Forensic Friday: Forensic Psychology
Modern police forces use a wide variety of techniques to solve crimes. Some methods are high-tech such as chemicals used to find traces of blood not seen by the naked eye or the use of various world wide databases to search for fingerprint matches, facial recognition, or lists of identifying marks on suspects or victims. Other methods are not so high-tech such as plaster casts of foot or tire prints or good old deduction.
Forensic psychologists can help solve a crime or be used as expert witnesses to determine such things as the suspect’s competence to stand trial, child custody or visitation, workplace discrimination, or jurisdictional considerations such as the credibility of a defendant’s insanity plea.
Over the years, there have been many famous cases that were solved thanks to the skills of forensic psychologists:
Ted Bundy is considered one of the United States most notorious criminals. Good-looking, successful, and well-educated, he kept his twisted, murderous deeds hidden for years. Psychologists created a profile of the potential killer, and when combined with information provided by Bundy's former girlfriend, authorities were able to track him down and prove his guilt.
Another serial killer named John Wayne Gacy murdered more than thirty young men. When he was caught, he tried to use an insanity plea for his defense, claiming he was not in control of his actions. After extensive interviews, psychologists proved Gacy had full use of his faculties and each of the killings was premeditated.
A third case involved a series of explosions that occurred at Radio City Music Hall between 1940 and 1950. As with the Bundy case, psychologists created a profile for the criminal nicknamed the Mad Bomber. Because of the sophistication of the devices, experts determined the suspect was most likely an engineer and probably an employee of Con Edison. That information combined with letters written to the newspapers led police to George Metesky who was living with his sisters in Connecticut. Like Gacy, Metesky was interviewed to determine his competency. Unlike Gacy, he was found guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a state mental hospital.