What does the psychological literature tell us about the utility of the law?

The practice of forensic psychology is a complex enterprise. Knowledge of relevant research, laws, and case law is necessary but not sufficient for competent and ethical practice. This assignment will require you to choose a law of interest and apply current and relevant psychological literature to persuade your reader of the law’s effectiveness or lack thereof.
Examples of preliminary questions include: What does the psychological literature tell us about the utility of the law? Has research informed its development? Are there shortcomings? Should it be updated? The law should be chosen from the list of options provided on Blackboard OR pre-approved by your instructors.
Case analysis papers must have a specific section analyzing race, gender, class, sexual orientation, immigration status, ability status, or culture—as relevant (30% of points). Examples of prompts: Has the law disproportionately impacted those of particular races? classes? Does the law protect all marginalized communities? Who does it leave out and why? How might we begin to reconcile this?
Papers must be 10 – 12 pages long and must include 7 – 9 peer-reviewed articles and/or legal documents (e.g., case opinions, statutes, etc.) to support your assertions. At least two to three of these references must consider race, gender, class, sexual orientation, immigration status, ability status, or culture in a substantial manner. Papers must be in APA format, which includes a separate title page and a separate reference page. The title and reference pages will not count as part of the page total. Please be advised that professional writing does not contain a myriad of quotes, even when properly cited. Use your own words whenever possible.
We will be using Turnitin, an online plagiarism detection service to check the originality of the material that you submit. Students are required to submit all written assignments in electronic format (Word, WordPerfect, RTF, PDF, or HTML) directly to Blackboard. Students may submit an electronic draft of the written assignment to Blackboard in advance of the due date to “test” the assignment’s originality. Students may not submit course original material that has been or is being used for writing assignments in other courses; this is referred to as self-plagiarism and will be penalized in the same manner as plagiarism.
Below are possible options for your paper. This list is not exhaustive (nor are the questions provided mandatory). They are simply a starting point to get you thinking/inspired. If you want to work with your own case law, please contact the instructors at least a month before the paper is due.
1. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled in favor of a same-sex couple who filed a discrimination complaint against a baker who refused to provide them a wedding cake. This was later overturned by the US Supreme Court (which, technically, ruled in favor of the baker/store). If you choose this case, make sure you read the findings carefully and center your paper around both psychological and legal issues—you can think of psychological factors that are relevant in harassment cases.
2. Ewert v Canada
This is a Canadian Supreme Court case, which involved accusations that five risk assessment measures (used to determine eligibility for parole, among other liberty-related outcomes) had not been normed on Indigenous populations/offenders. Thus, these assessments are culturally biased and should not be used with certain populations until research that supports their validity is provided. What does the literature tell us about cultural bias in assessment? Risk assessment? Indigenous populations in Canada? And so on…
3. Miranda v Arizona
This law relates to the competency to exercise the right to remain silent and states that the waiver of these rights must be “knowing and voluntary.” Based on how these terms are defined in the law, is this sufficient protection particularly when considering vulnerable populations including African American youth or men who are frequently subject to police brutality and therefore may feel coerced? What about for special populations (e.g., the mentally ill or juveniles)? And so on…
4. Batson v Kentucky
This case involves the landmark decision of the US Supreme Court, limiting the number of preemptory challenges prosecutors can use in criminal cases during jury selection and ruling that these challenges cannot be made on the basis of race. Is this ruling actually successful in limiting jury bias? What groups were left out? Does it apply to civil cases? How does this impact trial courts? And so on…
5. Kendra’s Law
This law concerns involuntary outpatient commitment. Is assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) effective for reducing recidivism? For aiding in managing the symptoms of major mental illness? And so on…
6. Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)
This law was enacted to combat human trafficking. Are there definitional difficulties that the psychological literature can help resolve? Is the law strict enough based on what we know about trafficking victims? Too strict? And so on…
7. Kansas v Hendricks
This case involves the Sexually Violent Predator Act and involuntary civil commitment on the basis of “mental abnormality” or “personality disorder” which leads to “predatory acts of sexual violence.” What does the literature suggest about SVPAs? Are these terms (e.g., “mental abnormality”) defined clearly or left vague intentionally? Is civil commitment useful in ultimately reducing recidivism? And so on…
8. Thurman v. City of Torrington
This case involves domestic violence, policing, mandatory arrests, and issues related to the 14th amendment. How has this law served victims/survivors? Are there ways in which it falls short? How might this law be differentially implemented based on race and/or sexual orientation? What problems have arisen with mandatory arrest laws? How might those also differentially impact certain groups (e.g., undocumented victims/survivors)? And so on…
9. Perry v. New Hampshire
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court revisited eyewitness identification in this case for the first time since 1977. The case is illustrative of the Court’s approach to eyewitness evidence and of the need for procedural safeguards that can reduce suggestiveness and the likelihood of misidentification. What are some of the complex factors that affected eyewitness identification and subsequent memory? Were these factors fully taken into account in this case? How did race and/or gender affect the outcome of the case? Considering the ruling, what are the implications for future cases of a similar nature?

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