This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.
In 1901 a man named William Stern studied memory by asking students to study a picture for forty-five seconds, and then recall what happened in the picture. This is when eyewitness testimonies began to lose credibility, because often times the participants were incorrect in explaining what happened in the picture, and when asked a question such as, was the man holding a knife in the picture, they would answer yes when in fact there was no knife. These were known as lead-in questions, which are often used in police interrogations and witness questioning. Before the work on William Stern, other psychologists such as Alfred Binet, and Sigmund Freud conducted tests that were used in judicial proceedings. They both did studies suggesting that the time it takes for a person to answer a question could be a factor in determining whether they were guilty or innocent.
After the work of William Stern, in 1908 Hugo Munsterberg published a book titled, On the Witness Stand, and later became thought of as the first forensic psychologist. He focused on patients with mental illnesses. Munsterberg objected to eyewitness testimonies for many different reasons. Munsterberg looked at illusions, memory of the witness, and ways to prevent the crime. When working with illusions, he showed how differently people view and arrange events. For example, when viewing pictures made of dots, participants would look at the pictures for a period of time and then would be asked to write down what they saw. The result of this study was that, Munsterberg found that each picture was interpreted differently by each of the participants. He also conducted research on crime scenes in which witnesses were asked a series of questions after witnessing the crime. The results were that the witnesses all disagreed on the details, even when the scene was fresh in their memories. He argued that if people were not able to recall specific details of an event while the scene was still fresh in their minds, how could they be expected to accurately recall details months after the event when they would be brought to trial.
In 1916, Lewis Terman, a Stanford psychologist, began to apply psychology to law enforcement. He revised Alfred Binet's intelligence tests and formed the Stanford-Binet intelligence test. These tests were used to assess the intelligence of thirty applicants for police and firefighting jobs. This is the same type of testing used in most police departments today. The application of psychology to the criminal justice system continued through the 1920's and 1930's and is still a growing field today.
There are many cases in which forensic psychology plays an essential role. In the case Dusky v. United States the standard for competency to stand trial. The difference between being oriented to time and place, and the ability to recollect certain events, and being competent to stand trial, being able to accurately communicate with one's attorney, and to completely understand the charges against someone were established in this case. This is a landmark case because a defendant's right to a competency evaluation before a trial. The court ruled that to be competent to stand trial defendant must have a "sufficient present ability to consult with lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational and factual understanding of proceedings against him." The court decided that a brief mental status exam was insufficient. His case was given a retrial where his sentence was reduced. A defendant must be found competent in many different areas in order to be fairly prosecuted. A defendant must be competent to consent to a search or seizure, to stand trial, to confess, to plead guilty, to waive the right to counsel, to testify, and to be sentenced and executed. The competency of a defendant would be determined forensic psychologists.
A forensic psychologist may be required by the court to evaluate the defendant's state of mind at the time of the offense. The judge, prosecutor, or defense attorney may believe a defendant was significantly impaired at the time of the offense. If a forensic psychologist can determine the defendant was in fact impaired at the time of the offense the defendant may be able to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Another extremely important area of forensic psychology is criminal profiling. Criminal profiling consists of analyzing a crime scene and using the information to determine the identity of the perpetrator. While this doesn't directly give you the perpetrator's name, it is very helpful in narrowing down suspects. For example, a profile based on a crime scene provides information that may include the perpetrator' personality, sex, age, ethnic background, and possible physical features such as disfigurements or height and weight. This information can then be used to identify possible suspects, depending on who fits the profile. Personality is one of the most important parts of a criminal profile. Personality profiles of criminals are based on the way in which a crime is committed, also known as the method of operations or m.o. The m.o. includes all the information regarding the victim. If dealing with a serial offender the m.o. will include all the things the victims have in common. One of the most famous criminal profilers is FBI agent John Douglas. Douglas is a member of the FBI's Investigative Support Unit, and he and his team have spent years interviewing convicted perpetrators and learning about their motives and desires. Criminal profiling exists in large part due to the work of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, which is a department dedicated to "developing new and innovative investigative approaches and techniques to the solution of crime by studying the offender, and his/her behavior and motivation".
Forensic psychologists are also used in jury consulting. Many of them work with attorneys is selecting jurors, analyzing the potential verdicts of juries, and explaining actual trial verdicts. They may help attorneys narrow down the juror pool by eliminating people whose views may affect the outcome of the trial in an undesirable way. This process can sometimes last several weeks or even longer.
One of the most important aspects of forensic psychology is in fact the criminal profiler. This is essential in helping the police search for a suspect because they are not blindly following leads about a person they know nothing about. This provides the suspect with a profile, an image for police to search for.
On December 2, 1956, a bomb went off in the Paramount movie theater seriously injuring a group of people. This however was not a shock, for the past sixteen years the people of New York had been under attack. The bomber was known as the Mad Bomber. Due to the bomber's competence tracing this person became impossible. After sixteen years a criminal profiler was brought in named Dr. James Brussel. Being a criminal psychiatrist, he theorized a bit about the mysterious culprit. Who was he? What motivated him? After pouring through the case file, he came up with the following conclusions. The bomber was male. Usually throughout history bombers have always been male. The bomber had a grudge against Con Edison and was probably a former employee. He believed himself to have been permanently injured by the company and was seeking revenge. This conclusion was obvious from the letters he had left at places that had been bombed. The bomber was a textbook paranoid. The bomber believed that Con Edison and society conspired against him. The bomber was middle-aged, probably around fifty because paranoia generally peaks around age thirty-five and the bomber had been at this for sixteen years. The bomber was neat, meticulous and skilled at his work. Everything from the carefully constructed bombs, to the neat lettering, to the careful planning of the bombs showed his neatness. Also, paranoids tend to set high standards for themselves so as not open themselves to unwanted criticism. The bomber was probably overly sensitive to criticism because this is a classic symptom of paranoia. The bomber was foreign or spent the majority of his time with foreign people because the bomber wrote in formal language which lacked any contemporary slang. He used phrases like "dastardly deeds" that sounded like it was out of Victorian fiction. He referred to Con Edison as "the Con Edison" when New Yorkers had referred to the utility giant without the article "the" for years.
The bomber was a Slav and probably Roman Catholic because Eastern and Central Europeans most often employ bombs as weapons, and most Slavs are Catholic. The bomber lived in Connecticut, not New York. Some of the letters had been mailed from Westchester Country (a location in between Connecticut and New York) and Connecticut was home to large communities of Eastern and Central Europeans.
The bomber suffered from an Oedipal Complex and like most Oedipal sufferers he was likely unmarried and lived with a single female relative or relatives that were not his mother. He probably lost his mother young.
Dr. Brussel made these conclusions based on the phallic construction of the bombs. They were strange breast-like W's. There was also the strange slashing and penetration of the movie theatres seats where the bombs were placed.
These are the steps in which a criminal profiler gathers details and facts to create a profile that give the police a better chance at apprehending a suspect. When the police apprehended George Metesky, every prediction that Dr. Brussel made was in fact true. He was a Slavic man who lived in Westbury, Connecticut with his two sisters.
While all aspects of forensics are important this field of forensic psychology often is the forgotten field of forensics. It is however extremely important in the forensic field.