Essay On Submission of Psychological Profile as Evidence
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Submission of Psychological Profile as Evidence
The question regarding the admissibility of psychological profiling in a court of law is one that has sparked a long standing debate (Turvey, 2008). This is for quite a number of reasons that experts in psychology continue to point out. The psychological profile of an individual is a powerful tool that can be exploited both negatively as well as positively. I confer that due to the unstable nature of the effect of psychological evidence, it should not be allowed into evidence in a court of law.
Alison argues that the use of psychological evidence in a court of law as opposed to purely circumstantial evidence could result in unjust convictions as well as acquittals (2007). This is because psychological profiling of an individual by “an expert” could be faulty and so misinform the judges and the grand jury. Still a phenomenon that is struggling to gain acceptance in its own field of professionalism psychological profiling is not up to standard. It has not yet been fully exploited due to the simple fact that there has not been enough research. In order to avoid the deception of judges and the jury through the application of psychological evidence, it should be ensured that psychological evidence is disallowed as evidence in a court of law.
Effect of the evidence
Psychological profiling is a method that is used to analyze the psychological state of an individual. It is divided into two branches; deductive and inductive profiling. In deductive profiling, psychological experts collect information on certain traits that can be associated to a particular set of individuals. They use these traits as a benchmark that earmarks the characters of individuals perceived to be in this group (Petherick, 2009). It is a long and tedious process since it involves the collection of data over extremely long periods of time. In inductive profiling, the psychological experts collect statistical data from a particular set of individuals. These individuals are, more often than not, from a particular group and are well known (Turvey, 2008). Through the compilation of this data, the experts are then able to deduce the traits of this group of individuals. The downside of profiling is that it applies these traits, gathered through both methods, to try and explain the characters of particular individuals perceived to be in the same group as those from whom samples were collected. This is a gross mistake seeing that even in the collection of the data; some mistakes were committed. First and foremost, the data is collected from a small sample population of which all individuals are well known. Secondly, the data collected could be largely inaccurate since it is all based on the perception of the individual by the expert. It is also a statistical possibility that, in the collection off this data, the collectors could have been subjectively biased resulting in the collection of inaccurate data.
Petherick claims that the consequence of this evidence in a court of law is that it is not impartial and is more often than not ambiguous (2009). In an instance where a court of law has a defendant pleading not guilty to murder charges, the profiling of this defendant could affect the dispensation of justice. This is because the profiler who will profile this defendant is a human being like any other. The fact that the profiler could exhibit some form of bias towards the defendant is also very possible. In the event that the defendant is liked by the profiler, then the possibility of a faulty profiling is very much alive. This could result in the presentation of evidence that could very well acquit a guilty offender. The reverse of this is also a possible statistic.
The Overall decision making
The ultimate decision that will be upheld by a court of law could very well be swayed by psychological evidence (Innes, 2005). This is especially common in cases that involve a grand jury. When facing a jury, attorneys from both the prosecution and the defense will d their best to have the jury on their side. This is because the final verdict handed over by the jury is what will count the most. In order to have the jury on their side, the attorneys from both sides might choose to rely heavily on psychological evidence. By having a psychological profiler testifying in a court as to the psychological state of the defendant both sides can attempt to win the grand jury over. On the side of the prosecution, having a credible psychological expert testify on the state of the accused could be the determinant in a case needing the decision of the jury. On the defense, having a psychological expert testify that the accused is an individual likely to be mentally unstable could result in the defense taking a plea that the accused is mentally unstable. This, in effect, hands the accused a much softer punishment.
According to Alison, the credibility of psychological profiling cannot withstand intensive scrutiny (2007). This is because for the individual to be profiled, the “expert” first analyzes the character and habits of the individual. The “expert” then attempts to link them to the set traits for the particular type of person being related to in the case. For example, in a case where an individual has been charged with serial killings of innocent victims, the psychological “experts” could study the accused and seek to relate their traits and elements to known serial killers. This is a faulty premise upon which to base one’s argument. This is because the factors that drive individuals into crime- like say serial murder- are extremely different and have very little if any connection at all. The fact that these individuals all have different driving forces is enough to warrant that psychological profiling is prevented from being provided as evidence in court. This is because even as these “experts” attempt to link the traits of the suspect to the traits collected initially, there are very few matches in traits. It is not then reason enough to conclude that the individual in question is say a serial killer, based on the premise that he exhibits a trait or two that are similar to those of serial killers. This profiling can once again prove faulty in the vent that the suspect in question be well versed and one acting in completely different fashion.
