How Impressed Are Jurors with Risk Measures?

Scores from risk measures are a primary focus for scholars and forensic evaluators who attempt to estimate sex–offender recidivism risk. But do they matter to the jurors who make decisions about sex offenders in civil commitment trials? The authors of a recent paper published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law surveyed jurors at the end of 26 sexually violent predator trials to examine the relation between risk-measure scores reported at trial and jurors' beliefs about the likelihood that the respondent would commit a new sexual offense if released. Jurors' perceptions of respondents' recidivism risk were not associated with respondents' scores on the Static-99 (R. K. Hanson & K. E. Thornton, 2000), Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool-Revised (D. L. Epperson, J. D. Kaul, S. J. Huot, D. Hesselton, W. Alexander, & R. Goldman, 1998), or Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (R. D. Hare, 2003). Jurors viewed respondents as less likely to reoffend and were more skeptical about the ability of experts to predict recidivism when an expert testified on behalf of the respondent. Findings highlight the incongruence between recidivism research, which identifies risk-measure scores as the strongest known predictors of sexual recidivism, and jury decision making.

For the abstract


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