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The McMartin Preschool Case and Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology

Judy Johnson reported to the police about her child’s sexual molestation. It led to the arrest of Ray Buckey. There was a need to involve forensic experts in child psychology to determine the severity of the allegations (Bertel, 2012). The prosecutor, the defense, and the jury would rely on the expert findings to determine the cause of action just like the people v. Wittrein’s case (Bertel, 2012). According to the controversial findings by MacFarlane, 384 out of 400 children had been sexually abused. The evidence relied on the medical histories of the children (Case studies, 2016). The grand jury indicted seven members of McMartin Preschool with 208 counts of child sexual abuse. Ray Beckey was in jail without bail. The case was a mistrial.

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The Role of a Forensic Psychologist

Children may not have the same observing and mnemonic abilities as adults. They have difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy (Watson, 2016). The forensic psychologist helps to extract critical information from the children through interviews, leading questions, and medical tests. He or she is not supposed to discriminate against them or misrepresent their views. The psychologist is also expected to ensure that the presentation of evidence does not intimidate them. The court system must deliver justice. The 14- year old that killed his father had to go to jail (Case studies, 2016). His or her personal characteristics, professional knowledge, and counseling skills also assist in the case.

The Determination of a Child’s Competency

The psychologists sometimes use definitive physical evidence or evaluate the charges to offer opinions regarding their veracity. They have to use credible procedures to prove their truthfulness. They can also employ the services of medical experts (Bertel, 2012). They can also use objects such as anatomically correct dolls as a test for sexual abuse. After a child has identified and acknowledged the evidence and can express it in court, the psychologist can present him or her in court. MacFarlane testified in the McMartin Preschool case after interrogating the children just like the case of Maryland v. Craig (Bertel, 2012).

The Role of a Psychologist in a Child Custody Case

An analyst should provide expert knowledge in the child custody case. The psychologist should advise the court and the jury on the health condition of the child (Edwards, 2012). He or she should also provide the historical background of the child and the expectations from the analysis report. The parents want the child to be safe and continue to enjoy constitutional rights. The judge wants the custody proceedings to adhere to the available rules and regulations. The kids want their opinions and evidence to be available without malice or biases. A child psychologist helped to determine the case of a thirteen-year-old boy who killed a girl next door (Case studies, 2016).

Other Roles

A court-appointed evaluator is supposed to investigate and assist the child in determining his or her health, safety, welfare, and best interest. The evaluator should also examine disputes, custody, and visitation issues. An expert witness should give an opinion based on experience, knowledge, and expertise. The jury relies on this evidence to establish the veracity of the case. An evaluation researcher studies the child’s information and background history for analysis. In the case of Maryland v. Craig at the United States Supreme Court, the court-appointed evaluator investigated the matters in the case (Bertel, 2012). The evaluator had to investigate the disputes and advise the court about the need for a closed-circuit Television interview.


Bertel, O. (2012). Let’s go to the videotape: Why the forensic interviews of children in the child protective cases should be video recorded. Family Court Review, 50(2), 344-356.

Case studies – Legal Practice. (2016). Web.

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Edwards, J. (2012). Representation of parents and children in abuse and neglect cases: The importance of early appointment. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 63(2), 21-37.

Watson, L. (2016). Criminal forensic psychologist | Adolescent psychological testing | Expert witness testimony | Juvenile crime | Insanity. Web.

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