Psychological evaluations focused on mitigation factors relevant to plea negotiations, sentencing decisions or both comprise a very strong interest and area of specialization for Dr. Grounds.
The purpose of these evaluations is to determine:
- If an individual’s developmental history, exposure to violence and/or trauma, or current intellectual and psychological functioning played a meaningful role in his or her alleged offense conduct and exactly how these factors are relevant to judicial decisions about case outcomes.
- With respect to women’s offense conduct, whether psychological and/or relationship issues, especially a history of domestic violence are factors relevant to their offense conduct.
Assessment of competency
Intellectual and psychological factors affect a defendant’s ability to assist counsel and make the critical and often complicated decisions that the defendant must make during a criminal proceeding. For a determination of competency, it is necessary for a defendant to have a factual understanding of the proceedings. But he or she must also:
- Have a rational understanding of the charges and be capable of making the necessary decisions in their case, i.e., to accept or reject a plea agreement, to decide whether or not to go to trial and whether or not to testify.
- Be able to assist counsel in a rational and consistent manner.
- Be able to behave appropriately and function competently in the courtroom.
A competency evaluation can identify intellectual deficits or the presence of serious psychological issues that may impair a defendant’s capacity to proceed. If intellectual impairment or psychotic disorders significantly impair an individual’s competency to proceed, the results of the psychological examination allow the examiner to offer an opinion and make recommendations regarding whether the defendant can be restored to competency.
Mental state, criminal responsibility, and insanity evaluations
Among the most challenging forensic psychological evaluations, these frequently take place some time after the offense conduct. The sooner a psychological examination has begun after the alleged offense conduct, the more accurate a picture of the person’s state of mind at the time of the offense can be developed for the court.
Forensic examinations in these cases involve the same comprehensive evaluation of developmental, cognitive and psychological variables as other evaluations. They also require reliance on as much collateral information as can be gathered.
Dr. Grounds’ personal statement on forensic and clinical services
I strongly value a thoughtful, thorough, balanced, and nuanced approach to forensic psychological evaluations and clinical treatment. Currently, my emphasis is on forensic evaluations for the courts, although I also maintain an active clinical practice as well.
I believe strongly that my role as a forensic evaluator is to provide the most accurate, objective and comprehensive psychological information possible to assist the court, including the prosecutor, defense attorney, judge and jury, and other judicial stakeholders in their deliberations and decision-making.
In forensic psychological evaluations I collect, distill, and synthesize as much information as possible, especially information from sources other than the defendant. I explain that information and the conclusions I draw from it in the most understandable manner possible.
I value and strive to use clear, easily understood communication in verbal and written reports of my findings and in testimony at hearings and trials.