Case Study: The Role of the Forensic Psychology Professional in Capital Punishment Sentencing
Mr. Fryer has a long history of psychiatric hospitalizations related to his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. His delusions revolve around the belief in uniformed spies who have been sent to execute him. He reports auditory and visual hallucinations when not on his medication. He was arrested for trespassing after he was found sleeping in the delivery shed of a warehouse.
During his stay in jail, he was put on antipsychotic medications, and he was released with time served after spending fifty-four days in the jail. Upon his release, he returned to live on the streets and stopped taking his medications. While sleeping on a park’s bench, he was assaulted by several youths, who hit and kicked him. Although his assailants left him on the ground with no serious injuries, Mr. Fryer was convinced that the juveniles who assaulted him were spies who would return to assassinate him.
He found a seventeen-inch pipe to use as a defensive weapon, and, fearing for his life, he hid in the shadows the remainder of the evening. In the morning, he saw two uniformed youths approaching him. A twelve-year-old boy and his fourteen-year-old brother were on their way to a Boy Scout meeting. Mr. Fryer ran up behind the boys and started swinging the pipe wildly, screaming they would never take him alive. He struck the twelve-year-old boy on the head, causing him severe brain trauma. The fourteen-year-old boy was able to flee but only after receiving a blow on the face. Mr. Fryer returned to the twelve-year-old boy and bludgeoned him to death.
He was still hitting the lifeless body when the police arrived. As soon as the police car pulled up, he dropped the pipe and sat in silence as he was subdued. He was determined by the court to be not competent to stand trial and was committed to a state hospital for restoration of competence. After eight months of pharmacological treatment, he was determined by the court to be competent to stand trial and was subsequently tried and convicted of capital murder.
The following are the mitigating circumstances in this case:
- At the time of the offense, Mr. Fryer was under extreme emotional and mental distress.
- At the time of the offense, Mr. Fryer was substantially unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his act or conform his actions to the requirements of the law.
The following are the aggravating circumstances in this case:
- The crime was committed in a wanton, atrocious, and cruel manner.
- Mr. Fryer is likely to commit criminal acts in the future.
Respond to the following points in a minimum of 250 words:
- You are hired by the defense to assist in the sentencing phase. Analyze the case study and address the following:
- How should you proceed? Provide reasons to support your answer.
- What roles do the mitigating and aggravating circumstances play in capital sentencing?
- What issues will you address as a forensic psychology professional?
- How will you support your opinion in front of the court? Provide examples and references.
- How would you prepare for direct examinations and cross-examinations?