Date of Award

1988

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

William F. Waters

Abstract

Competency to stand trial evaluations lack an operational criterion for evaluation by mental health professionals. This dissertation investigated the legal reasoning behind the decision to raise the competency motion, to highlight variables which might contribute to such a definition. In the first study, 224 defendants in the Baton Rouge Public Defender's Office were described by the legal investigators using endorsements on the Pre Trial Behavior Checklist, a list of descriptors adapted from competency research conducted by Roesch and Golding (1980). A discriminant analysis using all the PTBC subscales predicted the raising of the motion at a rate greater than chance. However, when only the three internally consistent subscales were used, the prediction did not exceed chance levels. A factor analysis of items was unsuccessful at producing internally consistent factors for further analysis. The second study used a modified version of the PTBC in which items were rated on a 1 to 5 Likert scale. In this study defendants were rated by attorneys in the Public Defender's Office at the time of the raising of the motion (n = 47), with a control group of defendants for whom the motion was not raised (n = 96). A discriminant analysis was successful in predicting the raising of the motion at a rate greater than chance. A discriminant analysis using only those subscales which had internal consistency greater than 0.75 was also successful at predicting group membership. PTBC subscales were also predictive of certainty of attorney perception of competency, regardless of whether the motion had been raised. Factor analyses of the subscales and of the items indicate that the PTBC is not measuring one underlying "psychopathology" factor. In addition, the factor analysis of the items revealed factors very similar to the logically derived scales used in the discriminant analyses of the second study. There were no differences between groups for race or sex, but older defendants and those who had committed more violent crimes were more often in the group for which the motion was raised. The methodological and statistical limitations of the study are discussed and directions for future research are suggested.

Pages

108

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