Forensic psychology is involved whenever psychology overlaps with the justice system. Chicago psychologists have advanced forensic psychology by giving psychologists experience, specialization, and with forensic psychology online, an in depth understanding of criminal law. Forensic psychologists are able to work with judges, attorneys, victims’ advocates, and other legal professionals. These professionals use their knowledge of human behavior, motivation, and mental or behavioral disorders to perform psychological services for the courts. Chicago forensic psychologists understand the legal regulations and principles of the judicial system which allows them to testify in court, discuss psychological findings, and provide credible and pertinent information to the court.
With the advancements, forensic psychologists are now called to evaluate confessions, suicidal impulses, or malingering. They are asked to evaluate parental fitness for guardianship issues, assess threats, or check eyewitness accurateness. Other roles that Chicago forensic psychologists have filled include jury selection and responding to ambiguous death questions. Some forensic psychologists focus on research applicable to legal issues.
Some recent American trends are opening up new opportunities for forensic psychology as they reflect criminal behavior that is strongly tied to psychological issues. These trends include:
1. Unknown Military Deaths
Danny Chen was a U.S. Army soldier serving in Afghanistan. He was found shot to death in a guard tower and was at first considered a suicide victim but the circumstances of his death have never been fully explained. Chen had a history of being harassed and beaten by fellow soldiers prior to his death. There are many more cases of soldiers who have been subjected to intense hazing and then taken their own lives. Families of the suicide victims often report that they never knew their child to be suicidal. The results could be controversial if unknown military deaths are found to include foul play.
2. Fabricating Crimes
Crying wolf or making up a crime happens more often than most people realize. This criminal behavior is usually committed by women who are motivated by an irrational, intense need for attention from a significant other. Examples of women who cried wolf include Audrey Seiler of Wisconsin who told authorities she had been held captive at knifepoint and Melissa McGee from Washington testified that she was a victim of rape. The women have acknowledged that their stories were not true.
Prosecution of stalking has been rising across the country. Stalking behavior consists of intrusive following of a target such as being near the target’s home or other locations the target frequents. Unwanted communications by phone, email, and packages are often experienced by the victim. The violence may escalate and it is estimated in the United States that between 21% and 25% of forensic stalking cases end in significant violence, including murder. Stalkers who fit in the category of obsessed, discarded stalkers with significant personality disorder have been found to be best helped with both judicial and psychotherapeutic interventions.
Neonaticide is becoming more common and involves the murder of a baby right after birth. The mothers are usually teenagers who have hidden both the pregnancy and the birth. Lindsey Brooke Lowe smothered her twin newborns in 2011 and was charged with two counts of premeditated, first-degree murder. A national study found only 29 out of 42 mothers who killed their newborns where charged with murder. Mothers who commit these homicides right after birth usually do so without premeditation and take action impulsively.
Chicago psychologists have advanced forensic psychology and increased its impact on the legal system. Understanding human behavior is the forensic psychologist’s role when it overlaps with the justice system.