Informing key court decisions on marriage equality, eyewitness identification and more

Courts considered psychological research when reviewing several landmark cases.

APA filed seven amicus briefs in 2013 to ensure courts considered psychological research when reviewing marriage equality, eyewitness identifications, false confessions and the applicability of mental disabilities to the death penalty.

In Connecticut v. Artis, APA provided the court with research based on established scientific methodologies and subject to peer review, showing the variables that affect accuracy of eyewitness identification and testimony. The brief also defended the peer review process and the validity of social science research principles.

APA’s brief in People v. Adrian Thomas provided New York’s highest court with research on situational and dispositional risk factors for false confessions. The brief furthered APA’s argument that the research on false confessions is both reliable and based in science.

At issue in Hall v. Florida is whether a state’s requirement that a defendant’s IQ score be 70 or less to diagnose mental retardation is consistent with the constitutional holding in Atkins v. Virginia, a 2002 case abolishing the death penalty for the “mentally retarded.” APA’s brief stated that a diagnosis of mental retardation requires clinical judgment and should not stand or fall on one number.

U.S. v. Windsor found that provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act violated guarantees of equal protection for same-sex couples. Hollingsworth v. Perry addressed a California voter initiative that amended the state constitution to define marriage as between two people of opposite sexes, after the state’s highest court found same-sex marriage constitutional. APA’s briefs in both cases presented extensive psychological research noting the nature of sexual orientation; that mental health professionals and researchers agree that homosexuality and bisexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality; that they pose no inherent obstacle to leading a happy, healthy and productive life; and that there is no scientific basis for concluding that same-sex couples are any less fit or capable parents than heterosexual couples.

APA also filed briefs in cases addressing marriage equality in Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico.