Establishing standards for criminal forensic reports: an empirical analysis.
R. Borum and T. Grisso,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law
24(3): 297-317, 1996.
Forensic psychologists and forensic psychiatrists (about 80% of whom were certified by a specialty
board) were surveyed regarding their beliefs about the necessary and appropriate content for reports
on competency to stand trial (CST) (N = 102) and criminal responsibility/not guilty by reason of
insanity (CR) (N = 96). Report elements concerning the identification of the defendant and
evaluation methods (e.g., names, relevant dates, charges, data sources, notification to defendant of
the purpose of the evaluation, and limits on confidentiality) were generally seen as "essential."
Clinical data such as psychiatric history, current mental status, and current use of psychotropic
medication were also seen as essential, as were data elements specific to each forensic question (e.g.,
understanding charges/penalties, possible pleas, and roles of trial participants for CST, and collateral
information and defendant's description of alleged offense for CR). While most respondents agreed
that it was important to provide an opinion about and reasoning for any diagnosis and its relation to
the psycholegal question, there was lack of consensus regarding the propriety of offering "ultimate
opinions," particularly concerning CR. Although there was general cross-disciplinary agreement
regarding the appropriate content for criminal forensic reports, there was some disagreement as to
the degree of importance of certain elements. Implications for practice and the development of
professional standards are discussed, including advantages and cautions about using these data to
influence issues of standards and policy.