Forensic Examinees Asking Probing Questions
The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
At rural county jails, in the barren and noisy rooms in which we are permitted to conduct our forensic mental health interviews and evaluations, sometimes the role of questioner gets reversed. In these settings, we find ourselves pausing now and then, not only to let the talking and yelling outside the door subside, but also to attend to this transient shift in who is asking the questions. After all, questioning in forensic assessments is a one-way street. We ask questions. The examinees answer
... them. We then follow up with more queries, some of which are interspersed with observation and comments. For men, and occasionally for women, who are awaiting trial for a serious offense to have asked us questions, especially really good ones, is atypical. Yet, their questions can be provocative and revealing. The literature on asking questions in forensic examinations is all about examiners. A psycINFO search on the terms "forensic" and "questions" yielded over 3,100 hits, none of which was about examinee questions. When the additional search term "examinee" was inserted, the number of hits shrank to 29, with still no related citations. Our purpose is to describe question-and-answer interactions with defendants, to discuss the related use of self-disclosure by examiners in response to direct questions, and to consider questioning by exam-inees in the context of forensic assessments. We first discuss the problem of boundaries in forensic examinations between examinees and examiners and vice versa. Then we look at specific questions and our replies. Finally, we put together the overall content of those elements.