Forensic Psychology and Criminal Profiling


1) What is Role and Importance of Forensic Psychologist in Legal System

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines forensic psychology as the use of clinical specialties in the legal system. A forensic psychologist applies psychological principles, data, research, and theory to provide an explanation for criminal acts and behavior. Forensic psychology plays a role in punishing and preventing crimes. Hence, forensic psychology is often described as an amalgamation of law and psychology.

The responsibilities of a forensic psychologist places them in various settings like the court system, law enforcement agencies, correctional institutions and even medical treatment facilities. A forensic psychologist, also known as a criminal profiler, work with numerous law enforcement agencies to develop a brief profile of criminals, based on common psychological traits. A forensic psychologist usually has a significant role to play in the criminal justice system and in the offender's lives. They are the ones that are responsible for explaining the behavior of the offender and what might have caused them to engage in criminal activities in the courtroom or during an investigation. In an investigation, forensic psychologists have been seen to work together with criminal investigators to try and solve a crime and get to the root of why the crime happened and understand the method of the crime. This is particularly helpful as it helps crimes to be solved in an effective and time - efficient manner. They usually help understand fully as to why an offender practices a crime and whether the offender was in a state that might indicate them having psychological difficulties. The professionals may work with a public defender, the State’s attorney, juries, private attorneys, and judges who preside over a particular legal matter. In medical treatment, forensic psychologist usually come out again to help out with offenders that have been diagnosed with psychological problems. They usually help out so that they can make sure that the correct treatment is administered to each and every offender. Based on their expertise, they may provide sentencing recommendations to the judge or treatment recommendations to the accommodating institution. In addition, a forensic psychologist can provide any other information as per requested by the judge presiding over the case. These requests could include information regarding an assessment of future risk or an evaluation of witness credibility. They study the behavior of individuals accused of crimes and proven guilty and address psychological theories and legal issues. A forensic psychologist will also study clinical psychology and criminal justice. They may have to conduct assessments of prisoners, research psychological disorders, and evaluate the mental state of criminals to ensure that they are able to stand trial. An assessment is required when there is a complex legal question such as insanity or mental competency that can only be answered by a professional psychologist. In this case the psychologist is appointed to determine the accused person’s mental and psychological wellbeing. The psychologist will conduct clinical interviews with the defendant (client) as well as additional interviews with family, friends, witnesses, police, attorneys, and other relevant parties to the case. They also review the defendant’s school, medical, and previous criminal records if any, run psychological tests, and eventually provide a professional opinion. Basically, the forensic psychologist will help to determine the mental and psychological status of an accused person during crime. Forensic psychologists work with law enforcement agencies and are often called to testify in court on behalf of the defendant to support a theory the police or prosecutors have about the criminal defendant’s intent regarding the crime that has been committed. They also train and evaluate police or other law enforcement organizations.

In correctional institutions, forensic psychologists bring about programs into the correctional institutions that will enable the offender to feel a sense of self-worth. By facilitating this program, they help offenders feel accomplished, it often reduces the chances of a repeat offending. Forensic psychologists also provide one-on-one therapy sessions to their clients which also facilitates a therapeutic bond between them, usually when the police have been involved or there is a specific court order. These sessions are not only for research and study purposes but for therapeutic reasons for the client. One primary objective that a forensic psychologist has as does all psychologists have is to protect the rights of each of their clients.

For example, in the infamous case of John Wayne Gacy’s killing spree also known as the ‘killer clown’. He was a serial killer and sex offender and assaulted and murdered at least 33 young boys and men. He used to frequent the children's hospital and did shows as a clown for them. Although complaints and suspicions from neighbors were ultimately what ended “killer clown” John Wayne Gacy’s shocking killing spree, forensic psychologists ensured that he didn’t go free on a fake insanity plea. Through a series of interviews, psychologists on the case were able to determine that the murders committed were premeditated and he had a detailed plan to hide his victims' bodies. Without forensic psychologist's assistance in the above case, Gacy would have never been arrested and sentenced to death row as a punishment for his crimes.

2) In Criminal Profiling what you think the reliable techniques are and why? (Explain all reliable Forensic Techniques)

Criminal profiling refers to developing psychological profile of a criminal based on the crime scene profiling is mostly done by a forensic psychologist the profile can then be used by police to assist in arresting the criminal. Each criminal profiler may use slightly different techniques but the methods all fall in the same ballpark.

