The defendant is a forty-year-old, single, black female charged with a first-degree assault. Specifically, she is alleged to have splashed liquid fire, a liquid drain cleaner, onto another woman’s face, thus incidentally splashing five bystanders. Per the court order you received, Ms. Tyler was referred some time after the alleged crime for evaluation of her criminal responsibility. Her competency to stand trial (CST) was also at issue. At the time of the evaluation, Ms. Tyler was being held at the Southern County Detention Center. You met with Ms. Tyler. The defendant was informed that the results of the evaluation will be released to the court and that the results may be used against her in the court. Ms. Tyler gave her written consent to be evaluated.
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Only limited information is available regarding Ms. Tyler’s background. She is a lifetime resident of the state. Her mother died of cancer at the age of seventy-nine years. Her father, L. Defendant, is eighty-four years old and is a retired farmer. Ms. Tyler has five living sisters, four living brothers, and two deceased siblings. Three of her sisters have received inpatient psychiatric treatment. One sister lives in Close Town, one in Europe with her husband who is in the military, and one sister died in a drowning accident. One brother committed suicide by hanging himself. There is no history of psychiatric problems among the other brothers.
Ms. Tyler has completed the tenth grade. She is literate. Ms. Tyler has worked on an assembly line for five years until 1988 when the factory closed. She then did an office-cleaning job. Her reasons for leaving this position are vague. She was unemployed for several years and was supported by her family. She lives in rent-free government housing. Her church pastor, A. Reverend, arranged for her to get employment at Helpful Industries through a vocational office at the State Psychiatric Hospital. She was employed at Helpful Industries for approximately two months prior to the incident. Ms. Tyler has never married. She has a thirteen-year-old son who lives with his father.
Ms. Tyler denies any previous psychiatric treatment. Family members and individuals who know Ms. Tyler state that she has a long history of psychiatric symptoms such as loose associations and persecutory delusions. Ms. Tyler’s sister, Ms. Sister, reports that Ms. Tyler has been violent in the past, threatening her niece with a knife. Her emotional difficulties were also apparently common knowledge among her congregation. As stated above, Ms. Tyler has a positive family history for psychiatric illness. Ms. Tyler is currently on haloperidol, an antipsychotic medication.
Ms. Tyler denies any alcohol or substance abuse. She states that she has one previous arrest for prostitution in 1975. She spent six months in jail for this offense.
Report of the Crime:
When asked to report what happened, Ms. Tyler states, “It happened so fast, I just remember, I threw it on her. I didn’t mean to.” She continues, “I threw liquid fire on her. She always caused me trouble . . . She picked with me all the time . . . Sometimes she would step on my feet. I did not mean to do it, it happened so quick I did not understand myself. That morning when I went to church, I was standing by a table and she came over, starting trouble with me . . . Came over and said my name.”
Ms. Tyler was guarded in her responses, and at one point, she asked what the court would do with her if she said, “just didn’t know why I did it.” Her report conflicts with several eyewitness reports. All the eyewitnesses who were interviewed claimed that Ms. Tyler yelled at Ms. Mobly. Mr. Witness 1 states that Ms. Tyler approached Ms. Mobly and said, “I’m getting sick and tired of you picking on me every day at church.” He states that she then started splashing Ms. Mobly with the drain cleaner. Ms. Witness 2’s account is similar. She states, “As soon as Ms. Mobly entered, Ms. Tyler grabbed her purse and started throwing the solution on her saying ‘told you I was gonna get you. I’m tired of you getting me in trouble.’”
Ms. Witness 3’s report of the incident is also similar. Additionally, Ms. Witness 3 states that Ms. Tyler would frequently deny making threats when confronted with an issue, claiming that she did not make such a threat or did not remember making it. Ms. Witness 3 also states that Ms. Tyler reported experiencing auditory hallucinations telling her to get people. However, Ms. Tyler has consistently denied hallucinations.
In a 10-page report, analyze this case and address the following to the best of your abilities:
- What tests or assessments would you recommend to provide a comprehensive diagnostic assessment of Ms. Tyler?
- Provide diagnostic impressions based upon the case and the tests you have recommended. Provide an explanation or a rationale for how you arrived at this diagnosis.
- What are the psycholegal issues to be assessed? What are the standards used to evaluate these issues (i.e., discuss the relevant court decisions and holdings)?
- What tests should be administered and why? What is the empirical support for the tests you have suggested?
- What other information do you need to offer an opinion on whether Ms. Tyler is competent to stand trial?
- What other information do you need to offer an opinion as to whether Ms. Tyler met the legal criteria for insanity at the time of the offense?
- What outcomes do you expect will be reached by the court with regard to these issues and why?
- What are the potential ethical issues involved in this case? How would you resolve these issues?
Use resources from professional literature in your analysis. Professional literature may include relevant textbooks, peer-reviewed journal articles, and websites created by professional organizations, agencies, or institutions (.edu, .org, or .gov).
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