Professional Pathway. Forensic Psychology. Forensic Psychology. Forensic Psychologists. Forensic Psychology 7/17/2014. Thomas A. Powell, Ph.D.

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1 15th Biennial Symposium on Violence and Aggression University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, SK June 17, 2014 Licensed Psychologist Doctorate Shelburne, Vermont Professional Pathway Carpenter/Bartender Correctional Officer Caseworker Probation Officer Psychologist Vt. DOC Clinical Director Forensic Psychologist (private practice) Forensic psychologists use psychological principles in the legal and criminal justice system to help judges, attorneys, and other legal specialists understand the psychological aspects of a particular case. They often testify in court as expert witnesses. They typically specialize in family court, civil court, or criminal court. Demanding educational, training and credentialing requirements Unique nature of forensic mental health practice (Kalmbach & Lyons, 2006) Small percentage of psychologists go into this field. Education Clinical psychology Ph.D, Ed.D. or Psy.D. Study of legal principles, scholarship, case law Training Internship (corrections, clinics, labs) Post-doc (unless grandfathered) Credentials Doctoral licensure Specialty (ABPP) Forensic Psychologists Need to understand some aspects of the law. Need to recognize how lawyers think and act. Need to know how to communicate in court. Need to discern fact witness vs. expert witness. 1

2 Court Lawyers have a job to do, and good lawyers do it thoroughly. That means they may come after you. Dealing with this is part of your job. Don t whine or complain about it. In the lawyers house, you play by their rules. It may not always be an enjoyable experience, to wit: Court F. Lee Bailey cross-examining the state s crime scene expert. Note Bailey s technique of repetition, challenge and incredulity. The witness looks incompetent, which was exactly what Bailey was trying to convey to the jury. Personal things to consider Dress and groom professionally and conservatively. If you have tattoos, cover them up. Not everybody thinks they are cool. While you are waiting in court to be called, sit toward the rear and be inconspicuous. You only have one chance to create a first impression with the judge and/or jury. Use it proactively rather than reactively. Provide the lawyer who calls you with an updated CV and go over it with him/her before the day you testify. What are your relative strengths and weaknesses? Coach the lawyer. Your personal experience in work and life may be more of an asset than you think. The lawyer can introduce you to the judge and jury through credentialing and voir dire. Voir dire is the forum for legal argument on an application to have evidence excluded by the judicial officer in a trial, or to test the competency of a witness, or whether a witness is to be declared unfavorable. 2

3 Don t hide you weaknesses or liabilities from the lawyer who calls you. Lawyers do NOT want to be surprised in court. The lawyer may want to get your weaknesses out in the open on direct examination, deal with it, and move on. It s okay to be human. Know the lawyer s theory of the case, and talk with your attorney about the other side s theory. Know your facts. Study the case and your involvement in it. You will be asked on cross examination. Understand the limits of what you know and what you don t. Construct a narrative of the case. build a narrative bridge between your findings and the actual experience of the defendant or litigant so that the testimony comes alive to create a meaningful story. (Brodsky, 2006) Other people in court will be much more impacted by a story-approach to your testimony than by a recitation of statistical details. The law and psychology have very different ways of accumulating knowledge. Idiographic describes the study of the individual, who is seen as a unique agent with a unique life history setting him/her apart from others. Nomothetic describes the study of classes or cohorts of individuals, where the subject is seen as part of a population and their corresponding personality traits and behavior. Don t let lawyers put words in your mouth. Don t let lawyers mis-quote what you have previously said. Correct them, politely. If you don t know the answer, it s best to say so. Don t be distracted from what you believe by trying to appease a lawyer challenging you. Don t agree with anything you don t believe. Be brief and speak in non-technical terms when possible. Never use acronyms or abbreviations. Don t assume judges or juries have any of your professional insider s knowledge. Description and discussion of risk assessment protocols, especially the Static-99R, require special handling. 3

4 Describe the actuarial method in layman s terms. Use car insurance example. Describe your findings, risk estimates, and the fact that the subject is a member of a group that has thus-and-such recidivism rate over five years. Describe the limitations of your findings, and if there are inconsistent findings, say so. Breath. Look at the judge and jury when you speak. The cross-examining lawyer loses power when you do. Enjoy the pageantry of being in court with a role to play. Be alert, friendly and likeable. Jurors opinions of your testimony will be colored by how much they like you. The opposite is also true. Think cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress and discomfort experienced by an individual who (1) holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time or (2) is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. If jurors like you, they will have a harder time accepting information that your opinions are wrong. Remember that you have credibility and knowledge that others don t have. You are not a litigant or defendant. You are helping the court or jury understand the case. Showing appropriate humor is a great way to manage the tone of the cross-examination. Lawyers are looking to make their case. Don t take their comments personally or be defensive. Role Play Prosecutor Glen E. Luther, Q.C. Associate Professor College of Law University of Saskatchewan Defense Expert Licensed Psychologist-Doctorate 30 y.o. Vermont resident charged with molesting a four-y.o. girl in a drug store. Admits sexual fantasies about kids. Never lived independently, always with parents on farms where his parents work. FSIQ=67; left school in 9 th grade. At age 20 he was badly injured (TBI) in a car wreck while drag racing. 4

5 Long time marijuana dependent, enabled by mother who drove him to his dealer the day of his offense. Socially isolated, depressed, impulsive, emotionally labile. Static 99R=4; 5 yr recidivism rate=12.3% ( CI). This is a sentencing hearing The prosecutor is asking for years; public safety is all they are concerned with. The defense is asking for 5-15 years with SO Rx, citing public safety and treatment needs agenda. Licensed Psychologist - Doctorate 4281 Shelburne Rd., P.O. Box 807 Shelburne, Vermont (ph) 5

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