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Study looks at reliability of courtroom psychology tests

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Some Missouri residents may face unfavorable outcomes in court based on psychological tests that some experts say are erroneous. A study that was published in February 2020 reported that only one-third of the psychological tests courts used were even reviewed in major publications and that most of those reviews were unfavorable. Almost 25% of the tests were found to be unreliable.

What kind of sentence a person receives or whether a person gets bail are among the things that could be decided using these tests. Other questions have also been raised about how science is used in the courtroom. For example, a 2009 report by the National Research Council reported that wrongful convictions could have resulted from bad forensic science. While there were advocates for reform following the release of that report, some experts say too little has changed since then.

The study looked at more than 800 court cases from 2016 and 2018. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was the test that was most commonly used, and it is well-regarded professionally overall. However, the second most common one, the Rorschach or inkblot test, is regarded as much too subjective by many professionals. One attorney points out that judges and attorneys must rely on psychological professionals to help them determine what tests are effective.

The use of bad forensic science or unreliable psychological testing could be catastrophic for people charged with a felony. People facing these types of charges may want to contact an attorney. Examining the science of forensics and bringing in experts who can dispute bad science is one approach to defense that an attorney might use in the courtroom. Attorneys might also seek to get a defendant’s charges dismissed altogether if forensic samples have been mishandled or the defendant’s rights were violated.