The expertise of forensic psychologists is primarily pertinent to voir dire, commonly referred to as the jury selection process. On the one hand, according to Alison (2013), forensic psychologists are sought after by defense attorneys with the central goal of coming up with jurors who are sympathetic towards defendants and are thus more probable to acquit them. On the other hand, prosecutorial attorneys seek the services of psychologists that are most likely to find the defendants guilty. It is a widely held perception that after a case has been heard and deliberated, jurors have to provide a comprehensive and non-biased judgment. It is from the legal indulgence of forensic psychologists that selected jurors can be partial and hold beliefs that are not quite relevant to the determination of whether a person is guilty or innocent.

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Psychologists’ Roles the Law and Juries

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Selecting an objective and appropriate jury is usually a tormenting and time-consuming process, but it can be significantly facilitated with the right psychological approach. First and foremost, it is important to gain a full understanding of prospective jurors, even though the time to observe their behavior may be limited (Bartol & Bartol, 2014). To identify the basic traits of their personalities and understand their thinking patterns, it is crucial to talk to them using psychological techniques. It is a particularly productive strategy to ask open-ended questions that will invite potential jurors to provide narrative responses. In voir dire (jury selection), answers to open-ended questions cannot be pre-empted, in contrast to direct examination.

It is equally important that the selection procedure has to be organized in a manner that would make the prospective jurors feel comfortable and relaxed. This way, it will be easier to talk to them and to elicit their candid responses. It is typical of juror candidates to provide insincere responses in order to influence the decision of the psychologist. Therefore, the main goal of the forensic psychologist is to bring out their real opinions and attitudes so that both the defense team and the prosecution can get an insight into their personalities. Finally, it is important to make sure that prospective jurors understand you as a psychologist in the process of conversation. If the prospective jurors get a picture of your legal stand, they will be more receptive to case theories and assertions (Bartol & Bartol, 2014).

The field of psychology is closely intertwined with ethical issues and concerns that often pose a significant challenge to the professionalism and code of conduct of forensic psychologists. Some of the ethical issues experienced by psychologists in law enforcement include confidentiality, competence, issues with the law enforcing agencies overruling their recommendations, dealing with organizational demands and expectations etc. Bartol and Bartol (2014) argue that, to mitigate these ethical concerns, psychologists have to be properly trained and possess adequate and fundamental expertise, needed to carry out their mandate. Moreover, it is crucial that they follow accepted rules and guidelines so as to maintain the professional code of conduct.

Psychologists also have an important obligation towards their students if they are engaged in the academia. As teachers, they need to account for the fact that their personal values and beliefs have a resultant effect on the presentation and selection of instructional resources (Allan, 2013). When talking about sensitive topics, they need to recognize possible variation in student attitudes and perceptions towards such matters. In addition, forensic psychologists have professional responsibility to assist civil offenders and inmates in reintegration and rehabilitation. Thus, they are also required to promote a healthy environment for inmate and staff safety, adequate provision of psychological services within the correctional facility etc. One of the largest challenges in this field is that the environment may not be favorable enough for psychologists to render their services at the highest level and it is therefore important that state and federal governments should develop comprehensive mechanisms to ensure their security and beneficial working conditions.

The engagement of additional expertise by incorporating forensic psychologists in the selection of the jury with regard to criminal and civil cases is imperative. To support this claim, Alison (2013) asserts that this mechanism can enable both the defense and prosecution to make a critical analysis of the jurors and discern between those who are qualified and non-qualified, based on their personalities. Forensic psychologists apply attitude or, rather, personality assessments, individual personality characteristics, behavioral theory and, consequently, demographics to assist the prosecution and defense team in coming up with a list of competent and non-biased jurors. Each side of the case should be given ample time to interview and evaluate candidate jurors in order to come to the most reasonable decision. As emphasized by Hastie, Penrod, and Pennington (2013), in current judicial system, the engagement of psychologists in the jury selection process is an additional factor in ensuring free and fair proceedings.