Psychology and the Law on Trial

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Reviews the books, Criminal Profiling: Developing an Effective Science and Practice by Scotia J. Hicks and Bruce D. Sales (see record 2006-03925-000); and Minds on Trial: Great Cases in Law and Psychology by Charles Patrick Ewing and Joseph T. McCann (see record 2006-04103-000). What do Criminal Profiling: Developing an Effective Science and Practice and Minds on Trial: Great Cases in Law and Psychology have in common? Both are associated with eminent creators and appliers of knowledge, trendsetters, and/or gatekeepers in a field known as psychology and the law. The books are similar in their direct focus on the development and application of psychological knowledge to creating and answering questions pertaining to administration and adjudication within systems of law. Indirectly, this focus includes a psychological understanding of law and legal institutions and educating psychologists, lawyers, and other personnel within systems of law about this understanding. They differ as well in scope and approach as they both treat aspects of psychology and the law. Hicks and Sales focus on a grouping of developmental models and applications–more on development than application–of psychological knowledge that singly or in combination are labeled as “criminal profiling.” Their text is one of theory, data, and analysis. On the other hand, Ewing and McCann focus much more on applications than developmental models of psychological knowledge through case histories and critiques. The good, the bad, the ugly, and perhaps, the sublime of applied psychological knowledge are exemplified in legal cases that have appealed to that most prurient of special interests, the mass media and its advertising base. Criminal Profiling describes the reigning discourse of one of today's language games of power–a psychology and the law based on science. Minds on Trial describes practitioners who are winners and losers at the game. Reading both books consecutively is a tremendous learning experience both according to the written goals of the authors and in a manner in which the reviewer has suggested is provocatively unintended. When all is said and done concerning profiling, insanity, competency, and other common features of discourse on psychology and the law, psychology's best may only be aiding an escape from freedom (Fromm, 1941/1994) in the guise of truth and justice.

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