Orensic Assessment in Death Penalty Cases

Forensic Assessment in Death Penalty Cases

Unlike many forensic assessments, evaluating capital punishment defendants can center around two polarized areas: 1) an assessment of any psychological mitigating factors that would allow a defense attorney to argue for a sentence less than death, and 2) an assessment of any psychological aggravating factors that would allow the prosecutor to argue for the imposition of the death penalty. The former assessment might center on several mitigating factors, whereas the latter typically is confined to an assessment of the defendants future risk of violence.

Arguably, forensic assessment related to death penalty cases may be the most hotly debated area of the field. Some argue that what sparse psychological research exists in the area of forensic assessment of capital defendants has been written by psychologists who are anti-death penalty advocates and who thus have slanted conclusions. It is indeed difficult to find published research that directly supports the advocacy of capital sentencing. This weeks first discussion question and associated readings introduce this controversial area of forensic assessment, albeit perhaps from a single point of view. Try and keep an open mind to all sides of this issue when posting and responding to the question, and remember that the role of a forensic psychology professional in these and all evaluations is to advocate for the assessment data and not a particular political position or personal opinion.

To prepare for this Discussion:

a? Review Chapter 9 in the course text, Learning Forensic Assessment. Reflect on issues related to conducting forensic assessments for capital sentencing cases.

a? Review the article, An Actuarial Risk Assessment of Violence Posed by Capital Murder Defendants.Think about the factors associated with violence risk assessment of capital defendants.

a? Select two issues and/or factors related to forensic assessment in capital sentencing cases. Reflect on how these influence conducting forensic assessment as well as why they are complex issues that may be debated.

With these thoughts in mind:

Post by Day 3 a description of two issues and/or factors that add to the complexity of conducting forensic assessments in capital sentencing cases. Explain what makes them complex factors or issues, using specific examples. Be sure to provide information concerning both sides of the issues you describe.