Forensic psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on application of psychology to the criminal justice system (Fulero & Wrightsman, 2009). Psychology helps criminologists and people responsible for dispensing justice, to a greater extent in directly understanding and prediction of the human behavior. Judges and juries consult with forensic psychologists to gain understanding on why defendants behave in a certain manner. Forensic psychologists, therefore play many important roles in helping resolve cases in a court of law. Their services are very important and guide the proceedings and rulings made before a court of law. Generally, they are called upon to testify in trials as expert witnesses. This entails the psychologists to undertake the responsibility of translating their clinical training into acceptable and appropriate for dissemination in the courtroom.
In relation to death penalty trial and appeal the forensic psychologist play crucial roles though not, therapeutic in nature. They provide explanatory services that are helpful in addressing the cases brought before the judges and jury on death penalty and appeal. Among this roles performed by the forensic psychologists on death penalty and appeal they include;
Evaluation of competency
Forensic psychologists play a very important role of analyzing different factors to determine the level of competency. In every case, brought before the court of law among the greatest determiners of the validity of the case and whether, trials should proceed is based on the level of competence. Forensic psychologists determine and guide the courts in deciding whether it is appropriate for people to be sentenced to death or they should appeal. The forensic psychologist’s roles are essential in determining the charges to be pronounced in a court of law. Death penalty and appeal cases are sensitive matters and require careful considerations of all factors involved in cases. Considering cases involve human intervention it is appropriate to seek services of forensic psychologists to ensure justice is not compromised by ensuring correct physical and mental judgment. For example, evaluation of competency is necessary and must be brought into question in murder trials since; death penalty is a high possibility. There is a general feeling among people that it would be a kin to execute a defendant who does not really understand their crimes. The forensic psychologists play a great role in such situations to establish that the defendant is capable indeed of doing such and deserves the death penalty or appeal (Haney, 2005).
The other role is risk of prejudice. The forensic psychologist plays a huge role in determining the future of another individual especially death penalty. Hence, it is a process that requires professionalism and adequate scrutiny especially by the forensic psychologist.
General reaction of the U.S supreme court to death penalty appeals
The many people who have been sentenced for death end up appealing asking the U.S Supreme Court to review their death sentence. There is a general feeling that the court of appeal sees death penalty as a cruel and unusual form of punishment that is a violation of the constitution. This is mainly due to the increasing pressure from the defendants and the human rights group who have consistently asked the court to declare the penalty as cruel. The fact that the appeal court ends up agreeing hearing the cases means that they also question the legality of death penalty as a way of punishment. The courts regard the penalty as cruel and unusual because they are also not sure when, the penalty should be imposed and when it should not (Burkhead, 2009). Some courts have argued that the death penalty did not provide a convincing empirical evidence indicating, that death penalty in anyway was an effective deterrent to crime. In other instances, the court has considered the penalty as disproportionate in crime of taking life. Death is seen as a severe and irrevocable, to the court and this also brings the feeling that death is disproportionate to the crime of taking human life deliberately.
An example of a case is the case between Kennedy v. Lousiana (June 25, 2008). This case has led to influence of other cases where they have felt the need to amendment of the death penalty procedures. In this case, the defendant asked the U.S Supreme Court to review his death sentence, terming it as an unusual treatment and the court agreed to listen to the concerns of the defendant. The court found that the court penalty did comport with basic concept of dignity the eighth amendment.
Question 3: studies of social psychological research and evaluation in regard to death penalty
Death penalty is among the most debated topics in the field of social psychology. This is as a result of the two differing groups; those who want death penalty preserved and those who want it abolished. Research findings show that death penalty serves the purpose of retribution. This argues that the state is right to impose pain and punishment greater than pain suffered by the victim. Therefore, there is justification for death penalty. The other purpose is for deterrence, this helps in preventing crimes from occurring through the assumption that the state is capable of inflicting death penalty. Hence, prevent other people from committing crimes which result to similar punishment. These two kinds of researchers have the state in disagreement of what is the right thing to do as every group raises genuine concerns in support of what they believe.
On the other hand, the second study which, is against death penalty. Findings show that not only does the method of death penalty fails. But, it can also be unfairly used by untrustworthy and discriminatory justice. Furthermore, use of death penalty appears to be a way of the government endorsing violence to its citizens and violence as an acceptable means to resolve disputes and making wrongs right (Fulero & Wrightsman, 2009). The action may be an encouragement to potential killers to emulate the behavior of the state.
In conclusion, the people who support death penalty favor it because they believe in the justice o “eye for an eye”. However, this principle does not apply in all cases it applies in selected cases. It is referred to as a way of moral justification that is not amenable and does not require scientific testing. Contrary to this, evidence to the acts of death penalty reveals that it is conducted in a way that produces significant disparities in gender, race and errors. There is need for proper analysis of the two ideologies and a common moral ground be reached.
Burkhead, M. (2009). A life for a life : The American debate over the death penalty. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co.
Fulero, S. & Wrightsman, L. (2009). Forensic psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Haney, C. (2005). Death by design capital punishment as social psychological system. New York: Oxford University Press.