The paper addresses some common questions about the insanity defense and issues raised by commonly proposed "reforms." The first section begins with a brief description of the insanity defense and the reasons for its existence in the law. It then examines some of the popular myths and public misperceptions surrounding the insanity defense. The next three sections discuss proposed "reforms" and the empirical research that addresses their effect. These reforms, including various procedural changes in definitions, burden of proof, and expert testimony, the institution of a guilty but mentally ill verdict, and the abolition of the insanity defense itself, are reviewed, along with relevant research findings and policy issues. Finally, the development of sound conditional release programs for criminal defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity is proposed as a reform option which could serve the objectives of enhancing public safety and access to appropriate treatment while continuing to meet the objectives of the insanity defense within criminal jurisprudence.
In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. v. Carmichael (1999) the defendant/petitioner (Kumho) and amici for the defendant made assertions that juries have known tendencies to be improperly influenced by expert evidence. I and 17 colleagues who had knowledge of the jury research literature signed an amicus brief on the side of the plaintiff/respondent setting forth an opinion that the assertions were not supported by the bulk of empirical studies on jury behavior. We did so as independent professionals, not as representatives of an official organization, such as AP/LS. This introduction reports the origin and development of our brief, its legal status, and its uncertain impact on the case. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
In a recent article, Vrieze and Grove (Law Hum Behav, doi: 10.1007/s10979-007-9092-x , 2007) argue that, because of low recidivism base rates and limited predictive accuracy, an actuarial risk assessment instrument (ARAI) may produce decisions about sex offenders that are worse than simply predicting that no one will commit another sex offense. This article examines: (1) the construction and potential overfitting of ARAIs; (2) the meaning, value, and limitations of ROC areas; and (3) the relationship between the operating point that maximizes an ARAI's correct classifications and the legal criterion-"likely to reoffend"-used for sex offender designations. Contrary to what Vrieze and Grove suggest, ARAIs of modest accuracy yield probabilistic information that is more relevant to legal decision-making than just "betting the base rate."
Reports an error in "Subgroup differences and implications for contemporary risk-need assessment with juvenile offenders" by Anthony P. Thompson and Andrew McGrath (Law and Human Behavior, 2012[Aug], Vol 36, 345-355). There was an error in Table 1 and in the Results section under the Domain Analyses paragraph. In Table 1, there should be the following subscripts for three mean scores under the column header "Australian": 2.00b, 2.51a, 2.23a. The relevant sentence, "On the remaining domains (peer relations, substance abuse, personality/behavior), the Indigenous group was always significantly higher than the Ethnic subgroup (p .001) with the Australian subgroup in-between and not significantly different from either one group or the other." should have stated "The Australian group was significantly different (p .001) from the Indigenous group on peer relations and from the Ethnic subgroup on substance abuse and personality/behavior." (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2011-28881-001.) Risk-need assessment is widely accepted as best practice with juvenile offenders and is underpinned by a healthy research literature on risk assessment inventories. Previous studies have found both similarities and differences on risk measures when gender and racial/ethnic subgroups have been compared. Differential validity has been examined, but differential prediction has been overlooked. The current study undertook gender and ethnic comparisons for a large sample (n = 3568) of community-based juvenile offenders who were evaluated using the Australian Adaptation of the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI-AA). Analyses showed various gender and ethnic differences at the item level, across domain scores and on the total inventory score, but not for validity indices. However, 1-year reoffending rates for youth in three classification categories (low, moderate, high) varied by gender and ethnicity. The findings were related to contemporary understandings of the risk factors for offending and the dynamics of crime for gender/ethnic subgroups. It is argued that in spite of these subgroup differences, a generic inventory such as the YLS/CMI-AA can be used fairly with various subgroups. Recommendations for how this could be accomplished are provided. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
Recently, in many English-speaking countries, legal principles that had the effect of barring delayed criminal prosecutions have been abrogated. In these jurisdictions, criminal prosecutions of child sexual abuse that is alleged to have occurred in the distant past (historic child sexual abuse or HCSA) are a growing legal challenge. These cases raise myriad issues relevant to research and the development of public policy that would benefit from a considered exchange of ideas that is informed by a clear understanding of the phenomenon. Based on 2064 judicial decisions of Canadian criminal complaints of HCSA we describe the trial, the complainant, the accused, and the offence. In the context of these legal cases, we raise some of the germane issues as well as suggestions for future research and discussion that we believe are particularly current and pressing.
The field of law and psychology has existed, in some form or another, for almost 100 years. The article presents a brief overview of law and psychology in the last century and shows that there actually have been two movements--one in the first third, and the other in the latter third, of the century. Given these movements, why has the law and psychology movement had so little impact on the law (and, for that matter, on psychology)? Failure to ponder--and answer--this question, may result in the demise of the movement. Given the power of law over individuals and societies, though, the application of psychology to the law is an important and useful way to assess the validity of laws and to ensure that psychological research can influence the law. This paper discusses 12 reasons that may have contributed to the relative failure of the law and psychology movement thus far. In presenting each of the reasons, and considering factors that have led to some successes in the field, the paper discusses methods and strategies that may help ensure the continued vitality and strength of the field of legal psychology.
