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Behavioral Sciences & the Law

Eyal Aharoni, Heather M Kleider-Offutt, Sarah F Brosnan, Julia Watzek
This study investigated the effect of cost-benefit salience on simulated criminal punishment judgments. In two vignette-based survey experiments, we sought to identify how the salience of decision costs influences laypeople's punishment judgments. In both experiments (N1  = 109; N2  = 398), undergraduate participants made sentencing judgments with and without explicit information about the direct, material costs of incarceration. Using a within-subjects design, Experiment 1 revealed that increasing the salience of incarceration costs mitigated punishments...
November 26, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Anders Kaye
In not too long, our system of criminal justice will abandon the mythology of blameworthiness and desert, and not too long after that we will look back on retributive criminal justice with shuddering astonishment. Now, approaching the cusp of change, we have the unusual and ephemeral opportunity to observe and study criminal justice on the way to a paradigm shift, and to think about how the system we have will become the system to come. How will the retributivism we take for granted today be transformed into something different tomorrow? In this paper, I suggest that one of the drivers of the change to come lies in the use of empirically-informed risk assessment technologies in American criminal justice...
October 30, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Christopher Slobogin
Risk assessment instruments (RAIs) are generally thought to be more accurate and less susceptible to bias than the type of seat-of-the-pants risk assessment in which judges and parole boards have traditionally engaged. But RAIs bring with them their own set of controversies. This article will discuss three principles - the fit principle, the validity principle, and the fairness principle - that might govern use of RAIs. After providing examples of RAIs, it elaborates on how these principles would affect sentencing, parole and pretrial detention...
October 30, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Shelby Arnold, Dan Flack, Kirk Heilbrun
Recent United States Supreme Court decisions in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) have created the need to resentence individuals who received a sentence of mandatory life without parole (LWOP) for offenses committed when they were younger than 18 years old. Neither of these decisions explicitly cite reoffense risk as a sentencing criterion, but a careful reading of the reasoning in these cases suggests that such a risk should be among the considerations addressed by resentencing courts...
October 18, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Brian Holoyda, Renee Sorrentino, Susan Hatters Friedman, John Allgire
Bestiality, or human-animal intercourse, has been a concern of the legal and mental health communities for many years. Ancient legal codes delineated punishments for those who engaged in the behavior, denoting a moral and general societal concern surrounding bestiality dating to ancient times. Despite this longstanding interest in and legal efforts to punish humans for having sex with animals, there has been little research on the behavior. Current available research has largely been siloed based on the populations studied, making it difficult to render any firm conclusions about bestiality's prevalence, frequency, and the risk posed by those who have sex with animals...
October 10, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Lacey Levitt
Despite the widespread belief among the public and an increasing number of law enforcement personnel that individuals who harm animals often harm other people, the subject of animal maltreatment has received little attention from behavioral scientists. Advances in comparative neuroanatomy have highlighted the ability of animals to feel physical and emotional pain, including complex psychological reactions to traumatic events. These advances, and recent studies (however sparse) that support the notion that perpetrators of crimes against animals often commit other crimes, have arguably created an ethical and practical imperative for behavioral scientists to undertake a serious examination of animal maltreatment and potential mechanisms for responding to it...
October 10, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Arnold Arluke, Adam Lankford, Eric Madfis
Researchers have extensively studied the tendency of certain violent criminals to hurt or torture animals, primarily focusing on domestic abusers and serial killers. However, little is known about the extent or nature of prior animal abuse among active shooters and public mass shooters. Public mass and active shooters essentially represent a single offender type: they are people who commit rampage attacks in public places and attempt to harm multiple victims beyond a single target. The only difference is that "mass" shootings are traditionally defined as cases resulting in the death of four or more victims, while "active" shootings have no minimum threshold...
October 10, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
John Monahan, Anne L Metz, Brandon L Garrett
The assessment of an offender's risk of recidivism is emerging as a key consideration in sentencing policy in many US jurisdictions. However, little information is available on how actual sentencing judges view this development. This study surveys the views of a population sample of judges in Virginia, the state that has gone further than any other in legislatively mandating risk assessment for certain drug and property offenders. Results indicate that a strong majority of judges endorse the principle that sentencing eligible offenders should include a consideration of recidivism risk...
October 10, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Kirk Heilbrun, Kelley Durham, Alice Thornewill, Rebecca Schiedel, Victoria Pietruszka, Sarah Phillips, Benjamin Locklair, Joanna Thomas
Pursuant to recent United States Supreme Court decisions in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), individuals convicted of crimes committed when they were younger than 18 and for which they received mandatory life sentences are entitled to new sentencing hearings. This study examined public perceptions of such individuals (life-sentenced juveniles, or LSJs). Study participants were 663 adults (52.3% male) ages 22-71 years (M = 36.00, SD = 11.46) recruited using Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk)...
October 8, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Robert F Schopp
Several legal interventions under the police power and parens patriae functions of the state depend partially on judgments that an individual is dangerous. Psychological research regarding risk assessment can provide relevant evidence regarding the appropriate application of these interventions. Developing, interpreting, and presenting relevant research regarding risk assessment in a manner that enhances the ability of courts to make accurate determinations of dangerousness requires clarification of the risk presented by this individual and explanation of how this person generates this risk...
