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Int J Law Psychiatry. 2014 May-Jun;37(3):272-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2013.11.020. Epub 2013 Dec 8.

Quality of criminal responsibility reports submitted to the Hawaii judiciary.

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Argosy University, Hawaii Campus, Honolulu, HI, United States.
Argosy University, Hawaii Campus, Honolulu, HI, United States. Electronic address:
University of Denver, Denver, CO, United States.


This paper is the third in a series of research reports on quality of forensic mental health evaluations submitted to the Hawaii judiciary. Previous studies examined quality of reports assessing competency to stand trial (CST) and post-acquittal conditional release, in felony defendants undergoing court-ordered examinations. Utilizing a 44-item quality coding instrument, this study examined quality of criminal responsibility reports in a sample of 150 forensic mental health evaluations conducted between 2006 and 2010 by court-appointed panels. Raters attained high levels of agreement in training and quality coding. Similar to the previous studies, overall quality of reports was mediocre, falling below the .80 quality criterion score for report elements, regardless of evaluator professional identification or employment status. Level of agreement between evaluators and judicial sanity determinations was "fair" using Cicchetti's (1994) standards for interpretation of intra-class correlations. Level of agreement was lower than previously published findings for CST reports and better than conditional release reports. Reasons for mediocre report quality and "fair" inter-rater agreement are discussed, including the fact that criminal responsibility evaluations are complex, retrospective in nature, and involve significant degrees of inference. In contrast to CST evaluations, assessment of criminal responsibility involves a mental state at the time of the offense evaluation. Threats to reliability in forensic reports are discussed. Suggestions for improvement of report quality are proffered, including standardization of procedures and report format and use of forensic assessment instruments.


Forensic assessment; Forensic mental health evaluations; Quality of forensic reports

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