reasons during a criminal investigation. They might study crime scenes and use evidence or the lack thereof to develop a criminal profile. Psychologists are also used as expert witnesses during criminal trials. Areas of expertise include a defendant's competence to stand try, child custody and visitation, workplace discrimination, and validity of insanity pleas).

Unlike other forensic disciplines, forensic psychology has been used for decades. Some well-known cases include:

  • The case of the "Mad Bomber:" During the 1940s and 1950s, George Metesky planted bombs around New York City and bragged about them to newspapers. Psychological profiling combined with other police work led to Metesky's capture in 1957.
  • The case of the "Guilford Four:" After a 1974 bombing in England, confessions were coerced from the suspects. Expert psychologists testified about the unreliability of confessions.
  • The case of the "Twinkie Defense:" Psychologists convinced a jury that Daniel White was not guilty because of his dependence on junk food.
  • The case of John Hinkley: Multiple "experts" testified for and against Hinkley's claim of insanity.
  • The case of Richard Trenton Chase: A psychological profile was created after review of the murder scene, giving police the ability to identify and arrest Chase for the crime.

Forensic psychologists play an important role in the legal system. Combined with other forensic sciences and good police work, psychologists bring closure to cases that might otherwise remain open. 

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