The present meta-analysis integrated effect sizes from 95 non-overlapping studies (N=15,826) to summarize the relation between Hare Psychopathy Checklists and antisocial conduct. Whereas prior meta-analyses focused on specific subdomains of the literature, we used broad inclusion criteria, incorporating a diversity of samples, settings, methodologies, and outcomes in our analysis. Our broad perspective allowed us to identify general trends consistent across the entire literature and improved the power of our analyses. Results indicated that higher PCL Total, Factor 1 (F(1)), and Factor 2 (F(2)) scores were moderately associated with increased antisocial conduct. Study effect sizes were significantly moderated by the country in which the study was conducted, racial composition, gender composition, institutional setting, the type of information used to score psychopathy, and the independence of psychopathy and transgression assessments. However, multiple regression analyses indicated that the information used to assess psychopathy did not have a unique influence on effect sizes after accounting for the influence of other moderator variables. Furthermore, racial composition of the sample was related to the country in which the study was conducted, making it unclear whether one or both of these moderators influenced effect sizes. We provide potential explanations for the significant findings and discuss implications of the results for future research.
The current study examined the susceptibility of the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System-2nd edition (ABAS-II; Harrison & Oakland, 2003) and the Scales of Independent Behavior-Revised (S1B-R; Bruininks, Woodcock, Weatherman, & Hill, 1996) to the feigning of adaptive functioning deficits. Using four different instruction sets, the authors evaluated whether the provision of diagnostic information (a form of coaching) improved participants' ability to simulate adaptive deficits commensurate with a diagnosis of mental retardation. The authors found that the ABAS-II was quite vulnerable to believable manipulation by raters, while the SIB-R was not. In fact, exaggeration on the SIB-R was easily detected regardless of the information provided. Implications regarding the use of these measures in Atkins mental retardation evaluations are discussed.
The authenticity of recovered memories is a much debated issue. Surprisingly, no study has systematically looked at symptom overreporting in people claiming recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). In a first sample we administered the Structured Inventory of Malingered Symptomatology (SIMS) to individuals who said they had recovered CSA memories (n=66), individuals who said their CSA had always been accessible (continuous CSA memory group; n=119), and controls who said they had no CSA experiences (n=83). In a second sample individuals reporting recovered (n=45) or continuous (n=45) CSA memories completed the Morel Emotional Numbing Test (MENT). Our aim was to compare these groups with regard to their tendency to overreport symptoms. The results indicate that people with recovered memories do not score higher on the SIMS and the MENT than other CSA survivors suggesting that symptom overreporting is not typical for people reporting recovered memories.
Participant-witnesses (young adults/young seniors/older seniors) viewed one of two versions of a simulated videotaped crime (crime context either familiar to young or older adults). The witnesses were videotaped responding to direct and cross-examination questions about the video. The older seniors were significantly less accurate than the young adults and young seniors. Familiarity of the crime context did not affect testimony accuracy. However, the older seniors were more verbose when describing a familiar context. Participant-jurors viewed the testimony videotapes and evaluated the witnesses' credibility. All witnesses were regarded as equally credible in testifying and less accurate in response to cross-examination questioning.
In this retrospective study, the interrater reliability and predictive validity of 2 risk assessment instruments for sexual violence are presented. The SVR-20, an instrument for structured professional judgment, and the Static-99, an actuarial risk assessment instrument, were coded from file information of 122 sex offenders who were admitted to a Dutch forensic psychiatric hospital between 1974 and 1996 (average follow-up period 140 months). Recidivism data (reconvictions) from the Ministry of Justice were related to the risk assessments. The base rate for sexual recidivism was 39%, for nonsexual violent offenses 46%, and for general offenses 74%. Predictive validity of the SVR-20 was good (total score: r = .50, AUC = .80; final risk judgment: r = .60, AUC = .83), of the Static-99 moderate (total score: r = .38, AUC =.71; risk category: r = .30, AUC = .66). The SVR-20 final risk judgment was a significantly better predictor of sexual recidivism than the Static-99 risk category.
We cross-validated two actuarial risk assessment tools, the RRASOR (R. K. Hanson, 1997) and the Static-99 (R. K. Hanson & D. Thornton, 1999), in a retrospective follow-up (mean follow-up time = 3.69 years) of all sex offenders released from Swedish prisons during 1993-1997 (N = 1,400, all men, age > or =18 years). File-based data were collected by a researcher blind to the outcome (registered criminal recidivism), and individual risk factors as well as complete instrument characteristics were explored. Both the RRASOR and the Static-99 showed similar and moderate predictive accuracy for sexual reconvictions whereas the Static-99 exhibited a significantly higher accuracy for the prediction of any violent recidivism as compared to the RRASOR. Although particularly the Static-99 proved moderately robust as an actuarial measure of recidivism risk among sexual offenders in Sweden, both procedures may need further evaluation, for example, with sex offender subpopulations differing ethnically or with respect to offense characteristics. The usefulness of actuarial methods for the assessment of sex offender recidivism risk is discussed in the context of current practice.
