Using Technology to Improve the Objectivity of Criminal Responsibility Evaluations – 2018

Criminal responsibility (or insanity) evaluations require forensic clinicians to reconstruct a defendant’s decision-making abilities, behavioral control, and emotional state at the time of the criminal act. Forensic evaluators are ultimately tasked to evaluate whether an individual had the capacity to understand right from wrong, and in some jurisdictions, determine whether the defendant lacked substantial capacity to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law as a result of a threshold condition (e.g., mental illness). Insanity evaluations are inherently complex, because they require the clinician to determine someone’s mental state at some point in the past (weeks, months, or even years). Recent research on insanity evaluations underscores significant problems with the reliability and validity of these evaluations. However, technological advances including social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter), mandating that law enforcement videotape interrogations, and the use of body and dashboard cameras can aid clinicians in improving the precision and quality of insanity evaluations. This article discusses practical guidelines and ethics-related concerns regarding the use of technology to improve the objectivity of criminal responsibility evaluations.

Michael J. Vitacco, Emily D. Gottfried and Ashley B. Batastini
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, March 2018