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Unreliable psychological tests often used in courtrooms

Many psychological and IQ tests that are used in courtrooms in Texas and across the country may be unreliable. The use of such tests may sway a jury, influence custody decisions or result in a person being denied bail or sentenced to capital punishment. A recent study looked at the validity of such tests.

Researchers from Arizona State University reviewed hundreds of psychological exams that had been used in court cases. They found that one-third of the tests weren't reviewed by prominent psychological journals. Only 40% of the tests used in court cases received a favorable review. Almost 25% of the tests were determined to be unreliable. Of the 876 cases reviewed, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was most commonly used. This test has favorable reviews. Unfortunately, the second most common test was the Rorschach test, which experts believe to be subjective and ambiguous.

Researchers said that many of the tests should have been questioned by criminal defense lawyers and filtered out by the legal system. Unfortunately, only 3% of the reviewed cases had tests that were legally challenged. These tests have serious effects on the lives of those on trial. A 2009 report by the National Research Council found that testimony based upon forensic science analyses, such as psychological tests, led to the wrongful convictions of innocent people.

Those who are accused of a crime often receive psychological tests to determine if they are fit to be on trial and to determine their state of mind at the time of the alleged crime. If these tests aren't reliable, people may be wrongfully convicted of a crime. A criminal defense lawyer might be able to challenge any tests given to his or her client to determine if they are valid. The tests may be thrown out as a result so that a defendant is able to receive a fair trial.

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