Case study of a criminal offender, psychology homework help

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Assignment 2: LASA 1—Case Study of a Criminal Offender

In this assignment, you will develop a case study for a well-known criminal offender. Begin by selecting one criminal offender from the following high-profile individuals:

  • Susan Smith
  • Jeffrey Dahmer
  • Aileen Wournos
  • Kip Kinkel
  • Bernie Madoff
  • Charles Manson

Research your selected case and complete the following:

  • Describe the charges against the individual.
  • Discuss the biological, developmental, and environmental factors that relate to the criminal behavior.
  • Discuss the theories that could be applied to explain their actions.
  • Analyze whether mental illness, substance abuse/dependence, or psychopathy factors contributed to the criminal action(s).
  • Describe your reaction to the court verdict and if you agree or disagree with the final disposition. If you agree, make sure that you thoroughly defend that position. If you do not agree, include what you believe would be the appropriate verdict and use appropriate reasoning.

Remember to provide examples from the offender’s history, referring to course materials as well as a minimum of five external sources. For example, journal articles, books, credible Web sites, and newspaper articles may be used to support your explanation. Your external sources must include at least two peer-reviewed journal articles.

Write a 3–5-pages paper in Word format. Apply APA standards to citation of sources. Be sure to include a tile page and reference page in APA format. Use the following file naming convention: LastnameFirstInitial_M3_A2.doc.

By Wednesday, June 29, 2016, deliver your assignment to the M3: Assignment 2 Dropbox.

Grading Criteria and Rubric

Assignment 2 Grading Criteria

Maximum Points

Describe the charges against the individual.


Discuss the biological, developmental, and environmental factors that relate to the criminal behavior.


Discuss the theories that could be applied to explain their actions.


Analyze other factors, such as mental illness, substance abuse/dependence, or psychopathy, that contributed to the criminal action(s).


Describe your reaction to the court verdict and explain whether or not you agree with the final disposition.


Writing Components:
Organization (12)
Usage and Mechanics (12)
APA Elements (16)
Style (4)




Click here to view the rubric for this assignment.

additional information on this module that can be used as references

This info is from our online classroom

There are three major classes of conditions that may impact criminal responsibility. The first class of conditions is related to impaired reality testing that is consequent to the individual’s altered mental status related to the experience of psychotic symptoms. Psychotic symptoms may be related to a diagnosis of a psychotic spectrum disorder such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or psychosis secondary to a medical condition.

The second class of conditions relates to the possibility of the offender having a history of unremarkable or normal cognitive functioning at some point in his or her life, though, during the time of commission of the alleged criminal act, the behavior may have been influenced by neurological disease or impairment. These types of diseases may result in cognitive deterioration, impulsivity, and impaired judgment. Such neurological impairment may be the result of dementia or sustained traumatic brain injury (TBI). Responsibility may be hindered if the individual charged with the violent crime is diagnosed with mental retardation, which is a lifelong condition that causes deficits in social and cognitive development.

The third condition that may raise questions of criminal responsibility is related to mental retardation. The focus on violence within the population of developmentally disabled individuals is a major area of interest. This is because of the marked rates of mental retardation in death row inmates charged with violent crimes, higher rates of conviction in this population, and decreased likelihood of parole (Denney & Sullivan, 2008).

Mental retardation is often defined by an intellectual quotient (IQ) score of 70 or below as well as assessed deficits in adaptive functioning. In addition, these disabilities must also have originated before the age of 18. The disabilities caused by mental retardation manifest as problems with attention, planning, memory, and judgment. Individuals with retardation suffer cognitive deficits that impair emotional regulation, hinder restraint, and cause diminished capacity to consider alternate courses of action (Fellner, 2001). According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (2009), mental retardation is disproportionately evidenced in death row inmates, and this a significant concern due to the high rates of wrongful convictions subsequent to false confessions, which is a product of the above noted deficits. However, on the other side, the rates of aggression in institutionalized individuals diagnosed with various developmental disabilities are not uncommon.

Be sure to complete this module’s assigned readings to learn more about the insanity defense and factors that mitigate criminal responsibility.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). (2009). Mental illness and the death penalty. Retrieved from

Denney, R. L., & Sullivan, J. P. (2008). Clinical neuropsychology in the criminal forensic setting. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Fellner, J. (2001). Beyond reason: Executing persons with mental retardation. Human Rights28(3), 9.

