Volume 50, Issue 2 (January 2005)
Use of a Television Crime-Drama Series to Promote Legal Understanding in Mentally Ill, Incompetent Defendants: A Pilot Study
Videotaped material is used for educational purposes in many areas of medicine. In forensic facilities, programs designed to restore competency to stand trial (CST) in incompetent, mentally ill defendants have utilized videotaped courtroom proceedings as learning tools. This pilot study reviewed the progress of incompetent defendants (N = 15) who participated in a program that utilized videotaped segments of the television crime-drama “Law & Order”, among other techniques, to promote CST in individuals deemed unfit to stand trial. The authors hypothesized that participation in at least one cycle of the Competency Restoration Group (CRG)'s curriculum would be associated with improvement in the areas of understanding, reasoning and appreciation. In order to assess whether the group was beneficial to the patient's treatment goal of competency restoration, patients were screened using the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool-Criminal Adjudication (MacCAT-CA) prior to starting the group and after completing a cycle of the group's curriculum. The Wilcoxon signed ranks test was employed to analyze the results from the pre-and post-group MacCAT-CA testing. The tests yielded significant (p < 0.005) post-test differences in the hypothesized direction for each of the three subsections: Understanding, Reasoning, and Appreciation as well as a significant post test improvement in the total MacCAT-CA scores. These results suggest that a didactic program, using a popular crime drama series, can be effective in facilitating learning in competency restoration programs. Limitations of this study include its lack of a control group and small population.