Forensic Psychology Students Learn through Courtroom Experience

A forensic psychology class at Eastern Kentucky University enjoyed a different sort of field trip recently.

Rather than lecture about how psychologists offer testimony in court trials, Dustin Wygant, assistant professor of psychology, arranged for a demonstration that involved several EKU students.

Several faculty colleagues who facilitate the University’s nationally ranked Mock Trial Team and local Circuit Court Judge William Clouse assisted as Wygant and graduate teaching assistant Jaime Anderson provided expert testimony regarding insanity for a murder case. Four EKU mock trial students, James Pennington, Deanna Davey, Katelyn Connor and Zachary Caldwell, served as prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case, which was adjudicated by Clouse.

Wygant, essentially, took case materials from some private practice cases and recreated a Richmond “murder” for which the defendant pled not guilty by reason of insanity.

“I drafted a police report, mental health records for the jail, and two court-ordered psychological evaluations (one offered by Wygant as a defense expert, and the other by a court-ordered psychiatrist, played by Anderson). Jaime and I provided direct and cross examination (by the mock trial students) regarding the facts of the case and our divergent positions about insanity for the defendant.”

During the class session prior to the field trip, the mock trial students came to Wygant’s classroom to select a jury of 12 students. The mock trial students developed and reviewed jury questionnaires and asked questions of the students. The 12 empaneled students listened to the testimony and deliberated a limited amount of time in the jury room.

“It took a lot of work to put together, but I believe it was a great experience for my PSY 466 students, my graduate student and the EKU mock trial students,” Wygant said.

Published on November 22, 2010

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