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Conducting Forensic Assessments

This study discusses different aspects of forensic psychology with regards to juvenile suspects by assessing an individual in the case research portrayed in the documentary "Murder on a Sunday Morning". This paper provides the simple descriptions of the next:

  • The case study in the documentary, including a description of the individual and his forensic people.
  • The potential role(s) of any forensic psychologist in relation to the research study.
  • The forensic analysis principles that apply to the case study.
  • Any alternative party information that may be necessary to collect for the forensic examination of the case study.
  • Ethical and/or multicultural issues and/or things to consider related to the research study.
  • An examination of what sort of forensic psychologist might best address each of the honest and/or multicultural issues and/or concerns that are referred to.
  • What a forensic psychologist might think important to consider and/or determine when performing a forensic examination of the individual in this case review.
  • What the courts might think important to consider and/or determine from a forensic evaluation of the average person in this case analysis.
  • At least two forensic examination devices and/or tools that could be used in regards to this research study, with an explanation of why.
  • The elements that might be contained in a forensic evaluation report based on this research study.
  • Which elements from a forensic diagnosis report based on this case study would be relevant for testimony, and just why.
  • The implications that the diagnosis may have for the results of the case

Murder on a Sunday Morning

This case study is based after the forensic examination of the accused specific in the documentary "Murder on the Sunday Morning" (2001). The criminal offenses picture in the documentary portrays Mr. James Stevens witnessing his wife being taken and murdered by a young black male who was simply robbing her at the gun point. The assailant committing this offense has been characterized as a six legs tall skinny black male of age in between 20 and 25 years. The authorities imprisoned Brenton Butler as a suspect who's a 15 yr old black guy although he's much shorter and more radiant than the real assailant that the authorities wanted. Nevertheless, Butler was suspected of the murder as he was the only black found near to the crime scene at that time and being recognized by the victim's spouse as the assailant who attacked his better half. He was then interrogated in the police train station in the absence of his parents and was even rejected to getting any legal help. Detective Glover interrogated the young man and attempted to make him confess the crime and pressurized him to locate the murder weapon. The detective needed Butler to a location of woods near to the crime arena and hit him once on the face and double in the belly as he was struggling to remove any information from the suspect. After which, another detective with the name Dwayne Darnell arrived to work on this case who made Butler signal a pre-written confession that became a primary research for the trial.

The case was then picked up by Ann Finnell and Patrick Mc Guinness as consumer defenders from the point out of Florida, who systematically proved the prosecution wrong due to insufficient proof produced for the trial. They proved that the authorities tortured Butler both psychologically and actually to obtain the written confession from him and this Butler possessed no motive for the criminal offense, no forensic research and no murder weapon were found and neither do Butler have any criminal history before nor he previously any history of risk factors such as poor parenting, poverty, mental disorders, etc. , normally observed in criminals (Bartol & Bartol, 2011 & Burkhead, 2006). Hence, the jury arranged Butler free as he was not found guilty of the criminal offenses after just 45 minutes of dialogue although Butler got already spent six months of imprisonment through the proceedings of the trial. Butler and his family resolved for a compensation of 7. 75 million us dollars when they actually sued for 8. 5 million us dollars due to civil protection under the law violations as the attorney was punished by the District Judge John H, Moore for not pleading the case correctly (Schoettler & Pinkham, 2002). Later, the real criminal was imprisoned, trialed and convicted for the criminal offenses.

Although Butler received justice in the end, however, he would have not transferred six months in jail if some areas of forensic psychology had been considered earlier in the trial. Forensic mental health assessment would have been done to determine Butler's competency to stand trial. Furthermore, Butler should have been given the devices of Dr. Grisso to understand, evaluate and appreciate Miranda Rights so that he'd have understood the meaning of 'waiving his rights' and perhaps wouldn't normally have made the phony confession under great pressure (Goldstein, Condie, Kalbeitzer, Osman & Geier, 2003).

Role of an Forensic Psychologists

There are just two aspects of forensic psychology that can be applied to the Butler case, which are: first to assess the ability of the young think (Butler) to waive his Miranda privileges and the next to determine Butler's competency to stand trial.

