Forensic Psychiatry serves to define what mental illness and disorder are, what creates mental illness and disorder, how they are diagnosed and how they are treated.
In cases of mental illness, the individual does not function well in reality because of emotional fluctuations or distorted point of view interpretation.
Mental disorder is a clinically significant behavior or psychological syndrome or pattern that is associated with present distress or disability or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain or disability or important loss of freedom.
Diagnosis is a medical classification that allows for communication between professionals, allows for prediction of illness course and probable outcome, and indicates the best course of treatment.
The issue of incompetency is fitness to stand trial. No one can go to trial unless they can understand what is going on and can help in their own defence. This issue can be raised at any time during the criminal process. The three bases for incompetency are emotional/psychological factors, cognitive or intellectual factors, and physical factors. An individual must undergo an competency evaluation if this claim is made. It cannot be refused.
The issue of insanity applies to the mental state of the defendant at the time at which the crime was committed. The defendant must concede guilt when the decision to enter the insanity plea is made. He/She is saying, “Yes, I committed this act, but I was so mentally impaired at the time as to not know right from wrong or what I was doing.” The defendant must be competent to stand trial to enter this plea. And, finally, the defendant must prove profound defect of mental ability. Also, the illness must be directly related to the crime. You can’t plead insanity if you mental defect in no way influenced the criminal action. A compulsive hand washer cannot use that illness as an excuse for shooting twelve people from a clock tower.
Profiling is a label given to the process by which a trained forensic psychologist sifts through the aspects of a crime scene to develop a description of the personality of the perpetrator. This personality description can include age, sex, occupation, behavioural disorders, upbringing, marital status, they type of place the prep would live in and its general condition, the type of person the prep might live with, what type of car he drives, if he has a speech impediment or acne or some other type of disability or difficulty in relating to others. They will tell you how the crime was committed. It is mind boggling the amount of information that can be gleaned about the perpetrator of a serial crime just by looking at how that crime was committed. As John Douglas says in Mind Hunter, “Behavior reflects personality.” And that is what profiling is all about.
Profiling works because John Douglas and members of his team in the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit have spent countless hours interviewing hundreds of convicted serial killers, serial rapists and mass murders, learning about their crimes, motives, methods and personalities. This is the database on which they draw in making conclusions from what they view at a crime scene. This stuff isn’t just made-up or speculation. Nor is it an exact science. But it draws on thousands of man-hours of research and interviews and has proven to be extremely accurate.
Profiling does not produce a name. What it does produce is a detailed personality profile of a perpetrator that investigators can use to focus an investigation and pare down the list of suspects. It can also provide them with strategies on how to approach the subject during interrogation and how to break him down on the witness stand at trial.