The use of third-party information in forensic assessments: a two-state comparison.

K. Heilbrun, B. Rosenfeld, J. Warren and S. Collins,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 22(3): 399-406, 1994.
There is virtually no research on the normative characteristics of forensic mental health assessment, despite the significant increase in conceptual and empirical attention devoted to such assessment within the last 10 years. The present study addressed this deficit by examining the use of third-party information, a crucial component of forensic mental health assessment, by forensic clinicians in two states: Florida (a total of 277 evaluations on the issues of competency to stand trial and sanity at the time of the offense) and Virginia (316 evaluations addressing the same legal issues). Evaluations in each state were performed in either a community or a hospital setting. Basic information about the offense, records of prior mental health evaluation or treatment, and specific statements by victims or witnesses were the variables examined comprising "third-party information" in this study. More than three fourths of all evaluations across states and settings incorporated this information. There was less consistency in the use of mental health records and victim/witness statements, with significant differences observed across settings and states. Results are discussed in light of potential influences of state, setting, and study methodology.