Assessment Principles

The important question is that whether or not to apply different benchmarks to examine the competency of the juvenile? Numerous studies along with this documentary "Murder on the Sunday Morning" have deduced that juveniles should better be assessed and trialed on the basis of their maturity level alternatively than just following the Dusky Standard because of their analysis since their cognitive and reasoning capabilities never have been totally developed as compared to those of the individuals. Nevertheless, this matter continues to be in issue in the circles of the legal system (Ryba, Cooper & Zapf, 2003, p500). The forensic psychologists should determine the juvenile think irrespective of the benchmarks being followed such that his/her degree of understanding the legal proceedings and his/her cognitive mental capabilities are measured effectively.

I consider that in this case review of the documentary "Murder on the Sunday Morning" if Butler was found incompetent to stand trial earlier in the proceedings then this might not need been much in favor of Butler since such one is usually sent for treatment until he/she can stand trial which might even take many years. As, generally, the courtroom proceedings would still keep as the suspected juvenile is cured via an outpatient method in order to gain competency to stand trial. Since Butler was innocent to begin with therefore keeping the trial on hold until he becomes qualified to stand trial after treatment would have been a great injustice to him (Viljoen & Roesch, 2008), perhaps the competency analysis had not been done in the documentary due to this reason.

Another problematic aspect of forensic mindset is the issue that who is the client. Generally, the person whom the psychologist is treating or assessing is his/her consumer. Nevertheless, in legal issues as the one portrayed in the documentary "Murder on the Sunday Morning", the psychologist is working in collaboration with the legal team to find out the mental level of the suspect rather than for the prognosis or treatment of the suspect's problem. Hence, the ultimate report compiled by the psychologist in this regard could be greatly biased depending after the legal-team with which he/she is working and the kind of the examination being conducted. This further signifies that if the psychologist is working with the prosecution then he/she would emphasize on the violent habit of the suspect in his/her assessment report and thus, would recommend moving the juvenile think to the adult court so the amount is applied only to the punishment aspects of the law. On the other hand, if the psychologist is working with the security counsel then he/she wish to keep the juvenile think in the juvenile court docket system to be able to assure the provision of proper assistance and treatment for him/her.

Third Get together Information

The alternative party information is also very very important to a forensic psychologist although almost all of the information will be purchased from the average person under assessment. The public defenders regarding Butler used his mother as a source for deciding the personality and behaviors of her boy due to which, the prosecution circumstance was weakened. As for instance, Butler's mother refuted the statement of Glover (the principal interrogator) that Butler stood up to hug him and said he was pleased to see him when he (the detective) joined into the room, as she discloses that her kid is very reserved and normally never hugs strangers. Although this information could have also been purchased from a psychologist however its impact was more when the mother herself offered it before the jury (de Lestrade, 2001). This further indicates that often essential information can be acquired from the 3rd party rather than being available from the client. As the mother pointed out that Butler was very tranquil and reserved, hence his brief replies to the questions allowed the forensic examiner to extract very little information from him to present to the court docket.

Further, a health care provider certified before the jury that the wounds on Butler's body were caused while he was in police force custody. Although a forensic psychologist could survey these details to the jury as alternative party information however, in accordance to the 4 Cs of testimony, a psychologist doesn't have a clinical knowledge about the wounds where as a physician does, which means testimony of an medical doctor in this regard would be considered as the better evidence. Additionally, a physician could testify that the way the wounds were attained by Butler while a forensic psychologist cannot. Thus, the testimony of an physician would pose a better effect on the trial along with guaranteeing adherence to the 4 Cs of testimony: Quality, Certainty, Circumstance Specificity and Clinical Knowledge (Kwartner & Boccaccini, 2008).


Since Butler became the sufferer of racial profiling being the only young black men spotted in the area near the crime scene, this aspect can be accounted as the only multicultural concern in this forensic analysis. Although Butler was youthful and shorter than the best think of the circumstance but still the authorities selected him up for scrutiny. This aspect could be best utilized by the defense attorney however the forensic psychologist could endorse it, by ensuring that this sort of racial profiling is happening quite commonly over the United States, through various circumstance studies.

Forensic Considerations

According to the juvenile court rules, the juveniles captured for committing violent crimes can be easily transferred to an adult court for prosecution, after which they'll be confined in adult prisons if found guilty (Brannen et al. , 2006). However, there is absolutely no provision for trialing a juvenile immediately into the adult court docket system. In the case of Butler, he was automatically prosecuted in an adult court without being prosecuted in and known by the juvenile judge. It is ambiguous that set up necessary procedures were adopted for moving him to the adult court docket system.

