In May of 2000, Mary Ann Stephens is shot in the head at close range in front of her husband. What unfolds next is one of an appalling miscarriage of justice in American history.
Anxious about the dire effects the murder could have on local tourism, Jacksonville police went on the hunt for a perpetrator, but as it turns out, any black suspect will do. And for 15-year-old Brendon Butler, well, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On the way to a job interview, the teenager was quickly arrested, and before he knew it, he was signing a confession, found guilty of first-degree murder and received a mandatory life sentence.
But did the teenager write his confession or was he tricked into confessing by Jacksonville detectives? Could the police just be lying? Where is the evidence?
All the police had was a grieving husband who had caught a glimpse of the killer from a distance — and who was coerced by detectives to identify Butler as the murderer.
Watch as the Oscar-winning documentary Murder On A Sunday Morning presents this dramatic injustice and real-life detective work of French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade.
The Final Project must include:
- A minimum of 10 references (in addition to any course readings that you may wish to reference). Please be aware that user-created websites such as Wikipedia will not be accepted as scholarly references.
- A brief description of the case study in the documentary, including a description of the individual and the forensic population he is from.
- A description of the potential role(s) of a forensic psychology professional in relation to the case study.
- An explanation of the forensic assessment principles that apply to the case study
- A description of any third party information that may be necessary to collect for forensic assessment of the case study
- A description of three ethical and/or multicultural issues and/or considerations related to the case study
- An analysis of how a forensic psychology professional might best address each of the ethical and/or multicultural issues and/or considerations you described (Note: Refer to the forensic and multicultural guidelines when completing this part of the Final Project.)
- An explanation of what a forensic psychology professional might think important to consider and/or determine when conducting a forensic assessment of the individual in this case study
- An explanation of what the courts might think important to consider and/or determine from a forensic assessment of the individual in this case study
- A description of at least two forensic assessment instruments and/or tools that might be used in relation to this case study, with an explanation of why
- A brief description of the elements that would be included in a forensic assessment report based on this case study
- An explanation of which elements from a forensic assessment report based on this case study would be relevant for testimony, and why
- A description of the implications that the assessment may have for the outcome of the case
The Role of Forensic Psychology in the Butler Case
Forensic psychology as a subdiscipline in professional psychology has only been recently introduced to court cases (Jackson & Roesch, 2016, p. 3). None the less, its findings have the power to influence court’s decisions. On occasions, it is absolutely curtail to evaluate certain psychological aspects of individuals that are taking part in criminal proceedings. This applies to the murder trial presented in the award winning documentary from 2002 titled “Murder on a Sunday Morning”. Therefore, this paper will discuss the potential roles that forensic psychology professionals could have in this case, as well as the implications of their findings to the course of the trial and the final verdict.
The documentary “Murder on a Sunday Morning” tell a racially colored story about a boy who is wrongly accused of murdering a female tourist, Mary Ann Stephens in Jacksonville, Florida, USA (Murder on a Sunday Morning, 2002). Having been identified as the potential murderer by the victim’s husband, juvenile Brenton Butler, a 15-year-old, black male, is picked up by the police and put up for interrogation and the trial. Despite his claims that he was on the way to a job interview at a local store, the police beats up Mr. Butler and collects the written confession they build their case upon (Lampert, 2003, p. 141). The defendant’s attorney bases his defense on unveiling the truth behind the police unprofessionalism, brutality and willingness to defend their methods, even if it means putting an innocent boy in prison.
Role of Forensic Psychologists in this Case
The role that forensic psychology professional could take in this particular case study is to perform various types of psychological assessments on all of the individuals that are involved. This means they should conduct interviews, review similar court cases, use evidence-based practices and perform clinical assessments in order to make the best possible conclusion.
Firstly, in order to be prosecuted, forensic psychology professional would determine if Brenton Butler is competent to stand trial or his case needs to be assigned to an alternative program (Miller & eBooks, 2012, p. 16). Secondly, the role of the experts in this case would be to use psychological tests and forensic evaluation instruments to draw conclusions about the intellectual, personality and psychopathological status of Mr. Butler (Arrigo & Shipley, 2005, pp. 5-11). Following this, forensic psychology professionals’ role would include performing violence risk assessments. This is important because some authors claim that younger men, such as Mr. Brenton, have a higher risk to commit violent offences. What is more, forensic psychology professional would need to determine is the defendant in this case has recently been violent. This would increase his likelihood of being aggressive in the near future, thus committing a murder (Canter, 2010, p. 96). Lastly, forensic psychology professionals would need to present their finding in this case as an expert testimony in court. This is crucial because it informs jurors about forensic psychology standards, findings...
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