Life-history based forensic evaluations in death penalty cases

Dr. Mendel presents on life-history based forensic evaluations in death penalty cases at American College of Forensic Psychology Symposium.

American College of Forensic Psychology 34th Annual Symposium

April 12-15, 2018

San Diego • The Westgate Hotel

The American College of Forensic Psychology is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. ACFP maintains responsibility for this program and its content. This program will offer a maximum of 23 hours of Continuing Education credits. Conference Program.  

Life-History based forensic evaluation in death penalty cases

Life-history based forensic evaluations in death penalty cases

presentation by: Matthew Mendel, Ph.D.

Saturday, April 14, 2018, 8:40-9:20AM


The sentence of death versus LWOP often comes down to the extent and quality of mitigation evidence. Dr. Mendel has evaluated defendants in approximately 150 death penalty cases involving defendants with histories of childhood abuse or trauma. In his experience, mitigation is often minimally assessed or is presented in a haphazard manner. Dr. Mendel argues that assessment based on a thorough understanding of the life history of the defendant, rather than on results of psychological testing, provides the most comprehensive — and comprehensible to the jury — view of the person charged with the murder.

Attendees will be able to:

  1. assess relative advantages of life-history based and psychological testing based forensic assessment and determine when it is appropriate to utilize life-history based forensic assessment
  2. summarize the relevant sources of information for completing a life-history based forensic assessment
  3. assess the roles of the multiple professionals involved in a forensic evaluation

Matthew Mendel is a clinical and forensic psychologist with a private practice in Raleigh, North Carolina. Most of his forensic work is in death penalty cases in which it is known or suspected that the defendant was sexually abused or otherwise traumatized during his childhood.