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When is someone not responsible for a crime because of their mental illness, this is the question that many forensic psychologists often ask themselves. The forensic evaluation of a legal insanity defense and it often involves a careful analysis of the actions as well as the ideas that lead up to the crime and it coordinating with several witness statements.
There are several psychological assessments that are often taken in order to ensure the insanity of the person. This paper will examine some of these assessment tools as well as look at the a case study where it will determine whether indeed a defendant was insane at the time of the crime.
Insanity and assessment tools
Insanity can be described as a legal concept and not a clinical condition , when a defendant's mental state at the time that they committed the offense is at question, a criminal responsibility psychological evaluation or sanity evaluation are often requested by the court (Grisso, 2003). The basis of an insanity plea rests on the basic premise that the defendant at the time of the crime was not criminally responsible for their actions at the time of the offense due to the influence of a mental illness. The utilization of relevant statutes and psychological testing as well as evaluation to address the criteria that is often necessary for an insanity plea.
The first assessment tool is the irresistible impulse assessment test and it was first adopted in order to determine whether or not a person was insane at the time of the act. The instrument often measures duress of mental disease and whether the person lost the power to choose between wrong and right and that at the time of the crime, the free agency at the time was destroyed and the alleged crime was connected with mental disease, in relation of effects and causes as to have been the product of it solely(Grisso, 2003).
The second assessment tool that can be used in Insanity is the Rorschach test which can be described as a psychological test in which the subject's perceptions of inkblots are often recorded and then analyzed using several psychological interpretation using complex algorithms (Groth-Marnat, 2009). This test is used in order to examine the personality characteristics, emotional functioning and also detect underlying thought disorders.
The defendant was not in his right mind at the time of the crime and consequently he cannot was not able to appreciate the wrongness of his action. At the time of the crime he was also not able to understand the consequences of their actions (Helfgott, 2013). Therefore, the fact is that the defendant at the time of the crime had a mental treatment in addition to punishment for his crime. This can also be seen by his actions in the bank, they do not represent those of a sane man.
The defendant never took the money and ran away and was delusional when he was talking to the police. He also talked about his 250 million dollars that was supposed to be delivered along with his 250 virgin wives. The police further was able to describe the defendant as having poor hygiene, dirty clothes and he also appeared to be homeless. Further, after his arrest, there was the schizophrenia diagnosis and was put under anti psychotic medication.
According to the irresistible impulse assessment it fits the description of the defendant, at the time of the crime he had lost the power to choose between right and wrong and his free agency at the time was destroyed (Helfgott, 2013). Therefore, according to this assessment tool, it can be said that the alleged crime of robbing the bank was connected with the mental disease as it seems to have been the sole product of the insanity. Further through the Rorschach test, it can be seen that the individual was not in the right emotional functioning and was not in the right though order.
Helfgott, J. B. P. D. (2013). Criminal Psychology [4 volumes]. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Groth-Marnat, G. (2009). Handbook of psychological assessment. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons.
Grisso, T. (2003). Evaluating competencies: Forensic assessments and instruments. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Published
In some point in the career of a psychologist, they may be requested to carry out a therapeutic assessment, clinical assessment or both. There is a significant difference between a therapeutic assessment and a clinical assessment, and a psychologist needs to know the difference. A forensic assessment is carried out to establish facts in the court while a therapeutic assessment is done for the purpose of the individual being assessed. Psychologists are currently allowed by the courts to offer professional expertise that relates to a wide range of both criminal and civic issues (Packer, 245). The issues include child custody, personal injury, divorce mediation, juvenile sentencing, insanity defense and commitment of sexual offenders. The growing market for forensics has led to the development of forensic psychologists who acts as experts in court matters. In this essay, the discussion revolves around assessment and role differences and similarities between forensic and clinical duties.
In case a clinician is requested to offer a testimony on a witness, there are limitations to the testimony that the clinician can offer. For the clinician to offer the testimony, there has to be a clear doctor-patient relationship. The clinician can testify as a witness producing facts; however, the clinician cannot offer expert opinions unless the circumstances demand it. The clinician in the position of a fact witness can provide information such as when the patient was seen, diagnosis and treatment offered, evaluation procedures followed and duration of treatment (Greenberg & Shuman, 50). The clinician is not allowed to provide any data that does not relate to the case of the client. The clinician should not also offer expert opinion on the psychological matters, competency, fitness on duty and sanity of the suspect. The violation of the clinician by offering information that is not required puts him or her at risk. The clinician risks having the whole testimony stricken or damaging the therapeutic relationship.
In Forensic evaluations, the examiner’s role is to help out in identification of facts that can help in closing the case. Forensic examiners use their expertise to make decisions and determine facts that relate to the case in question (Greenberg & Shuman, 51). The forensic examiners also provide information on the extent of the emotional or cognitive injury, and opinion on the functional and legal capacity of the individual. The difference between forensic and clinical examiners is that the former deal with secondary issues while the latter deal with primary issues like relief of the patient’s symptoms and their subjective experience. Forensic examiners are prohibited from assuming the helping role to the suspect or the court. The neutrality of the forensic examiners is important to ensure that only facts are presented. If the professional training of the clinician is emphasized on therapeutic treatment and relationship, then he or she may experience problems adjusting to the forensic role.
In most jurisdictions, there is a conflict between the role of a clinical examiner and forensic examiner. In most places, a clinical examiner can act as a fact witness or provide opinions on the mental state of the suspect. As a fact witness, the clinical examiner should testify on information got from first-hand therapy: the clinical examiner can also be allowed to provide their opinion on the mental disorder the patient may be suffering from. The testimony can include a history of therapy, diagnosis and treatment the patient has been undergoing. To be allowed to give an expert opinion, the clinical examiner must have a degree of scientific certainty. Forensic psychologists are not legal scholar, but they are expected to have some knowledge on legal concepts relevant to their area of forensics (Packer, 246). The advantage of this knowledge is to avoid part of the expert testimony being barred.
There are similarities and differences between the clinical roles and forensic roles. One of the differences is the impact of the professional in the relationship. The clinical examiners strive to listen to their patients while forensic examiners show a dispassionate attitude. Clinical examiners use the history of the patient to diagnose him or her and come up with a treatment while forensic examiners use the history of the patient to determine his or her reliability. A clinical examiner seeks information to solve the disease or condition while a forensic examiner is determined to provide the court with information used in reaching a legal decision (Greenberg & Shuman, 53). For one to manage a clinical role, the training involves the learning of therapeutic techniques and how to manage psychological disorders. Forensic examiners should have the knowledge on different evaluation techniques and the relevant legal issues. Therefore, the knowledge that forensic examiners have should provide one with the means to answer the relevant legal questions.
In conclusion, there is a great difference when it comes to clinical assessments and forensic assessments. Clinical assessments are meant to diagnose what the patient is suffering from in order to administer the right medication. Forensic assessments are supposed to do evaluations and provide facts and information that is relevant to legal cases in court (Packer, 246). The training for a forensic examiner and that of a clinical examiner are different due to the difference in their duties. However, both the clinical examiners and the forensic examiners do a recommendable job.
Greenberg, S., & Shuman, D. (n.d.). Irreconcilable Conflict Between Therapeutic And Forensic Roles. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 28(1), 50-57.
Packer, I. (n.d.). Specialized Practice In Forensic Psychology: Opportunities And Obstacles. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(2), 245-249.
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