Several risk assessment tools, including the Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment Protocol-II (Prentky & Righthand, 2003), the Estimate of Risk of Adolescent Sexual Offense Recidivism (Worling & Curwen, 2001), the Juvenile Sexual Offense Recidivism Risk Assessment Tool-II (Epperson, Ralston, Fowers, DeWitt, & Gore, 2006), and the Static-99 (Hanson & Thornton, 1999), have been used to assess reoffense risk among adolescents who have committed sexual offenses. Given that research on these tools has yielded somewhat mixed results, we empirically synthesized 33 published and unpublished studies involving 6,196 male adolescents who had committed a sexual offense. We conducted two separate meta-analyses, first with correlations and then with areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUCs). Total scores on each of the tools significantly predicted sexual reoffending, with aggregated correlations ranging from .12 to .20 and aggregated AUC scores ranging from .64 to .67. However, in many cases heterogeneity across studies was moderate to high. There were no significant differences between tools, and although the Static-99 was developed for adults, it achieved similar results as the adolescent tools. Results are compared to other meta-analyses of risk tools used in the area of violence risk assessment and in other fields. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
The popular Static-99R allows evaluators to convey results in terms of risk category (e.g., low, moderate, high), relative risk (compared with other sexual offenders), or normative sample recidivism rate formats (e.g., 30% reoffended in 5 years). But we do not know whether judges and jurors draw similar conclusions about the same Static-99R score when findings are communicated using different formats. Community members reporting for jury duty (N = 211) read a tutorial on the Static-99R and a description of a sexual offender and his crimes. We varied his Static-99R score (1 or 6) and risk communication format (categorical, relative risk, or recidivism rate). Participants rated the high-scoring offender as higher risk than the low-scoring offender in the categorical communication condition, but not in the relative risk or recidivism rate conditions. Moreover, risk ratings of the high-scoring offender were notably higher in the categorical communication condition than the relative risk and recidivism rate conditions. Participants who read about a low Static-99R score tended to report that Static-99R results were unimportant and difficult to understand, especially when risk was communicated using categorical or relative risk formats. Overall, results suggest that laypersons are more receptive to risk results indicating high risk than low risk and more receptive to risk communication messages that provide an interpretative label (e.g., high risk) than those that provide statistical results. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
We surveyed experts (N = 109) who conduct sexually violent predator (SVP) evaluations to obtain information about their Static-99R score reporting and interpretation practices. Although most evaluators reported providing at least 1 normative sample recidivism rate estimate, there were few other areas of consensus. Instead, reporting practices differed depending on the side for which evaluators typically performed evaluations. Defense evaluators were more likely to endorse reporting practices that convey the lowest possible level of risk (e.g., routine sample recidivism rates, 5-year recidivism rates) and the highest level of uncertainty (e.g., confidence intervals, classification accuracy), whereas prosecution evaluators were more likely to endorse practices suggesting the highest possible level of risk (e.g., high risk/need sample recidivism rates, 10-year recidivism rates). Reporting practices from state-agency evaluators tended to be more consistent with those of prosecution evaluators than defense evaluators, although state-agency evaluators were more likely than other evaluators to report that it was at least somewhat difficult to choose an appropriate normative comparison group. Overall, findings provide evidence for adversarial allegiance in Static-99R score reporting and interpretation practices. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
This study examined the effectiveness of an abbreviated version of the Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms (SIRS-A) in identifying malingered mental illness. The SIRS-A is comprised of 69 items drawn from the SIRS (R. Rogers et al. 1992, SIRS: Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms: Professional Manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.), substantially reducing the administration time. A simulation design was used with three samples; 87 psychiatric outpatients who responded honestly were compared to 29 community-dwelling adults and 24 psychiatric patients instructed to malinger psychopathology. The SIRS-A generated sensitivity comparable to or exceeding that of the SIRS normative data, but specificity was poorer; many genuinely impaired patients were misclassified as malingering. Although these findings suggest the SIRS-A may be an effective means to assess malingering in psychiatric populations, further research assessing the reasons for the elevated false positive rates is necessary.
Three instruments assessing abilities related to legal standards for competence to consent to treatment were administered to 6 groups: patients recently hospitalized for schizophrenia, major depression, and ischemic heart disease, as well as three groups of non-ill persons in the community who were matched with the hospitalized patients on age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Significant impairments in decisional abilities were found for only a minority of persons in all groups. Both the schizophrenia and depression groups manifested poorer understanding of treatment disclosures, poorer reasoning in decision making regarding treatment, and a greater likelihood of failing to appreciate their illness or the potential benefits of treatment. Deficits were more pronounced, however, among patients with schizophrenia. Implications are discussed for policy designed to protect the rights and welfare of patients with mental illness who are at risk of incompetent refusal or consent when making treatment decisions.
This study examined the influence of closed-circuit television (CCTV) on jurors' abilities to detect deception in children's testimony. Children ages 7-9 individually played games and made a video movie with a male confederate. In the guilty condition, stickers were placed on exposed body parts (i.e., the child's arm, toes, and bellybutton). In the not-guilty and deception conditions, stickers were placed on the child's clothing rather than on bare skin. Approximately 3 weeks later, mock jurors recruited from the community viewed child participants testify either in a traditional courtroom setting or via one-way CCTV. The mock jurors responded to questions about the child witness and the defendant as well as deliberated to reach a verdict. Children in the deception condition were asked to testify as if the stickers had been placed on exposed body parts rather than on their clothing. Predeliberation, jurors were less likely to convict when a child testified in the deception condition as opposed to the guilty condition. These differences disappeared following deliberation. There was no support for the notion that jurors reach the truth better when children testify in open court versus via CCTV. Implications for jurors' abilities to reach the truth are discussed.
