The PCL–R and capital sentencing: A commentary on “Death is different” DeMatteo et al. (2020a).

Robert D. Hare, Mark E. Olver, Keira C. Stockdale, Craig S. Neumann, Andreas Mokros, Arielle Baskin-Sommers, Eddy Brand, Jorge Folino, Carl Gacono, Nicola S. Gray, Kent Kiehl, Raymond Knight, Elizabeth Leon-Mayer, Matthew Logan, J. Reid Meloy, Sandeep Roy, Randall T. Salekin, Robert J. Snowden, Nicholas Thomson, Scott TillemMichael Vitacco, Dahlnym Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

4 Scopus citations


DeMatteo et al. (2020b) published a Statement in this journal declaring that the Psychopathy Checklist—Revised (PCL–R) “cannot and should not [emphasis added]” (p. 134) be used in U.S. capital-sentencing cases to assess risk for serious institutional violence. Their stated concerns were the “imperfect interrater reliability” (p. 137), the “variability in their predictive validity” (p. 137), and the prejudicial effects of PCL-R ratings on the defendant. In a Cautionary Note, we (Olver et al., 2020) raised questions about the Statement’s evaluation of the PCL–R’s psychometric properties; presented new data, including a meta-analysis; and argued that the evidence did not support the Statement’s declaration that the PCL–R cannot be used in high-stakes contexts. In their reply, titled “Death is Different,” DeMatteo et al. (2020a) concurred with several points in our Cautionary Note, disputed others, asserted that we had misunderstood or mischaracterized their Statement, and dismissed our new data and comments as irrelevant to the Statement’s purpose. This perspective on our commentary is inimical to balanced academic discourse. In this article, we contend that DeMatteo et al. (2020a) underestimated the reliability and predictive validity of PCL–R ratings, overestimated the centrality of the PCL–R in sentencing decisions, and underplayed the importance of other factors. Most of their arguments depended on sources other than capital cases, including mock trials, sexually violent predator hearings, and studies that included the prediction of general violence. We conclude that the rationale for the bold “cannot and should not” decree is open to debate and in need of research in real-life venues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-522
Number of pages4
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Psychopathy Checklist—Revised
  • capital sentencing
  • field reliability
  • institutional violence
  • psychopathy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'The PCL–R and capital sentencing: A commentary on “Death is different” DeMatteo et al. (2020a).'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this