Criminal profile is a psychological sketch of an offender the crime scene can tell a lot about the person who has committed the crime especially in murder investigations. Profiling is usually used to arrest serious offenders such as rapists, murderers' arsonists and serial killers. Criminal profiling is used often in times when the officers on the case have no likely suspect. profiling develops descriptions of the traits and characteristics of unknown criminals in specific cases. There are basically two varieties of profiling inductive and deductive profiling. Inductive profiling is generalized to an offender from initial behaviour and previous research on criminals from the past whereas deductive profiling or uses details from the victim and the crime scene to form a criminal profile.

The techniques used to create a criminal profile using deductive techniques are as follows:

- Forensic evidence: a complete forensic analysis must be performed before profiling can begin to ensure that the crime scene is analyzed properly and the evidence present at the scene has not been compromised or exposed unduly.

- Crime scene characteristics: These are determined from all the forensic reports for documentation which provides the nature of interaction between the victim, the offender and the location of the crime. In cases where several crimes have been committed such as serial murders or serial burglaries each crime scene is analyzed individually and is then linked to the previous case (case linkage).

- Victimology: A complete study and analysis of the victim characteristics. the characteristics of an offender's victim irrespective of a single crime or serial crimes tells us more about the offender's motive and modus operandi.

For example, finding the body of a female victim in a park with no blood at the crime scene indicates that the crime was committed elsewhere. The victim has stab wounds but no indication of blood telling us that the wounds were inflicted post mortem. The victim has strangulation marks with a specific pattern indicating that the rope used is of a particular kind.

The techniques used to create a criminal profile using inductive techniques are as follows:

- Formal or informal studies of previously arrested criminals including the interviews that were used to form those studies

- Practical experience used by the profiler form records

- Data sources like media such as newspaper articles or all documentaries about popular criminal cases and offenders

For example, childhood trauma has been linked to serial killers. Studies have shown a number of significant statistics supporting the idea that mental and physical trauma may have a long-lasting effect upon an individual it is said that 74% of convicted serial killer suffered from psychological abuse as children.

3) Describe Narco-Analysis along with its disadvantages

The term narco analysis comes from the Greek work ‘narkc’ which means anesthesia. Sometimes, this word is also defined from a Greek word called ‘torpor’ known as the truth serum which is usually injected into the subject's body Narco-analysis is the method at which a drug is administered to the body of a human being when they are being investigated in the criminal justice system where the imagination of a person is made neutral to just the right degree that they are still conscious and this state makes them to not be able to lie to the investigators. Mostly, this analysis is done when the investigators in the criminal justice system want to extract the truth from a person when they have information that they feel is vital for them and their investigation.

The individual can form coherent answers and may reveal information that they would usually conceal. Manipulation of answers becomes difficult since the person actually loses self-control and is in a trance like state. The individual being tested must be informed of the physical and emotional implications of the test like he/she may feel drowsy for many hours later.

There is a science behind determining the amount of the drug to be administered; sodium pentothal (thiopental) or sodium amytal (amobarbital) that is to be mixed with distilled water to administer to an individual. The dosage depends on the sex, age, health and physical condition of the individual. Simple specific questions will generate spur of the moment responses that have not been pondered upon or filtered. To conduct a narco analysis test A court order and signed consent of the individual is required and the test can only be administered in a government hospital with supervision of doctors and hospital staff. The administration of the narco analysis test is audio and video recorded to examine, analyze and transcribe at a later time by the investigators or officials.

There are various scholars that have given their critiques on the test but the biggest criticism of the narco analysis test are problems related to the wrong dosage - If by any chance a wrong dosage is given to the person, it may cause severe effects which might include coma and even death. It has to be ensured that the right dosage is admitted to every person based on their body mass and weight and the size of their body. This usually calls for professional analysts who know how to administer the dosage. If the calculation of the dose is even slightly incorrect for an individual, it could be catastrophic.

Few of the other criticisms are that if an individual has a drug or alcohol addiction, he/she may have a higher level of tolerance to the dosage and may be able to fake the state of trance and provide false information to the investigators.

The administration of the test may give the individual (testee) the idea that he/she is under scrutiny and is being treated like a criminal.

There is also a problem where the information provided the person who has been administered these drugs not being reliable. This might be due to the state or condition that they are in which might cause them not to be reliable or remember things very well and hence might give out the wrong information.

