Contesting the Use of the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory Testing in New Jersey Criminal Cases


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Like several other states, New Jersey may use the Million Clinical Multiaxial Inventory III (MCMI-III) when evaluating a defendant. However, serious concerns regarding this test have been raised. An effective defense may include challenging the results of any such tests.

Background on the MCMI-IIII

This assessment tool has been used since 1977, primarily by clinical psychologists. Its basis is on the creator’s theories regarding personality developments, types and disorders. The assessment requires the person receiving the assessment to provide self-reported answers to true or false questions.

Potential Problems with the Test

The test relies on the person answering the questions to be self-aware and to provide accurate responses. While the tool tries to implement countermeasures and identify invalid profiles, these errors are not always detected. The manual for the assessment event acknowledges the limitations of the assessment tool. Additionally, data from the tool only applies to individuals who are undergoing professional mental help or who have emotional or interpersonal problems. The manual for the tool also states that the tool is not reliable for people without these problems and should not be used for more than diagnostic screening.
Additionally, sometimes the assessment highlights characteristics that are too broad and general in nature that they apply to nearly everyone. The self-reporting aspect of the test leaves the results particularly vulnerable because they are based on subjective determinations.

Report

After the assessment, a computer-generated report will be created. Sometimes prosecutors, expert witnesses or others may try to admit this report. However, the test’s manual states that reading a report of this nature is not an adequate substitute for judgment made in a clinical setting by a professional. Only those who are trained in interpreting psychological reports should try to explain them to others. Additionally, these individuals are expected to use their own training, knowledge and background to compare their own assessments with those included in the report.

Clinicians should be careful to not assign more weight to the test than appropriate. They should not rely on the information as accurate or scientific simply because the information prints out in a narrative report. The clinician should use this tool just as part of an assessment while using other evidence to support his or her conclusions, such as the defendant’s life history and medical records.

Daubert Standard

At least one study has challenged the test, claiming that it failed to meet the Daubert standard of scientific reliability. Others have recommended that the test not be used in a forensic setting. Still others have expressed serious concerns regarding the accuracy of the test and whether results were valid. One study even found that the test gave inaccurate results in 80 percent of cases.

Challenging the Results

When the results of this test are used as evidence of some personality disorder in the defendant that is meant to insinuate that he or she is more likely to commit criminal acts, it is important the criminal defense lawyer lodge a strong defense against them. Counsel may investigate the underlying reason for the assessment, how it was administered and how the assessment is scored. This investigation may include reviewing the manual for the assessment, training materials and scoring mechanisms. These documents may even outline the limitations of the test and may be brought to the attention of the person testifying about the veracity of the assessment. The materials may even underscore the importance of not using this assessment in a forensic setting.

A lawyer may also review the peer review journal articles and studies that indicate the limitations and potential problems of this assessment. These materials often point to false positives. They may also criticize the assessment in such a way that it calls into question the appropriate standards of scientific reliability.

Legal counsel should obtain the raw data upon which the expert relied to score the test. The scoring may be inaccurate. The person relying on the test may have made a mistake that careful scrutiny may uncover. Additionally, legal counsel should carefully review the purpose of the test to determine if applying it is appropriate in the given situation. The lack of reliability of these tests may not have the level of veracity necessary to meet the prosecution’s high burden.

If you underwent this test or another so-called “objective” test designed to measure your mental status or personality, it is important that you discuss this information with an experienced lawyer who can properly analyze its use and challenge its validity.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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