It, therefore, makes no sense that the individuals brought before a court of law are profiled, and the results of this profiling be presented as evidence. This is because the results of the profiling are bound to have a huge impact on the verdict that the jury hands in to the court. If a jury is convinced that the traits of the accused are similar to those of a serial killer, the jury is only bound, by reason, to start treating the accused as a serial killer. While this would be very beneficial in the case of a real serial killer, it would be totally unjust for an individual who has been accused falsely in a court of law. Many juries now believe that the results of a profiling are more often than not a correct description of the individual in question, a fact that greatly influences the outcomes of cases in which a jury hands in the final verdict.
The admissibility of psychological profiling reports as evidence in a court of law is not only misleading but also unconstitutional (Owen, 2010). The acceptance of the report as evidence is a violation of the constitution in its totality. This is because it makes no proper sense to convict an individual due to the fact that the individual ‘fits a description’ that has been provided. The legal system in the United States of America guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their own persons… against unreasonable searches and seizures… but upon probable cause” (Bill of Rights; Amendment IV). In this guarantee, all people are entitled to their own privacy as long as there is no probable cause. It makes no sense then, to profile and individual unless there is probable cause. This is because the profiling might be used to influence the jury’s opinion in the absence of clear circumstantial evidence. In order to warrant a psychological profiling of an accused person, there must be sound enough reason to believe that the individual is indeed capable of the crime they are accused of by the authorities. The evidence pointing out this fact must be unambiguous and strong enough so that the profiling will serve only to complement already available circumstantial evidence.
According to Kocsis (2003), profiling of suspects has had a 17% success rate with a (. This is a very low figure for a seemingly larger than life affair. The exaltation of profiling and holding onto the results of a profiling like a sacred doctrine with which one determines a case has never been proven to be more helpless. In a group of 1000 convicts, only 170 are convicted justly with a whole 830 evading justice. Taking about 90% of those convicted to be guilty; it means that 17 innocent individuals are wrongfully convicted while 236 guilty people are not convicted at all.
Sentenced Not Sentenced
Guilty (.17)(.9) x 1000 = 153 (.83)(.1) x 1000 = 83 236
Innocent (.17)(.1) x 1000 = 17 (.83)(.9) x 1000 = 747 754
(.17) x 1000 = 170 (.83) x 1000 = 830 1000
The continued application of this phenomenon can only make things worse in a scenario that is not pleasing at present. More and more criminals live to count another day in freedom while many innocent individuals rot away in prison cells. This is a gross misconduct as far as serving justice is concerned. It proves that indeed psychological profiling is unconstitutional for the reason that it prevents justice more often than it serves it.
The Barnum Effect
With a slogan like “Suckers are born every minute” P.T. Barnum was always quick to separate the gullible from their hard earned money. The application of the Barnum effect takes full advantage of the gullibility of individuals. This loophole can be exploited profitably by con artists as well as in a court of law by a skilled yet unscrupulous attorney. In taking advantage of a jury, presenting emotional evidence accompanied by an incriminating profile of the accused can be a powerful tool in determining the votes of the jury members (Owen, 2010). With jury members being individuals called to jury duty, being able to take control of their emotion will ensure control over the vote of the jury. Being able to play with the psychology of the jury can enable one to control its impartiality, its love and its hatred for the accused. By painting the accused in a negative light and compounding to this by providing gruesome photos of what the accused allegedly did, one is able to swing the vote of the jury and so guarantee an easy victory. This is at the expense of the falsely accused. An innocent defendant will suffer the same fate as a guilty one due to the exploitation of the Barnum effect. In this, the members of the jury are made to feel remorse and pity for the victim while hating the accused to the point that they have their minds made up before the proceedings are even halfway.
By making the jury members feel that either one of them can, at one time in the future, fall victim to a similar individual and suffer the same fate as the victim in case, one is able to manipulate the jury. This deep psychological remorse affects the ability of the members of the jury to comprehend facts as they are and deliberate upon these facts so as to come to a logical and just conclusion. The profiling of suspects coupled with emotional evidence could as well be said to be an obstacle in dispensing justice. The gullibility of the members of the jury is a big loophole that anyone can exploit once the Barnum effect has kicked in fully. By exploiting the gullibility of some members of the jury some criminals can be acquitted, and some innocent civilians can be sentenced to death. Canter and Youngs claim it is clear that psychological profiling is a hindrance that obstructs justice and one that should be done away with (2009).
The CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) Effect
Having been a popular television series that exaggerated forensic science, CSI has resulted in the development of a syndrome among the public, as well. This effect is also called the CSI Syndrome. This syndrome affects members of the public who are made to believe in abilities that forensic science does not have as yet (Innes, 2005). Being a factor that can be exploited, many members of the jury believe that any information presented by the forensics team and other psychological “experts” regarding crime and the suspect of the crime is gospel truth. This has resulted in many juries calling for the psychological profiling of a suspect in order to determine the mental state of the suspect and the possible criminal traits that they may possess. This effect has also resulted in juries asking for more forensic evidence as compared to circumstantial one. This is a factor that has hampered the fair trial of many an individual.
The power of psychological evidence cannot be over-emphasized. It continues to be a powerful tool that if exploited in the right manner, could yield the intended results. This is a great obstacle to the establishment of a free and fair judiciary and judicial system not only in the United States of America but also in other parts of the world (Canter, Youngs, 2009). The ability to mislead juries and instill emotion into the members of the jury is a liability the judicial system should never have to gamble with in court.
While at times, it may swing in the right direction and convict a criminal, other times it may fail terribly and convict an innocent person or acquit a dangerous criminal. The judicial system should be a body that bases itself of fact and the availability of circumstantial evidence that is incriminating. By relying on psychological processes to dispense justice the judicial system fails greatly (Turvey, 2008). To foster the development of a free, fair and just judicial system that will serve all without bias, psychological evidence and in particular psychological profiling should not be allowed in court as evidence. In doing this, the loopholes previously created by psychological evidence are not only sealed but also eliminated.
The numbers of individuals that continue to suffer unjustly as a result of psychological evidence is high and could only get worse. It is only right that everyone is granted a fair trial; a trial that is devoid of emotion, of misinformation, of psychological evidence. Being a system that is highly dichotomous as well as ambiguous, psychological profiling is a danger to the judicial system. Its susceptibility to profiler bias and its ability to provoke punitive actions and legal prejudice from an otherwise just jury make this phenomenon, still in its teething phase, a great impediment to a free and fair society (Petherick, 2009).
Alison, L. J. (2007). The forensic psychologist's casebook: Psychological profiling and criminal investigation. Cullompton: Willan.
Offender profiling has been used increasingly by law enforcement agencies in many parts of the world, and it has a high public and media profile. This book aims to address some of these misconceptions by demonstrating how forensic psychology contributes to police investigations.
Canter, D. V., & Youngs, D. (2009). Investigative psychology: Offender profiling and the analysis of criminal action. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
Investigative Psychology is the first academic text for this new strand of psychological science. Drawing upon twenty years of research studies, professional reports, and unpublished material, the book has been structured according to the operational challenges presented by research.
Innes, B. (2005). Profile of a criminal mind: How psychological profiling helps solve true crimes. Pleasantville, N.Y: Reader's Digest.
A behind-the-scenes study, packed with compelling case histories and fascinating information about constructing a criminal profile. This comprehensive work explores profiling theories ranging from the suppositions of early physicians to the world of theFBI's Behavioral Science Unit to the latest developments in computer-aided geographic profiling.
Kocsis, R. N. (April 01, 2003). Criminal Psychological Profiling: Validities and Abilities. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 47, 2, 126-144.
This article gives its two pence of advice on criminal psychological profiling. It highlights the pros and cons posed by psychological profiling and their application in the real world.
Moree, S. J., & AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSONAFB OH. (1993). Criminal Psychological Profiling. Ft. Belvoir: Defense Technical Information Center.
Criminal psychological profiling is potentially one of the most innovative new techniques available to criminal investigators. However, profiling is viewed skeptically by many criminal justice practitioners and academicians, which has limited the use of this process. The purpose of this study is to offer a balanced history and description of psychological profiling, accessible to both layman and experts.
Owen, D. (2010). Profiling: The psychology of catching killers. Richmond Hill, Ont: Firefly Books.
Profiling reveals the confidential arsenal of tactics that real-life FBI investigators used to solve some of the most horrific murders in modern history. Profiling focuses on 50 notorious true crimes to explain profiling, describing how crime scene evidence is processed and revealing the psychological clues and how the profilers helped to solve the case.
Petherick, W. (2009). Serial crime: Theoretical and practical issues in behavioral profiling. Amsterdam: Elsevier Academic Press.
Chapters on each of these crimes provide definitions and thresholds, discussion of the offenders, the crime and its dynamics. Considerations for behavioral profiling and investigations and the development of new paradigms in each area are interwoven throughout.
Turvey, B. E. (2008). Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioral Evidence Analysis.Burlington: Elsevier Science.
Now in its third edition, Criminal Profiling is established as an industry standard text. It moves evidence-based criminal profiling into a full embrace of the scientific method with respect to examining and interpreting behavioral evidence. If focuses on criminal profiling as an investigative and forensic process, helping to solve crime through an honest understanding of the nature and behavior of the most violent criminals.