October 8, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Daniel A Krauss, Gabriel I Cook, Lukas Klapatch
Expert testimony concerning risk and its communication to the trier of fact has important implications for some of the most significant legal decisions. In a simulated sexual violent predator hearing, we examined how mock jurors interpret and use recidivism risk expert testimony communicated either categorically, using verbal labels, or probabilistically, using numeric values. Based upon the STATIC-99R, we compared mock jurors' decision-making and verdicts when we manipulated the style of risk communication across four different risk levels...
October 7, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Nicholas Scurich
Risk estimates can be communicated in a variety of forms, including numeric and categorical formats. An example of the latter is "low/medium/high risk." The categorical format is preferred by judges and practitioners alike, and is mandated by the most commonly utilized forensic risk assessment instruments (the HCR-20 and the Static-99). This article argues against the practice of communicating risk in categorical terms on empirical and normative grounds. Empirically, there is no consensus about what level of risk corresponds to a particular category, such as "high risk...
October 4, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Jennifer Cox, Jaymes Fairfax-Columbo, David DeMatteo, Michael J Vitacco, Megan R Kopkin, Caroline Titcomb Parrott, Elizabeth Bownes
An individual's risk for future violent behavior may be considered in various legal contexts, including civil commitment, criminal sentencing, or suitability for parole. Among the assessment tools forensic evaluators use to assess violence risk are the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG; Quinsey, Harris, Rice, & Cormier, ) and the Historical Clinical Risk Managment-20 (HCR-20)/Historical Clinical Risk Management-20, Version 3 (HCR-20V3 ) (Webster, Douglas, Eaves, & Hart, and Douglas, Hart, Webster, & Belfrage, , respectively)...
October 2, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Margaret Pate, Megan Kienzle, Vanessa Vogler
Throughout an investigation, pieces of evidence are likely to contaminate one another, yet at trial jurors are expected to treat pieces of evidence as if they are independent. Are jurors able to understand potential evidence contamination? The present study showed mock jurors a videotaped trial simulation. Participants were randomly assigned to hear testimony regarding one piece of evidence, two pieces of independent evidence, or two pieces of interdependent evidence. The study tested the hypothesis that jurors who hear evidence that is interdependent will be just as likely to find the defendant guilty as jurors who hear about two pieces of independent evidence...
September 28, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Kenneth J Weiss, Laurentine Fromm, Joel Glazer
How the law regards animals reflects cultural trends that have varied widely from antiquity to the present. This article argues that cultural views of animals have shaped laws, attitudes, and practices worldwide. Whereas ancient (biblical and Mesopotamian) practices turned on economics, medieval concepts of animal culpability aligned with Christian beliefs of the primacy of humans. In medieval Europe, pets, farm animals, vermin, and insects could be held accountable for damage to persons and property. Considered entitled to due process, they were represented, tried, and punished - sometimes in public executions...
September 24, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Brian James Holoyda
Animals have long formed an important part of human communities and served various roles in human activities. Some of the earliest human civilizations developed laws that protected animals for assorted reasons, including their economic value, religious beliefs pertaining to animals, and societal concerns about cleanliness. In the 1800s, Western thinkers began to view animals as having rights of their own and proposed legislation that changed the legal landscape regarding animal maltreatment. In the United States today there are widely varying laws designed to address the various forms of animal maltreatment...
September 24, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Sarah Velsor, Richard Rogers
Practitioners and researchers have long been challenged with identifying deceptive response styles in forensic contexts, particularly when differentiating malingering from factitious presentations. The origins and the development of factitious disorders as a diagnostic classification are discussed, as well as the many challenges and limitations present with the current diagnostic conceptualization. As an alternative to a formal diagnosis, forensic practitioners may choose to consider most factitious psychological presentations (FPPs) as a dimensional construct that are classified like malingering as a V code...
September 17, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Frank R Ascione, Shelby E McDonald, Philip Tedeschi, James Herbert Williams
The confluence of developments in the assessment of animal abuse, the evolution of psychiatric nosology for the diagnosis of conduct disorder, legislative changes involving crimes against non-human animals, and the recent inclusion of crimes against animals in the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System, highlights the critical need for examining the forensic dimensions of animal abuse cases. We provide an overview of the research literature on these topics in the hope that forensic evaluators will have an evidence-based framework for assessing cases they encounter that include perpetration of violence against animals...
September 12, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Randall Lockwood
Animal hoarding has been considered a significant problem by animal welfare and law enforcement professionals for over a century. However, it has only been recognized as an indication of a mental disorder in the last decade. I review the different forms that animal hoarding can take and the current understanding of the prevalence, demographics and possible etiology of this disorder. Conventional animal cruelty laws have often been inadequate to respond to animal hoarding cases until they reach levels that may involve serious harm to animals and people...
September 6, 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
Megan T Stevenson, Christopher Slobogin
At sentencing, youth can be considered both a mitigating circumstance because of its association with diminished culpability, and an aggravating circumstance because of its association with crime risk. In theory, judges and parole boards can recognize this double-edged sword phenomenon and balance the mitigating and aggravating effects of youth. But when sentencing authorities rely on algorithmic risk assessments, a practice that is becoming increasingly common, this balancing process may never take place. Algorithmic risk assessments often place heavy weights on age in a manner that is not fully transparent - or, in the case of proprietary "black box" algorithms, not transparent at all...
September 2018: Behavioral Sciences & the Law
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