E THICAL I SSUES IN THE L EGAL S YSTEM. - Unit 3 -. The Evolution of Juvenile Court. In the past, juvenile courts emphasized a rehabilitative approach, taking into consideration the best interests of the child
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- Unit 3 -
- Lower minimum age for transfer to adult court
- Increased range of offenses for which transfer is allowed
(Psychologists are often called upon to evaluate juvenile
offenders to help the court make this determination)
- Potential dangerousness & risk for re-offending
- Maturity level
- Amenability to treatment
In re Gault (1967) – U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles
facing criminal charges are entitled to the same due process
rights as adults
This landmark ruling provided juveniles with constitutional protection under the law; however,
it opened up the door for juveniles to be subjected to the same penalties as adults
Should juveniles be held to the same standard as adults given
their developmental differences???
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be
used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you
cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you…”
(as a result of their developmental immaturity, juveniles are vulnerable to coercion & providing inaccurate information under pressure)
Juveniles are held to the same legal standard for
competency to stand trial as adults.
Dusky v. United States (1960) a defendant must have sufficient
ability to consult with his lawyer as well as a rational and factual
understanding of the proceedings against him
Reasons for a finding of juvenile incompetence:
- Developmental incompetence (immaturity)
Research suggests that adolescents are at GREATER RISK (compared to adults) for impairments in trial competence (which is more likely to be related to developmental immaturity than mental disability)
Cowden & McKee (1995) examined the forensic competency
evaluations of 136 juveniles (ages 9 – 16) referred to evaluators by
Over 50% of 13 – 14 year-olds were judged incompetent
84% of 15 year-olds were found incompetent
72% of 16 year-olds were found incompetent
(and exclude transfer of this population to adult criminal court)
(allegedly a neighborhood playmate)
wrestling moves he had seen on TV
skull, fractured rib & lacerated liver
in 2001 (at the age of 14) & sentenced to LWOP
Lionel Tate was the youngest person in modern
U.S. history to be sentenced to LWOP.
Thompson v. Oklahoma(1988) – U.S. Supreme Court barred the execution of individuals who were under age 16 at time of offense
Roper v. Simmons (2005) – U.S. Supreme Court barred the execution of juveniles under age 18 at time of offense
Prior to Roper v. Simmons (2005),
22 inmates were executed for crimes
they committed before the age of 18.
As a result of this ruling, the alternative
to sentencing juveniles to death is to
sentence them to life without parole.
What do you think?
Should juveniles under the age of 18 be eligible to receive a sentence of life without parole (LWOP)?
Children who are victims of physical
or sexual abuse sometimes are asked
to testify against their abusers in court.
Interviewers meet with children to gather
information about the incident(s).
( - ) Leading questions suggest details that the child did not
( - ) Children may affirm details presented to them just to be
cooperative w/ the adult interviewer
( - ) Biased interviewers who have preconceived notions about the
guilt of the alleged abuser may frame questions in a way that
will elicit information consistent w/ their beliefs
( - ) Praising children when they provide the answer the
interviewer was “looking for” or expressing disappointment
when they do not can influence how they answer
The McMartin family operated a preschool
in Manhattan Beach, California, & were charged
with numerous counts of sexual abuse by children
in their care.
Suggestive questioning techniques
were utilized by interviewers – 360 children
reported they had been sexually abused.
Children who claimed they were abused were positively reinforced & the interviewers were extremely coercive in their questioning.
The accused were eventually acquitted on all counts.
Goldstein, A. M. (Ed.). (2003). Handbook of Psychology (Vol. 11, Forensic Psychology). Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Greene, E., Heilbrun, K., Fortune, W.H., & Nietzel, M.T. (2006). Psychology and the Legal System. Florence: Wadsworth/Thomson/Cengage Learning.
Grisso, T. (1997). The competence of adolescents as trial defendants. Psychology, Public
Policy, and Law, 3(1), 3 – 32.
Grisso, T., Steinberg, L., Woolard, J., Cauffman, E., Scott, E., Graham, S., Lexcen, F.,
Reppucci, N.D., Schwartz, R. (2003). Juveniles’ competence to stand trial: A
comparison of adolescents’ and adults’ capacities as trial defendants. Law and Human Behavior, 27(4), 333 – 363.
Santrock, J. (2008). Life-Span Development (11th Ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.