Though a criminal responsibility or insanity defense may be advantageous to the defense in many instances, this is not always the case. In some cases, such a defense may mean the defendant spends more time in jail or under supervision than if they had pleaded guilty.
There are six major ways to learn more about forensic psychology: (1) books, (2) forums and listservs, (3) conferences and workshops, (4) hands-on clinical experience and observation, (5) review forensic psychologists' websites, and (6) scientific research.
Those who are mentally ill at the time of the commission of a crime may be found “insane” or not guilty by reason of insanity (or mental disease or defect, depending on jurisdiction). Rather than going to prison, the individual is sent to a hospital where they receive treatment. Individuals who are found guilty may face life in prison or even the death penalty. So is the insanity defense fair? Is the insanity defense necessary? Based on the consequences (prison vs. hospitalization) of a criminal act, there might seem to be an unfair bias toward those with mental illness. It may also seem that those with mental illness are using their symptoms as an empty justification for the crimes they have committed. So why is the insanity defense allowed?
There are several key ways in which statutes relevant to mental health evaluations and testimony differ between Arkansas and Federal jurisdictions. I will describe these below:
When can an expert testify? The Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 72 states a witness may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if: (a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case. Conversely, Arkansas statute applies a lower threshold, allowing an expert to testify only so long as t...