The administration of the test also requires various settings like a well-lit quiet room, no food should be given 5/6 hours prior to the test, preexisting medical conditions must be addressed by the physicians and so on that even a slight change in any of the settings may cause the test to not be a 100 percent accurate and could jeopardize the investigation

Lastly, the issue of the acceptance of the information that has been collected by administering a narco analysis test. The court might refuse the information that has been given out by the subject terming it to be not admissible.

4) Explain -

a) Expert Witness

An expert is a person who by experience, education, training or a mix of the three is able to help by offering his/her professional opinion as a testimony with regard to the matter at trial. Mostly when a person testifies concerning scientific evidence the person to consider both of fact and expert witness. Some of the information maybe did used from direct observation and then using that direct observation and opinion testimony is formed.

It is of utmost importance to know the expert witnesses training education and experience since based on that the credibility of the expert witness can be judged. The side that has called upon the expert usually is responsible for vetting the background and education of the expert since it is a topic that the opposing side could question as well as the judge could be asked to rule a decision regarding the level of expertise of the witness. If the witness is declared an expert by the court only then relevant questions can be addressed to the expert witness and he/she will give his/her opinion testimony. The legal side bringing the expert witness should pay attention to the case and only then choose an expert witness and not on the basis of the fame of the expert.

Educational background and experience are not the only parameters required to be an effective expert witness effective expert witnesses also have a great command over the English language the ability to understand the questions and respond in simple language not using too much jargon which laymen may not understand. Also, an effective expert witness will express his or her firm opinions and will not sway from it since that can be disastrous in a legal procedure. The expert witness from the opposing side can also challenge information or opinions. It is imperative that the expert witness presents all testimony with honesty and if he or she does not know the answer to a particular question should be honest and state that he or she may not know since not everyone knows everything in their field.

b) Modus Operandi

The word modus operandi comes from the latin language and means operating method. the abbreviation used in offices concerned with criminal offence and justice is MO. Modus operandi is the specific manner or pattern of working that comes to be known with a particular criminal. Criminologist have seen that of a criminal with a specific specialty like burglary murder auto theft et cetera is likely to choose a particular way of operating. For example, some serial killers have a particular weapon of choice that could be specific only to them such as using a letter opener to commit a murder.

As advancements have occurred in the field of criminal profiling techniques such as crime scene analysis or offender profiling are being used profiling uses a mix of psychological social logical and socio legal concepts to establish the characteristics of a criminal. On fourth and agencies then use the final profile that has been developed as the basis to arrest and then former case again said criminal previously methods such as the fingerprinting and finding blood stains at the crime scene was used but eventually agencies realized that profiles give clues that could be less visible a crime scene such as all the time of day that the crime has occurred the choice of the victim the location of the crime the nature of the crime. all of these lesser common clues help identify the criminal.

Deductive criminal profiling is very helpful to establish the modus operandi behaviour since it assists in case linkage of crimes that may seem unrelated at the time. Modus operandi is learnt behaviour which changes as the offender becomes more experienced. The offender may learn new methods to make his/her crimes more efficient. The signature of an offender is made up of particular personality identifiers that differentiate the nature of the crime scene methods. These could be when an offender repeatedly engages in a specific type of sexual activity (example - engaging in fellatio and then anal sex), an offender uses a specific type of binding like duct tape, inflicting similar injuries on his/her victims like diagonal cuts on the thighs of the victim or the offender displays the body of the victim in a certain manner like putting makeup on the victim and dress him/her up before disposing the body.

c) Portrait Parle

Portrait parle is an accurate and detailed verbal description of physical characteristics of an individual. It is based on the method of criminal identification invented by Alphonse Bertillon by using the measurements of the human body. It was the first system of identification that was compiled in 1893. Each section of the body and face corresponded to a sign that could be transcribed leading to an indivual descriptive card and later even shortened if required. Bertillon divided each part of the human face into smaller details. For example the nose had six key descriptive features height with root tip base and dorsum. in addition to key facial features the hair and beard were also mentioned as well as arms legs in general appearance race and skin colour were also part of the descriptive card.

The portrait parle method was very useful but proved to be too time consuming for everyday work. Law enforcement officers who were experienced reported that the method was helpful in identifying offenders or suspects that tend to disappear in crowds. However, sending the data across to other agencies was quite difficult since a universal code was never decided upon hence leading to confusion and misinterpretation of data.

For example describing the shape of the face of an individual such as round, oblong, square, oval etc