• Thought content includes the evaluee’s formation of concepts, handling of ideas, anxieties, fears, obsession, phobias, hypochondriacal preoccupations, body image concerns, autistic thinking, ideas of reference or ideas of influence (paranoid type thinking), self-depreciation, suicidal ideas, somatic delusions, other systematized delusions, self-referential thinking, hallucinations (abnormal sensory experiences), apprehensive expectation (anticipating bad things happening), fears of abandonment or feelings of estrangement.
• Disorders of thinking such as whether the thinking is interrupted. Thought production including flow of thought, acceleration or retardation and distractibility. Thought continuity such as clearness of thought, coherence, relevance, whether the thoughts ramble, whether they are not specific to the topic at hand, whether or not perseveration occurs i.e., the individual stays on the same topic even though the examiner moves to another topic, flight of ideas whereby the examinee’s ideas flit from topic to topic without completion, or blocking, whereby thoughts are not completed.
In my opinion, the best psychological personality test available for assessing personality organization is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory 2, better known as the MMPI-2. This is the most widely given psychological test in the world. It is the best studied test and the test most agreed upon between inter-rater assessment i.e., two separate specialists looking at the same test results would agree with the interpretation of the test. As a psychiatrist who has administered at least 2,000 MMPI-2s, been trained in its use and who has qualified as an expert on the MMPI-2 in multiple jurisdictions, I believe that the use of the test is justified and helpful. The MMPI-2 is accepted under Daubert and Frye.
The MCMI-III, the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III, is in my opinion not a particularly useful test in a forensic setting because it overdiagnoses personality disorders. I believe the test may not fulfill the Daubert Criteria either, in that only three questions out of 175 questions address the test taker’s attitude. The judge ruling on admissibility may rule it does not have a falsifiability rate that is scientifically reliable.
• Mental grasp should be assessed regarding the person’s understanding of his or her current situation, attention, concentration, memory, ability to calculate, engage in abstract reasoning and the quality of their judgment. An absence of an adequate mental status assessment may constitute a defective psychiatric or psychological evaluation and permit a challenge as to the adequacy of the expert’s opinion.
As a general background, in , the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Frye “general acceptance” test was superseded by adoption in the Federal Rules of Evidence and that admission of scientific testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702. In short, the Daubert criteria requires that the expert’s opinion be reached by use of “scientific methodology,” essentially formulating hypotheses and conducting experiments to prove or falsify the hypothesis. To establish the validity of the conclusion it is necessary to use empirical testing, that the method be (or has been) subjected to peer review and publication, and that it have a known or potential error rate. Further there must exist maintained standards and controls concerning the operation of that method (e.g. for example how a psychological test is administered, scored, tested and interpreted). Validity is further established by the degree to which the theory and technique is generally accepted by a relevant scientific community.
The above seems face obvious but is worth mentioning because of its importance. As an expert, I believe it is my job to educate the attorney for whom I work about psychiatric pathology, its relevance to the case and how the attorney can elicit the best evidence from me and the best evidence from the opposing expert. I do not believe a psychiatrist helping an attorney prepare direct or question is advocacy. It is the expert’s job, I believe, to educate the attorney so that the attorney can help the expert educate the jury or other Trier of Fact about the matters the expert is expert at. If the expert understands the process to be one of discovery, then assisting an attorney to discover contradictions or deficits in the opinion of an opposing expert is not advocacy, but rather expert witnessing once removed. Furthermore, it is necessary for the expert to understand the basis of the opinions reached by the opposing expert in order to fully consider the basis of his opinion.
The better prepared the psychiatric consultant, the better will be his testimony. When the conclusions and the logic are well understood, jurors are most likely to find themselves in agreement with the expert’s opinions and rationale. Conversely, the better prepared the attorney is for the opposing expert’s , the more fruitful the will be.
With the adoption of Daubert, the court defined “scientific methodology” as the process of formulating hypotheses and then conducting an experiment(s) to prove or disprove (falsify) the hypothesis. To be admissible, a theory or technique must be falsifiable, refutable and testable. Also, it must be peer reviewed, published, and have a known or potential error rate. There must be the existence and maintenance of standards and controls concerning its operations. The theory and technique is generally accepted by the relevant scientific community. The testimony is based on sufficient facts or data. The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods. And, the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.
(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
The American Psychological Association then addressed the Daubert ruling within the context of and expressed four (4) guidelines to apply to Daubert.
“A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if: