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Forensic Psychology Essay

1589 words - 7 pages

The social need for Forensic Psychology arose from the need for expert testimony in a court of law. After Stern’s discoveries, psychologists began appearing more and more often in courts (Tartakovsky, 2011).
The first instance was in Germany, when a defense attorney asked a psychologist Hugo Munsterberg to review a case in which his client confessed to murder, but then changed his mind and claimed that he was not guilty (Tartakovsky, 2011). The judge, after hearing Munsterberg’s opinion, however, was furious that Munsterberg thought that he had expertise in the case, and refused to believe in his assessment, and the man was found guilty and hung (Tartakovsky, 2011).
Following this experience, Munsterberg published a book entitled On The Witness Stand. In his book, he explained the importance of psychologists in a courtroom, and how suggestive questions could cause false memories, and thus that eyewitness testimonies are often altered by the way in which questions are asked, making them unreliable.
Therefore, after the book was published and accepted by scientific communities, it then became clear that there was a need for experts to testify in the courts, however, this need was not filled until around 1940s-1950s, when they became a regular part of the courtroom (Tartakovsky, 2011).
Since then, forensic psychology has been growing and evolving, and forensic psychologists are no longer only working in the courtrooms. Forensic psychology is a broad profession, however, every specification of the profession applies psychology to criminal investigations and the law.
They are often involved in all aspects of the law. Some work in family courts, for instance providing professional opinions on child custody and assessing competency to stand trial. Some work in criminal courts, working with child witnesses, providing psychotherapy to victims, and in the case of forensic psychiatrists, medication as needed. However, there is a wide range of forensic psychologists and psychiatrists who do not work in courtrooms. Other places of employment include: police stations, governments, jails, mental health institutions, hospitals, as well as private practice.
An important moment in history of forensic psychology involves one of the first criminal profiling cases. The case revolves around a bomber in New York City, in 1956. The bomber had been leaving bombs all over the city for 16 years, and had continuously eluded the police. Being desperate to find the perpetrator, Inspector Howard Finney reluctantly called Dr. James Brussel, a criminal psychiatrist, and asked him to work up a profile on the perpetrator (Madden).
Finney and the detectives certainly had their doubts, as criminal profiling was only experimental and had yet to be used to solve a major crime. Dr. Brussel impressed them however with a profile that was very specific, he told Finney and his detectives: “when you catch him, and I have no doubt you will, he’ll be wearing a double-breasted suit...

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