Giving confirming feedback to mistaken eyewitnesses has robust distorting effects on their retrospective judgments (e.g., how certain they were, their view, etc.). Does feedback harm evaluators' abilities to discriminate between accurate and mistaken identification testimony? Participant-witnesses to a simulated crime made accurate or mistaken identifications from a lineup and then received confirming feedback or no feedback. Each then gave videotaped testimony about their identification, and a new sample of participant-evaluators judged the accuracy and credibility of the testimonies. Among witnesses who were not given feedback, evaluators were significantly more likely to believe the testimony of accurate eyewitnesses than they were to believe the testimony of mistaken eyewitnesses, indicating significant discrimination. Among witnesses who were given confirming feedback, however, evaluators believed accurate and mistaken witnesses at nearly identical rates, indicating no ability to discriminate. Moreover, there was no evidence of overbelief in the absence of feedback whereas there was significant overbelief in the confirming feedback conditions. Results demonstrate that a simple comment following a witness' identification decision ("Good job, you got the suspect") can undermine fact-finders' abilities to discern whether the witness made an accurate or a mistaken identification. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
This article reports the development and psychometric properties of three standardized and objectively scored measures, the MacArthur Treatment Competence Research Instruments. They were designed to assess abilities related conceptually to four legal standards for competence to consent to treatment: understanding, appreciation, rational manipulation (reasoning), and expressing a choice. Scoring reliability, internal consistency, intertest correlations, and test-retest correlations were examined with data from samples of hospitalized patients with schizophrenia, major depression, and ischemic heart disease, as well as matched non-ill community samples. The results indicate very good interscorer reliability and provide guidance for the use of the instruments and interpretation of their results in future research on patients' decisional abilities in treatment contexts.
Increasing numbers of youths are being tried in criminal court because of statutory measures that have decreased the use of judicial review as the primary mechanism for transfer. The relative immaturity of adolescents suggests that transferred youths might have impaired competence-related abilities compared to adults. To test this hypothesis, we compared the competence-related abilities and developmental characteristics of a sample of direct-filed 16-17-year-olds charged in criminal court in the state of Florida (Direct File sample) to a sample of 18-24-year-old adults charged in criminal courts (Adult Offender sample) and to a separate sample of 16-17-year-olds charged in juvenile court (Juvenile Court sample). Results indicated that there were few differences between the Direct File youths and Adult Offenders. The differences that were observed suggested that the Direct Filed youths performed slightly better than the Adult Offender group and the Juvenile Court youths charged in juvenile court. These findings suggest that as a group, 16-17-year-old Direct File adolescents do not have significant deficits in competence-related abilities due to age or immaturity.
The current study used confirmatory factor analysis to examine the factor structures of two instruments commonly used in the assessment of competency to stand trial--the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool--Criminal Adjudication (MacCAT-CA) and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS). Results revealed support for the three-subscale factor structure of the MacCAT-CA defined by the authors of the instrument; for a slightly altered three-factor structure defined by Zapf, Skeem, and Golding (2005, Psychological Assessment, 17, 433-445); and for the four symptom clusters of the BPRS as defined by Hedlund and Vieweg (1980, Journal of Operational Psychiatry, 11, 48-63). In addition, exploratory factor analysis of all 24 items of the BPRS revealed a five-factor structure. Correlations between psychiatric symptoms, symptom clusters, and competence-related abilities were also examined using the previously identified and the newly identified factor structures of the MacCAT-CA and the BPRS. Significant relations between symptoms and psycholegal abilities are discussed.
Traditionally, high levels of suggestibility have been widely assumed to be linked with diminished Miranda abilities, especially in relationship to the voluntariness of waivers. The current investigation examined suggestibility on the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scales in a multisite study of pretrial defendants. One important finding was the inapplicability of British norms to American jurisdictions. Moreover, suggestibility appeared unrelated to Miranda comprehension, reasoning, and detainees' perceptions of police coercion. In testing rival hypotheses, defendants with high compliance had significantly lower Miranda comprehension and ability to reason about exercising Miranda rights than their counterparts with low compliance. Implications of these findings to forensic practice are examined.
Programmatic research has made important advances during the last decade in understanding how cognitive and psychological variables affect Miranda comprehension and reasoning. However, the effects of situational stressors are largely overlooked in determining the validity of Miranda waivers. As the first systematic investigation, this study uses a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design on 123 undergraduate participants to examine the effects of being apprehended via a mock crime (i.e., stealing a watch from a Plexiglas case) paradigm on Miranda comprehension and reasoning. Besides the mock-crime condition, the mode of advisement (oral or written) and the length of the warning (124 vs. 228 words) were also investigated. When compared to controls, the mock-crime scenario produced moderate to large effects (ds from .58 to .75) on both Miranda recall and subsequent reasoning. In addition, oral advisements resulted in non-significant trend for decrements in Miranda recall. No main effects were observed for length and no significant interactions were found. Interestingly, specific components (e.g., right to counsel and free legal services) were generally more affected than the more familiar first two components (i.e., right to silence and evidence against you). Within the crime-scenario condition, participants with substantially increased state anxiety predictably performed more poorly than those participants whose state anxiety remained relatively stable. Directions for future research and the implications of these findings on our understanding of Miranda abilities are discussed.
