Friday, October 23, 2009

Research briefs 10-23-09: Malingering, bias,expert testimony, IQ testimony,neuropsychological testing

Articles that caught my eye during my weekly search of a wide range of professional literature.

Heilbronner, R. L., Sweet, J. J., Morgan, J. E., Larrabee, G. J., & Millis, S. R. (2009). American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology Consensus Conference Statement on the Neuropsychological Assessment of Effort, Response Bias, and Malingering. Clinical Neuropsychologist, 23(7), 1093-1129.
During the past two decades clinical and research efforts have led to increasingly sophisticated and effective methods and instruments designed to detect exaggeration or fabrication of neuropsychological dysfunction, as well as somatic and psychological symptom complaints. A vast literature based on relevant research has emerged and substantial portions of professional meetings attended by clinical neuropsychologists have addressed topics related to malingering (Sweet, King, Malina, Bergman, & Simmons, 2002). Yet, despite these extensive activities, understanding the need for methods of detecting problematic effort and response bias and addressing the presence or absence of malingering has proven challenging for practitioners. A consensus conference, comprised of national and international experts in clinical neuropsychology, was held at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) for the purposes of refinement of critical issues in this area. This consensus statement documents the current state of knowledge and recommendations of expert clinical neuropsychologists and is intended to assist clinicians and researchers with regard to the neuropsychological assessment of effort, response bias, and malingering.

Frumkin, I. B. (2006). Challenging expert testimony on intelligence and mental retardation. The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 34, 51-71.
An accurate assessment of a defendant's intellectual functioning is oftentimes needed to help in the assessment of a variety of psycholegal issues. Psychologists' evaluations and testimony are sometimes based upon misinterpretation of data. A host of factors may not be considered that could influence how the psychologist, and ultimately the court, view a defendant's intellectual capabilities. This article will discuss definitions of intelligence and mental retardation, tests of adaptive functioning, the Flynn and practice effects, abbreviated scales of intelligence, crosscultural issues in intellectual assessment, and malingering of cognitive abilities.

Phillips, S. (2009). Legal disparities in the capital of capital punishment. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 99(3), 717-755.

Death penalty opponents charge that wealthy defendants who can hire legal counsel are exempt from capital punishment, but that indigent defendants who receive court-appointed counsel are frequently condemned to death. The critique is based on sensational stories, but anecdotes cannot establish a causal relationship. To explore the issue systematically, the current research examines the impact of legal counsel on the District Attorney's decisions to seek the death penalty and juries' decisions to impose death sentences against adult defendants indicted for capital murder in Harris County (Houston), Texas from 1992 to 1999 (n=504). Harris County is the largest jurisdiction in the nation to use the appointment method rather than the public defender method to deliver indigent capital defense, though by no means the only such jurisdiction. The empirical comparison of hired counsel to appointed counsel in Harris County reveals three central findings: (1) Defendants who hired counsel for the entire case were never sentenced to death; (2) Defendants who hired counsel for a portion of the case were substantially less likely to be sentenced to death; (3) Hiring counsel is not the province of the wealthy, as almost all of the capital murder defendants in this study were poor. Though not the focus of the research and a finding that must be considered tentative, the data also reveal that defendants who hired counsel for the entire case were much more likely to be acquitted. To be clear, the findings are not an indictment of appointed attorneys, but rather an indictment of the structural deficiencies . inherent in the appointment method. The research concludes with a call for Harris County—the capital of capital punishment—to establish a Public Defender Office with a specific Capital Defender Office. Though not a panacea, the public defender method comes much closer to the adversarial ideal of evenly matched partisans doing battle to produce justice.

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