Court Considerations

In this case, the court must ingest to account age the accused and the outcome of his interrogation. At age 15 years, Butler will not possess the cognitive capabilities of an adult person. He was also unacquainted with the interrogation techniques of the authorities and his protection under the law in this regard. Since Butler acquired involved in a legal problem for the first time, he was totally not really acquainted with the Miranda rights due to that your police took good thing about him. In addition, the medical testimony proving that the police actually abused Butler in order to make him signal the pre-written confession which was actually compiled by the police rather than Butler. The court docket would have to look in to the details of all the above factors prior to affirming to Butler's confession.

Forensic Assessments

In this research study of Butler, the following forensic assessments would be looked at to make a strong case against the prosecution counsel of Butler:

  • Butler's ability to waive Miranda rights.
  • Butler's direct trial in the adult court docket system.
  • Butler's competency to stand the trial.
  • Butler's internal evaluation for any deviant patterns or mental problem.

Forensic Elements

The most important component that the forensic psychologist assigned in this case should consider is that the accused is a juvenile rather than all analytical methods are suitable for juveniles. Moreover, there exists considerable ambiguity in the protection under the law that receive to a juvenile in the proceedings of an adult court system. It is assumed a juvenile being used in the adult court gets the same protection under the law and rules as those of an adult so long as such a juvenile bears the same cognitive skills and knowledge of the legal system as those possessed by an adult, which is usually negative.

Since the eye witness testimony constitutes a vital evidence in this case, the forensic psychologist would need to confirm that how and why testimony of the eye witness (victim's husband) was inaccurate as Hugo Munsterberg (1908) demonstrated in his publication 'On the Witness Stand' that the testimony of the attention see can be often deceiving in the proceedings of the courtroom.

Ability to waive Miranda rights

The Devices of Dr. Grisso to determine, understand and appreciate Miranda Protection under the law would have been extremely good for Butler's defense in this case. The forensic psychologist should use this assessment in inspecting the ability of an juvenile in understanding and waiving his/her Miranda rights in a legal subject (Oberlander & Goldstein, 2001). This assessment instrument was developed in the 1970s and then amended in the entire year 2003 to serve the changes manufactured in the legal systems. The most important characteristic of this assessment instrument that does apply to the Butler's case is the right of a person arrested never to give answers to the police interrogation until he/she is provided legal assistance of the lawyer by the police (Goldstein, et al. , 2003). If this diagnosis was employed in the Butler's case then he would not have been exposed to police torture rather than would have agreed to the bogus confession under duress. In cases like this, the police mislead Butler by ensuring him that they might try to get an attorney for him but never clarified that he previously the to demand for an lawyer and remain silent until he has been given his legal help.

Forensic Report

Although regulations is completely clear in the elements to be contained in a forensic article shown in the courts however no benchmarks have been place as yet to handle a competency analysis on juvenile. Various studies have looked into different solutions to evaluate competency and the ones methods have been used thoroughly in practice which have been found to be most reliable and correct (Christy, Douglas, Otto & Petrila, 2004). Since no benchmarks have been arranged for evaluating competency, hence the studies have seen huge discrepancies in forensic accounts. There has been no sign of asking for or doing any forensic reviews in the Butler's circumstance. The proceedings of the case should have included an assessment of Butler's competency to stand trial and his capacity as a juvenile to waive off his Miranda rights.

Implications of the Report

In circumstance of the forensic statement being completed and presented to the judge with regards to Butler's capacity to waive off his Miranda protection under the law being a juvenile and his competency to stand trial, the judge would have taken Butler's years and unawareness of the legal system directly into account before trialing him in the adult courtroom system on charge of your murder. The forensic report would have also empowered the courtroom to determine Butler's knowledge of his Miranda rights and his signing to the fake confession under duress and thus, affirming his innocence in this case.


The Butler's case properly illustrates that why a forensic psychologist should be contained in the proceedings of the court docket, particularly in those relating a juvenile since the juveniles being immature and unaware require more legal security and different analysis methods than those relevant to adults. In case of being trialed in the adult system, it ought to be ensured that the system does not exploit the juvenile on trial. Butler was kept from a severe punishment by the general public defense lawyers who were able to explain the loopholes in the prosecution case and the violations made by the authorities interrogators.

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