Individuals with a diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) experience a range of physical, cognitive, and behavioral deficits thought to interfere with their ability to competently navigate the arrest, interrogation, and trial process. This study examined the psycholegal abilities of young offenders with FASD, including their understanding and appreciation of Miranda rights, and adjudication capacities (factual knowledge of criminal procedure, appreciation of the nature and object of the proceedings, ability to participate in a defense and communicate with counsel). Two groups of young offenders (50 with FASD and 50 without prenatal alcohol exposure) completed Grisso's Instruments for Assessing Understanding and Appreciation of Miranda rights and the Fitness Interview Test-Revised to assess overall rates of impairment in youth with FASD, as well as differences between the groups. Potentially important predictors of psycholegal abilities were also evaluated. Results indicated the majority of young offenders with FASD (90%) showed impairment in at least one psycholegal ability, and rates of impairment were significantly higher than the comparison group. However, considerable within-group variability was observed. IQ and reading comprehension emerged as robust predictors of participants' psycholegal abilities, while the FASD diagnosis differentiated participants' scores on the FIT-R. These findings underscore the importance of individualized and comprehensive forensic assessments of psycholegal abilities in this population when warranted. Additional system level strains for this population are discussed, including problems in approaching competency remediation, and the potentially growing need for accommodation and forensic assessments in the face of limited financial and professional resources in legal settings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
A substantial minority (35%) of the Dutch population is in favor of capital punishment. In this paper, it is argued that in a staunchly abolitionist country such as The Netherlands, the existence and perseverance of such support can be better understood and explained by conceiving of capital punishment support in attitudinal terms as part of a law and order syndrome. Death penalty attitudes are analyzed by means of hierarchic logistic regression analysis. It is shown that support can be modeled quite well, partly in terms of general attitudes to criminal justice, partly in terms of political and sociodemographic parameters. Within the criminal justice attitudes complex, more support is found among those endorsing harsh treatment of offenders, those willing to grant far-reaching powers to justice authorities, those believing that the government is not delivering on the topic of crime fighting, and those who are concerned about the level of crime. Within the political context, more support is enlisted among people who abstain from voting and those who vote at either extreme of the political spectrum as opposed to central parties' supporters. In sociodemographic segments it is the younger and poorly educated who are the strongest supporters of capital punishment. It is suggested that endorsing capital punishment can be better understood as an expressive act, displaying dissatisfaction with judicial and political elites in the country.
Since Roe v. Wade, most states have passed laws either restricting or further protecting reproductive rights. During a wave of anti-abortion violence in the early 1990s, several states also enacted legislation protecting abortion clinics, staff, and patients. One hypothesis drawn from the theoretical literature predicts that these laws provide a deterrent effect and thus fewer anti-abortion crimes in states that protect clinics and reproductive rights. An alternative hypothesis drawn from the literature expects a backlash effect from radical members of the movement and thus more crimes in states with protective legislation. We tested these competing hypotheses by taking advantage of unique data sets that gauge the strength of laws protecting clinics and reproductive rights and that provide self-report victimization data from clinics. Employing logistic regression and controlling for several potential covariates, we found null effects and thus no support for either hypothesis. The null findings were consistent across a number of different types of victimization. Our discussion contextualizes these results in terms of previous research on crimes against abortion providers, discusses alternative explanations for the null findings, and considers the implications for future policy development and research.
United States Supreme Court has affirmed the right of states to require parental consent or notice from minors seeking abortion. We examine an underlying presumption that minors are not competent to consent to abortion. Participants (N=75 age 13–21, seeking a pregnancy test at a women's medical clinic) completed an interview that was audiotaped and scored on four cognitive and volitional criteria of legal competence. Competence was compared in three age groups (=15; 16–17; 18–21) for participants who considered abortion and for those who did not. Adolescents age 16–17 and adolescents =15, who considered abortion, appeared as competent as legal adults; only=15-year-old adolescents who did not consider abortion appeared less competent. Regression analysis was used to identify psychosocial predictors of competence. Results challenge the presumption that minors are not competent. An alternate policy based upon informed consent and empowerment of minors as decision makers is proposed.
This study asked whether latent class modeling methods and multiple ratings of the same cases might permit quantification of the accuracy of forensic assessments. Five evaluators examined 156 redacted court reports concerning criminal defendants who had undergone hospitalization for evaluation or restoration of their adjudicative competence. Evaluators rated each defendant's Dusky-defined competence to stand trial on a five-point scale as well as each defendant's understanding of, appreciation of, and reasoning about criminal proceedings. Having multiple ratings per defendant made it possible to estimate accuracy parameters using maximum likelihood and Bayesian approaches, despite the absence of any "gold standard" for the defendants' true competence status. Evaluators appeared to be very accurate, though this finding should be viewed with caution.
It is well-accepted that eyewitness identification decisions based on relative judgments are less accurate than identification decisions based on absolute judgments. However, the theoretical foundation for this view has not been established. In this study relative and absolute judgments were compared through simulations of the WITNESS model (Clark, Appl Cogn Psychol 17:629-654, 2003) to address the question: Do suspect identifications based on absolute judgments have higher probative value than suspect identifications based on relative judgments? Simulations of the WITNESS model showed a consistent advantage for absolute judgments over relative judgments for suspect-matched lineups. However, simulations of same-foils lineups showed a complex interaction based on the accuracy of memory and the similarity relationships among lineup members.
