Thursday, May 02, 2013

Last psychologist for Arias defense

The Jodi Aria trial wrapped up, with testimony of defense psychologist Robert Geffner. He has some books on Amazon. I mentioned him below.

He has 30 years experience and assorted credentials. He got his psychology PhD at UC Santa Cruz. That is the university that just celebrated 4-20 day by everyone smoking dope on the fields overlooking the bay. I mentioned a couple of their wacky psychology professors who died last year.

As part of his expertise, he testified that he trained psychologists to do child custody evaluations, and he trains judges on how to order and interpret them. So it is important to understand the thinking of a snake like this.

He testified a lot about psychology tests:
The particular manufacturer of the test has the copyright, so they are the only ones who can computer score it. Because it has so many scales, you really don't want to do it by hand. ...

Yes, Pearson is the company that has the copyright of this test. It means two things. One is, they are the only ones who are allowed to score this by computer, which is major lawsuits 10 years ago because others did it and they could not anymore. The other means somebody in my profession could not give somebody else who is not a trained professional licensed psychologist copies of the raw data or the questions. So in other words, we are not allowed to release that because it would defeat the purpose of the test.

Q: How does it defeat the purpose of the test?

If people knew what the exact questions and answers were, and how that scores, then you could fake the test. Because then I would know that I don't want to answer this way or that way. So in all the tests that we're talking about, they all are copyrighted. Meaning that we are only allowed to release the information to another licensed psychologist or trained mental health professional who then is bound by not releasing it to others, so the confidentiality of the test itself is not breached.
That is not a correct statement of the first-sale doctrine of copyright law. That doctrine was just upheld by the US Supreme Court in Kirtsaeng v Wiley, and it allows the purchaser of a copyrighted document to resell it as he pleases.

In fact lawyers can legally obtain copies of these tests, as well as instructions on how to fake them. Lawyers can also use this info to train clients on how to beat the tests, and avoid revealing the process to the court by using attorney–client privilege. I have considered posting the info to this blog, but I don't want to deal with the lawsuits.

Geffner was an extremely experienced expert witness, but he made one minor rookie mistake early. He said:
I did not study floating profiles, because they are not valuable. [paraphrased]
The problem with this is that once he says that he did not study it, then he has conceded that he has no expertise on it, and therefore he should not be giving any opinion on it. He should have said something like, "The floating profiles are not valuable, so I do not use them." That way he can still criticize someone who does use floating profiles.

He said that the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory was better for diagnosing personality disorders than the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. I have mentioned the Millon test being used in family court, such as here, here, here, and here. He had some gripes about which are the best psychological tests to be using, such as arguing that the psychologist should always using whatever the publisher says is the latest version. Arias got the PSI in 2010 and 2011, but Geffner said that the PSI-2 was announced in early 2011 and could have been used for the second test.

Geffner also gave some testimony about how disabling was the gunshot to Alexander's head. I actually had some doubts myself about the prosecution expert's testimony on this subject, but Geffner is not an expert on the matter, so I don't know why he was giving an opinion.

There are many problems with this testimony about psychological tests. First, the results are based on Jodi Arias filling in bubble sheets, and are therefore subject to what is delicately called malingering or secondary gain. These terms understate the problem, because there is no primary gain. Arias has no incentive to tell the truth, as she needs a particular psychological diagnosis to avoid the death penalty. Usually, patients are seeking the primary gain of getting treatment to help the condition, and it is assumed that they will tell the truth in order to get better treatment. But Arias does not want treatment. She will just tell whatever story helps her court case.

The next big problem is that the test results just give statistical correlations, not diagnoses, and
correlation does not imply causation.

Another big problem is that the test scores do not necessarily have statistical significance. There was a lot of discussion about scores that were elevated but not above the threshold for clinical significance. This is a technical issue that trips up nearly everyone except profession statisticians.

Finally, even if you believe that that tests imply an 80% likelihood of a PTSD or borderline personality disorder diagnosis, it is not clear what any of this has to do with guilt or innocence. Those diagnoses are just professional buzzwords that are used to bill insurance or qualify for veterans benefit, but not to distinguish criminal behavior.

No comments: