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February 2020 Archives

Study raises questions about court psychology tests

When judges and juries in Maryland and around the country are tasked with making sentencing decisions or determining an individual's suitability for bail, they often consider the results of IQ and psychological tests. These tests are generally viewed as being accurate and backed by science, but that is not what a team of researchers found when they studied almost 900 cases that went to court between 2016 and 2018. The study, which was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal on Feb. 15, concludes that only about one in three of the IQ and psychological tests that are routinely used in courts has received the backing of the scientific community.

Factors that elevate a robbery charge

Taking someone else's property with no intention of returning it is theft. Theft by itself is a serious offense, and depending on the value of the items in questions, it may constitute a felony, which means a conviction may result in significant penalties. However, if certain factors exist, a theft charge may instead become robbery.

Challenging implicit racial bias in court

When some people face Maryland criminal charges, they may have to deal with the unconscious weight of racial bias and stereotypes from juries and even judges. Research shows that black defendants continue to receive higher prison sentences and are more likely to be held in pre-trial detention. According to many scholars, these results could be explained by implicit bias, a form of racial prejudice that relies on the unconscious perpetuation of social stereotypes rather than conscious choices to discriminate against members of a particular race. One of the key characteristics of implicit racial bias is that it remains unspoken and unexamined.

Incorrect witness identifications linked to false convictions

People in Maryland may think of eyewitness identifications as particularly strong evidence that a person committed a crime. However, research has shown that witness identifications may be particularly prone to human error; they are a major factor in wrongful convictions that have been overturned through new DNA evidence. The quality of an eyewitness identification may vary greatly depending on the police procedures used to obtain it. For example, police may praise witnesses for selecting a suspect or pressure them to identify someone from a photo or in-person lineup.

Did an unexpected event leave you charged with manslaughter?

You may never have anticipated having someone's life come to an end as the result of a situation in which you were involved. In fact, you may never have considered yourself a violent person or even pictured yourself harming another individual. However, circumstances outside your control led to an altercation that had deadly outcomes.

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