The objective of this study is to select three elements of the court system that are interesting that interact in some manner with forensic psychology and consider who would be the contributors to each element. Forensic is defined as the “analysis of information suitable for use in a court of law.” (Ramsland, 2002, cited in: Featherstone, nd, p.1) Three elements or involvement in forensic psychology are: (1) competency hearings; (2) insanity assessments; and (3) courtroom experts. (Featherstone, nd, p.1) The competency hearing involves the evaluation defendant’s competency to stand trial for the crime and involves an assessment by a forensic psychologist qualified to determine the individual’s ability to testify among other things.
The second element is the assessment of the sanity of a defendant. This involves a forensic examiner using a Mental State at Time of Offense test (MSO) which is comprised by three interviews. The first test examines historical information about the individual charged with the crime while the second is centered on the offense and the defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime and the third conducts an assessment of the present mental state of the defendant. The most often used guideline is what is known as the M’Naughten rule which in 1843 was known as the ‘wild beast’ test consisting of three prongs: (1) an unsound mind; (2) unaware of what they were doing; and (3) the inability to understand the act’s wrongness. (Featherstone, nd, paraphrased)
The third element is that of the courtroom experts who are often called in to testify about the competency and insanity/sanity assessments of the defendant. These individuals explain the outcomes of those assessments to the court and the jury to assist them in understanding the mental status of the defendant. (Featherstone, nd, paraphrased) It is clear that each of these elements relating to forensic psychology assist the justice system in the proper and ethical criminal procedures.