[img alt=”” src=”” width=”136″ height=”23″>Substance Use and Abuse
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Substance use and abuse has been related to a variety of problematic outcomes. Not surprisingly, it has also been linked to violent behavior. It is estimated that nearly half of assaults and homicides involved a perpetrator under the influence of alcohol. In addition, the pharmacological effects of certain drugs may exacerbate or produce violent behavior (Garner & Resnik, 1996). These rates exemplify the significance of provision of effective treatment for individuals who commit crimes under the influence of substances. Substance intoxication can result in decreased inhibition, impulsivity, impaired judgment, and increased arousal or aggression. Thus, it is not surprising that individuals under the influence are more likely to engage in antisocial or aggressive behavior while intoxicated.

Substance abuse during middle childhood has also been posited to be one of the strongest predictors of serious delinquent behavior. In addition to the psychological and physiological effects of substances that may increase propensity for crime or violence, individuals who use substances may be more likely to engage in criminal behavior to gain access to the substances.

Research among court-involved youth found alcohol use as a problem in 15 percent of the nondelinquent sample, in 38 percent of the sample with minor delinquent offenses, and over 50 percent in serious violent as well as nonviolent offenders (Loeber, Farrington, & Waschbusch, 1998). Substance abuse alone indicates risk for acting out and seems to contribute to chronic serious offending. Research suggests it is possible that the addictive qualities of drugs may influence users to resort to violent measures to sustain the habit.

Co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse has been associated with increased risk for violence. For example, Ogloff, Lemphers, and Dwyer (2004) found that 74 percent of the patients in a secure forensic psychiatric hospital in Australia have a lifetime substance abuse disorder and 12 percent have a current substance abuse or dependence disorder (that is, within the past month). Patients with a dual diagnosis were more likely to re-offend and the severity of violence was likely to be higher in those who have a dual diagnosis. The presence of a mental illness alone may not be predictive of violence per se, but the presence of a co-occurring diagnosis of substance abuse appears to have an additive effect with the effects of intoxication likely worsening symptoms of mental illness, which appears to strongly predict violent behavior. Thus, the combination of substance use and serious mental illness increases violence risk.

Gardner, S. E., & Resnik, H. (1996). Violence among youth: Origins and a framework for prevention.In R. L. Hamptom, P. Jenkins, & T. P. Gullota (Eds.), Preventing violence in America (pp. 133–156). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Loeber, R., Farrington, D. P., & Waschbusch, D. A. (1998). Serious and violent juvenile offenders. In R. Loeber & D. P. Farrington (Eds.) Serious and violent juvenile offenders: Risk factors and successful interventions (pp. 13–29). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Ogloff, J. R. P., Lemphers, A., & Dwyer, C. (2004). Dual diagnosis in an Australian forensic psychiatric hospital: Prevalence and implications for services. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 22(4), 543–562.

[img alt=”” src=”” width=”136″ height=”23″>Examples of Conditions Impacting Criminal Responsibility
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Schizophrenia is a psychiatric diagnosis often thought to be a psychiatric disorder associated with violence. Higher rates of violence have been demonstrated by individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia when compared to the general population, though most people diagnosed with this disorder never commit a criminal or violent act. Torrey (1994) found that the prior violence, treatment noncompliance and a history of substance abuse or dependence increase risk of future violence. Research has demonstrated that there is an association between higher rates of violence and the experience of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, which include paranoia or persecutory delusions and hallucinations (Swanson et al., 2006). A diagnosis of schizophrenia alone does not indicate that an individual would not be found criminally responsible.

Dementia is another condition that could mitigate responsibility as it is an acquired condition, which results in an overall decline in an individual’s functioning. Demented patients are elderly and display memory difficulties, personality changes, and other cognitive decline. It has been associated with higher rates of aggression, though these acts often appear disorganized or confused acting out rather than a volitional act of violence. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, is a diagnosis in this category associated with higher rates of violence.

Swanson, J. W., Swartz, M. S., Van Dorn, R. A., Elbogen, E. B., Wagner, H. R., Rosenheck, R. A., . . . Lieberman, J. A. (2006). A national study of violent behavior in persons with schizophrenia. Archives of General Psychology, 63, 490–499.

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