April 4, 2012

New competency resources

Case report added to resources page

Thanks to colleague Denis Zavodny, who found this report on the web, I have added another competency case to the rogue's gallery. For those of you who don't know, this is a collection of publicly accessible resources on legal competencies that I put together some time back. For training purposes, I have found that it's hard to beat real-life reports and videos, especially from high-profile or otherwise fascinating cases.

The newest report is on Thomas A. Shay (bottom right photo, above), arrested in 1991 for a bomb blast that killed one Boston police officer and maimed another.  A Bridgeport State Hospital psychologist found nothing wrong with him other than a bad case of immaturity and self-centeredness.

New review of competency assessment tests

Marvin Acklin
The Journal of Personality Assessment has just published a handy overview of three competency assessment instruments. The report, by Hawaii forensic psychologist (and forensic psychology blogger!) Marvin Acklin, focuses on the psychometric properties of two tests that are fast becoming standards, as well as a newer test of response style that’s still on shakier ground.

Acklin describes the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool-Criminal Adjudication (MacCAT-CA) and the Evaluation of Competency to Stand Trial–Revised (ECST-R) as indispensable to the forensic clinician's toolbox, a statement with which we would all likely agree. 

He especially lauds the MacCAT-CA, "the queen of CST instruments," because its vignette method enables us to drill down into the defendant's core reasoning skills, essential to decisional competency. The ECST-R, meanwhile, is most useful when the issue is psychosis and malingered psychosis. On the negative side, he points out, neither instrument provides sufficient sampling of basic legal knowledge, which must be ascertained through a detailed interview.

Acklin is less sanguine about the new Inventory of Legal Knowledge (ILK), developed to assess for malingered incompetency. Echoing Steve Rubenzer's astute critique in the Open Access Journal of Forensic Psychology, he notes concern about the its potentially high rate of false positives, or people falsely labeled as malingerers. This has been a concern of mine, too; the recommended cut score of 47 lends itself to overdiagnosis of malingering in adversarial settings.

The article, The Forensic Clinician's Toolbox I: A Review of Competency to Stand Trial (CST) Instruments, may be requested directly from the author (HERE).

"Mental Competency: Best Practices Model"

And since we're on the topic of competency resources, don't forget to check out the National Judicial College's newly launched website. It's got a lot to offer. My previous blog post on the site, with links to it, is HERE.

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