Forensic Psychology the Death Penalty Essay

Forensic psychology deals with the field of psychology and the law. The death penalty has always been, and will always be, a topic of controversy from the issue of its constitutionality to the variability in its application. The article I read provides focus upon the role of the forensic psychologist, specifically as it applies to mitigation (Atkins at el). Psychologists were beginning to act as expert witnesses in criminal trials throughout Europe. In 1896, a psychologist by the name of Albert von Schrenck-Notzing testified at a murder trial about the effects of suggestibility on witness testimony (Bartol, 2005).

Popular movies, television programs and books have help popularize the field, often depicting brilliant heroes who solve vicious crimes or track down killers using psychology. I can remember watching CSI Miami, NCIA, The First 48 Hours, all the Saw Movies, and the Exorcism of Emily Rose. Media has illustrated how the field of psychology is used in the court room. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is my most current memory. The attorneys called upon both a medical doctor and a doctor of psychology to determine who was accountable of this girl’s death.

Both used factual information and their professional opinion was considered greatly. However; while the medical doctor use factual information from a medical point of view. The Psychologist was able to incorporate a whole host of environmental factors. In my point of view, this made the testimony rich because it came from a holistic approach. Forensic psychologists investigate cases of alleged child abuse, work with child witnesses, evaluate individuals involved in child custody disputes and assess mental competency.

Although trained as a social worker (undergraduate and graduate levels) I worked with the Department of Children’s Services for a little over two years. I worked in the child protection unit. Once I began working I was promoted to the severe unit, called C. P. I. T. , Child Protection Investigative Team. We were housed at the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) here in Memphis, TN. We worked as a mulit-disciplinary team with attorneys, police investigators, therapist, forensic interviewers, and child advocates.

As a case manager my duties were to investigate child abuse and neglect, remove children from unsafe living environments, make reports to the court based on my investigation and assessments. We received a lot of training for the specialized team. We had training on mental illnesses, communication, sex abuse, and the list goes on. We worked closely to provide care for our families and victims. For our most severe cases or extreme occurrences we had to staff our cases with the psychologist, Dr. Jill Amos. She had the final decision making in many of our cases. Forensic psychology is field that interests me greatly and I plan to learn as much from this course. I am looking forward to growing and allowing this course to enhance my professional practice.


Atkins, Elliot L. Ed. D. , Podboy John, Ph. D. , Larson, Kimberly M. S. ,and Schenker, Nathan J. D. Forensic Psychological Consultation in U. S. Death Penalty Cases In State And Federal Courts. American Journal Of Forensic Psychology VOLUME 25, ISSUE 3 , 2007 Bartol, C. R. , & Bartol, A. M. (2005) History of Forensic Psychology. In I. B. Weiner & A. K. Hess (Ed. ), The Handbook of Forensic Psychology (pp. 1-27). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.