Misuses of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised in Court
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The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) is a widely used instrument in criminal justice settings with a considerable body of research supporting its utility in predicting violence under certain circumstances and with certain populations. However, this measure can be misused and misrepresented in legal settings. Moreover, because of the considerable implications of the "psychopathy" diagnosis in forensic contexts, misuse of this instrument could be especially damaging to the integrity of the adjudicative process. Two case examples exemplifying quite different misapplications of the PCL-R are presented: Case 1 involved the attempted introduction of PCL-R results as an aggravating factor in the penalty phase of a capital murder trial; in Case 2, PCL-R data were used to support expert testimony that a defendant was unlikely to be a sex offender. Predictive and ethical problems associated with the use of the PCL-R in these cases are reviewed, and recommendations regarding its appropriate application are offered.
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