Citizens awaiting jury service were asked a series of items, in Likert format, to determine their endorsement of various statements about principles to use in setting child support amounts. These twenty items were derived from extant child support systems, from past literature and from Ellman and Ellman's (2008) Theory of Child Support. The twenty items were found to coalesce into four factors (principles). There were pervasive gender differences in respondent's endorsement of the principles. More importantly, three of these four principles were systematically reflected, in very rational (if complex) ways, in the respondents' resolution of the individual child support cases they were asked to decide. Differences among respondents in their endorsement of these three principles accounted for differences in their patterns of child support judgments. It is suggested that the pattern of coherent arbitrariness (Ariely et al., Q J Econ 118(1):73-105, 2003) in those support judgments, noted in an earlier study (Ellman, Braver, & MacCoun, 2009) is thus partially explained, in that the seeming arbitrariness of respondents' initial support judgments reflect in part their differing views about the basic principles that should decide the cases.
Most students of forensic interviews have focused on the interrogatory techniques used to elicit information from alleged child abuse victims. We asked how the gender of the interviewer and the gender of the child affected this process. Forensic investigators in three countries used either the NICHD structured interview protocol or local standard interview practices to interview 672 alleged victims who ranged in age from 4 to 14 years. Analyses of the interviews showed significant effects of gender on both the interviewers' behavior and the amount of information provided by children. Female interviewers asked boys more invitations, as well as absolutely and proportionally more suggestive questions, than they did girls, whereas male interviewers interviewed boys and girls similarly. Children's responses varied depending on their gender and age, the gender of the interviewer, and the type of question asked. Girls of all ages provided more information in response to directive questions posed by female rather than male interviewers whereas boys did not respond differently to male and female interviewers. The oldest girls provided more information in response to option-posing questions posed by male interviewers. More information was provided by the younger children in response to suggestive prompts from interviewers of the opposite gender. The gender-of-interviewer effects were attenuated in protocol-guided interviews.
We examined transcripts of forensic interviews with 115 children aged between 3 and 12 years, interviewed between 1 day and 18 months after allegedly experiencing a single incident of sexual abuse. Repeated questions were categorized with respect to the reasons why interviewers asked questions again, how interviewers asked repeated questions, and how children responded. On average, interviewers asked 3 repeated questions per interview. As age increased, the frequency of question repetition declined but there was no association between repetition and delay. Interviewers most often repeated questions for clarification (53.1%), but questions were also repeated frequently to challenge children's previous responses (23.7%), and for no apparent reason (20.1%). In response, children typically repeated (54.1%) or elaborated on (31.5%) their previous answers; they contradicted themselves less often (10.8%). Questions repeated using suggestive prompts were more likely to elicit contradictions. There was no association between age or delay and the reasons why questions were repeated, how they were repeated, and how children responded. These findings emphasize the importance of training forensic interviewers to repeat questions only when the children or interviewers seek clarification and to encourage children who are anxious or reluctant to disclose. All repeated questions should be open-ended and interviewers should explain to children why questions are being repeated. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
This study assessed how the quality of a sexual abuse investigative interview with a child and the age of the child influence jurors' reactions to either the original interview with the child or to testimony by an adult hearsay witness (the interviewer). Participants (N = 360) were randomly assigned to 1 of 12 conditions in a 2 (type of testimony: hearsay testimony vs. child interview) x 3 (interview quality: poor, typical, or good) x 2 (age of the child: 4 years old vs. 10 years old) factorial design. Participants reached individual verdicts, answered a series of questions, and then deliberated in a group with five other participants. As predicted, jurors in the child interview conditions were more likely to find the defendant guilty if they read the good interview than if they read either the poor or the typical interview, but in the hearsay conditions verdicts did not significantly differ by interview quality. These findings suggest that there is a significant loss of information when the testimony of a hearsay witness is used in place of the actual interview with the child, and call into question the appropriateness of admitting hearsay testimony by interviewers.
Mental health professionals can assist legal decision makers in cases of allegations of child sexual abuse by collecting data using forensic interviews, psychological testing, and record reviews, and by summarizing relevant findings from social science research. Significant controversy surrounds another key task performed by mental health professionals in most child sexual abuse evaluations, i.e., deciding whether or not to substantiate unconfirmed abuse allegations. The available evidence indicates that, on the whole, these substantiation decisions currently lack adequate psychometric reliability and validity: an analysis of empirical research findings leads to the conclusion that at least 24% of all of these decisions are either false positive or false negative errors. Surprisingly, a reanalysis of existing research also indicates that it may be possible to develop reliable, objective procedures to improve the consistency and quality of decision making in this domain. A preliminary, empirically-grounded procedure for making substantiation decisions is proposed.
The purpose of this study was to determine (a) which of 2 dimensions of criminal thinking (proactive and/or reactive) correlates with prior substance abuse; (b) whether criminal thinking mediates the relationship between prior substance abuse and recidivism; (c) if a direct relationship exists between specific drugs of abuse and specific criminal thinking styles. First, the reconstructed Proactive (Prc) and Reactive (Rrc) Criminal Thinking scores from the Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS; Walters, 1995) were correlated with a dichotomous measure of prior substance abuse and a continuous measure of the number of substances abused in a sample of 2877 male federal prisoners (age: M = 34.96, SD = 9.89, range = 18-84; race: 63.6% Black, 17.3% White, 17.6% Hispanic, 1.4% other). The results indicated that only the Rrc score correlated significantly with prior substance abuse when the effect of the alternative measure (Prc in the case of Rrc and Rrc in the case of the Prc) was controlled through partial correlations. Second, reactive criminal thinking was found to mediate the relationship between a history of prior substance abuse and subsequent recidivism in a subsample of 1101 inmates who were released from prison during a 1- to 76-month follow-up. Third, both specific (alcohol with cutoff; marijuana with cognitive indolence) and global (heroin, cocaine, and amphetamine with cutoff, cognitive indolence, and discontinuity) drug-criminal thinking correlations were obtained. These results suggest that reactive criminal thinking plays a potentially important role in the drug-crime relationship. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
Probation officers exercise substantial discretion in their daily work with troubled and troubling juvenile offenders. In this experiment, we examine the effect of psychopathic features, child abuse, and ethnicity on 204 officers' expectancies of, recommendations for, and approach to supervising, juvenile offenders. The results indicate that officers (a) have decision-making and supervision approaches that are affected by a youth's psychopathic traits and history of child abuse-but not ethnicity; (b) view both abused youth and psychopathic youth as highly challenging cases on a path toward adult criminality; and (c) have greater hope and sympathy for abused youth than psychopathic youth. For abused youth, officers are likely to recommend psychological services and "go the extra mile" by providing greater support, referrals, and networking than is typical for their caseload. For psychopathic youth, officers expect poor treatment outcomes and are" extra strict," enforcing rules that typically are not enforced for others on their caseload.
This study examined the extent to which harassment experiences correlate with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and whether diagnosable PTSD on the basis of sexual harassment occurs after accounting for prior PTSD, prior sexual abuse, and prior psychological dysfunction. The sample consisted of a two-wave panel of 445 women who had received a domestic violence protective order from a Kentucky court. Hierarchical linear and logistic analyses confirmed that sexual harassment experiences were significantly correlated with PTSD symptoms after controlling for an extensive set of trauma variables measured in both the baseline and follow up interviews. Our findings lend further evidence that claims of PTSD from sexual harassment may be credible even if claimants have been victims of other forms of trauma.
The contentious and costly nature of the adversarial process for resolving child custody disputes has prompted scholars, practitioners, and policy makers to advocate for the development and implementation of less divisive forms of dispute resolution, notably, mediation. Mediation has been championed for its potential to resolve disputes with less acrimony among disputants, reduced economic costs, increased satisfaction with outcomes, and fewer adverse consequences for family members. Despite the increasing popularity, arguments have cautioned against the use of mandated mediation when intimate partner abuse (IPA) is alleged. This research documents a mediation screening process and models mediators' decision-making process as instantiated, naturally, in one jurisdiction.
Probationers with co-occurring mental and substance abuse problems (PCPs) are both subject to considerable social control, and at high risk of probation failure. In this study, we screened 601 probationers for symptoms, interviewed 82 identified PCPs about their relationships, and then followed these PCPs for eight months to record treatment nonadherence and other probation violations. First, PCPs' social networks were small, heavily comprised of professionals and opposing forces who engaged in risky behavior, and saturated with pressure to adhere to treatment. Second, the size and composition of PCPs' social networks were more relevant to rule compliance than social support and undermining. Third, the quality of PCPs' relationships was key: satisfying relationships with clinicians and, to a lesser extent, officers and the core network related to low perceived coercion, high treatment adherence, and low risk of future violations. In particular, having a likable clinician who engaged in participatory decision-making reduced the risk of violations. Implications for contextually sensitive risk reduction efforts are discussed.
In 25 Canadian criminal trials involving charges of sexual abuse, 849 prospective jurors were asked under oath whether they could hear the evidence, follow the judge's instructions on the law, and decide the case with a fair and impartial mind. Knowing only the nature of the charges against the accused, on average 36% of the jurors stated that they could not be impartial. Some jurors explained that they themselves had been victims of abuse, others expressed fears for children, while others stated simply that they could not set aside a presumption of guilt. These findings from real trials are consistent with a body of social science literature about attitudes toward sexual abuse and sexual assault charges. The article distinguishes between prejudices arising from specific pretrial publicity and generic prejudices that cause prejudgments of the case of any defendant perceived as belonging to a general class of defendants who likely are guilty of the crime(s) charged.
Logistic regression analyses were used to predict verdicts from 466 Canadian jury and 644 Canadian judge-alone criminal trials involving delayed or historic allegations of child sexual abuse. Variables in regard to the complainant and offence were selected from the legal, clinical, and experimental literatures, including mock juror research. Of six variables that had been related to decisions reached in mock juror research concerning delayed allegations of child sexual abuse (i.e., repressed memory testimony, involvement in therapy, length of delay, age of complainant, presence of experts, and frequency of abuse) two (age of complainant and presence of expert) predicted verdicts. An additional five variables (duration, severity, complainant-accused relationship, threats, and complainant gender) were also examined: of these, threats and the complainant-accused relationship reliably predicted jury verdicts. For judge-alone trials, five variables predicted verdict: length of the delay, offence severity, claims of repression, the relationship between complainant and accused, and presence of an expert. Implications of the jurors' and judges' differential sensitivity to these variables for future simulation and archival research are discussed.
Two experiments investigated mock jurors' perceptions of elder abuse (EA) in a physical assault case. In Experiment 1, participants read a fictional criminal trial summary of a physical assault case in which the alleged victim was 66, 76, or 86 years old. In Experiment 2, the age of the alleged victim was 76 years old, but the gender of the alleged victim and the gender of the defendant were crossed. The results of the experiments showed that women believed the alleged victim more and rendered a guilty verdict more often than men. Overall, the alleged victim was believed more than the defendant regardless of the age of the alleged victim, and most verdicts were guilty. These results are discussed in terms of the factors that affect perceptions of alleged victims of EA in court.
Relations between child maltreatment and children's eyewitness memory were examined. A matched sample of abused and nonabused 3- to 10-year-old children (n = 70) participated in a play session with an unfamiliar adult and were interviewed about the interaction 2 weeks later. Consistent with results from previous research, older compared to younger children's reports were more complete and accurate. Abused and nonabused children performed similarly with several exceptions: Nonabused children were more accurate in answering specific questions, made fewer errors in identifying the unfamiliar adult in a photo identification task, and (at least for younger boys) freely recalled more information. Most effects remained when group differences in IQ and behavioral symptomology were statistically controlled. Importantly, abused and nonabused children did not differ in their accuracy or suggestibility in response to questions that were relevant to abusive actions. Among abused children, however, those who suffered more severe sexual abuse made more omission errors to specific abuse-relevant questions. Contributions to psychological theory and legal implications for understanding children's eyewitness memory and testimony are discussed.
Young female offenders represent a growing number of young offenders. Studies have shown that youth in the juvenile justice system, particularly young females, report higher rates of lifetime sexual abuse than their nonoffending peers. The aim of this study was to examine gender differences in risk factors for recidivism, including a history of sexual abuse, among a juvenile court clinic sample. Findings suggest that, even after accounting for previously identified risk factors for recidivism such as prior legal involvement and conduct problems, a history of sexual abuse is the most salient predictor of recidivism for young female offenders, but not for males. The development of gender-responsive interventions to reduce juvenile recidivism and continued legal involvement into adulthood may be warranted. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
This study investigated how contextual factors affect the processing of child sexual abuse cases, from reporting to sentencing. We analyzed three types of data: (a) data compiled by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape from monthly reports by all rape crisis centers in the state; (b) data from the Pennsylvania Office of Children, Youth, and Families; and (c) sentencing data from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing. Results indicated that aggregate rates of reporting, substantiation, and sentencing were affected by county levels of expenditure. In addition, reporting and substantiation were affected by county-level factors, such that rural counties, counties with a higher percentage of individuals living below the poverty level, counties with higher expenditures, and counties with a higher percentage of stranger assaults had higher rates of child sexual abuse reporting.
In child sexual abuse cases, the victim's testimony is essential, because the victim and the perpetrator tend to be the only eyewitnesses to the crime. A potentially important component of an abuse report is the child's subjective reactions to the abuse. Attorneys may ask suggestive questions or avoid questioning children about their reactions, assuming that children, given their immaturity and reluctance, are incapable of articulation. We hypothesized that How questions referencing reactions to abuse (e.g., "how did you feel") would increase the productivity of children's descriptions of abuse reactions. Two studies compared the extent to which children provided evaluative content, defined as descriptions of emotional, cognitive, and physical reactions, in response to different question-types, including How questions, Wh- questions, Option-posing questions (yes-no or forced-choice), and Suggestive questions. The first study examined children's testimony (ages 5-18) in 80 felony child sexual abuse cases. How questions were more productive yet the least prevalent, and Option-posing and Suggestive questions were less productive but the most common. The second study examined interview transcripts of 61 children (ages 6-12) suspected of being abused, in which children were systematically asked How questions regarding their reactions to abuse, thus controlling for the possibility that in the first study, attorneys selectively asked How questions of more articulate children. Again, How questions were most productive in eliciting evaluative content. The results suggest that interviewers and attorneys interested in eliciting evaluative reactions should ask children "how did you feel?" rather than more direct or suggestive questions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
Attorneys' language has been found to influence the accuracy of a child's testimony, with defense attorneys asking more complex questions than the prosecution (Zajac & Hayne, J. Exp Psychol Appl 9:187-195, 2003; Zajac et al. Psychiatr Psychol Law, 10:199-209, 2003). These complex questions may be used as a strategy to influence the jury's perceived accuracy of child witnesses. However, we currently do not know whether the complexity of attorney's questions predict the trial outcome. The present study assesses whether the complexity of questions is related to the trial outcome in 46 child sexual abuse court transcripts using an automated linguistic analysis. Based on the complexity of defense attorney's questions, the trial verdict was accurately predicted 82.6% of the time. Contrary to our prediction, more complex questions asked by the defense were associated with convictions, not acquittals.
Psychopathy is a condition with important consequences both for individuals who experience it and for the communities in which they live. Although the assessment of psychopathy among adolescents remains controversial, some evidence suggests that the affective and behavioral traits of adult psychopathy begin to emerge in childhood (B. B. Lahey & A. Kazdin, 1990) and continue across the lifespan (A. E. Forth, S. D. Hart, & R. D. Hare, 1990). The present study used the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL:YV; A. E. Forth, S. D. Kosson, & R. D. Hare, in press) to retrospectively assess psychopathic characteristics, treatment process, and outcomes of 64 individuals referred for treatment to a substance abuse program for adjudicated adolescents. This study focused on the relationship between psychopathic characteristics and treatment process and outcome variables, including attrition rates, quality of participation, substance use throughout treatment, clinical improvement, and 12-month recidivism rates. Psychopathic characteristics were negatively related to treatment process and outcome variables, including attrition, participation, substance use, and clinical improvement. Psychopathic characteristics were positively related to the number of arrests in the 12 months following treatment completion. Implications for treatment and future research with adolescents displaying psychopathic characteristics are discussed.