False memory syndrome court cases

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false memory syndrome court cases

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Published 25.08.2019

How reliable is eyewitness testimony?

False memories and false confessions: the psychology of imagined crimes

The capability of adult and child witnesses to accurately recollect events from the past and provide reliable testimony has been hotly debated for more than years. Prominent legal cases of the s and s sparked lengthy debates and important research questions surrounding the fallibility and general reliability of memory. But what lessons have we learned, some 35 years later, about the role of memory in the judicial system? In this review, we focus on what we now know about the consequences of the fallibility of memory for legal proceedings. We present a brief historical overview of false memories that focuses on three critical forensic areas that changed memory research: children as eyewitnesses, historic sexual abuse and eyewitness mis identification. We revisit some of the prominent trials of the s and s to not only consider the role false memories have played in judicial decisions, but also to see how this has helped us understand memory today.

of a repressed memory that someone has later recalled has contributed to some investigations and court cases, including.
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CHILDREN AS EYEWITNESSES

Courtesy of Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, Ltd. In , the False Memory Syndrome FMS Foundation began its Legal Survey project to track the response of courts and legislatures to the rising tide of litigation based on claims involving the alleged recovery, usually during psychotherapy, of long-repressed memories of incest and child abuse. The history of this phenomenon bears the hallmarks of an early rush to judgment followed by a more measured response, as courts, legislatures, clinicians, memory researchers, and many professional organizations reacted to growing concerns about the reliability of memories recovered in therapy. At the time the legal survey was initiated, the problem of recovered memories of sexual abuse was little understood. Initial contacts of the FMS Foundation by family members reporting false allegations of sexual abuse were doubling every three months.

M any of those working in our legal system have such a poor understanding of the nature of human memory that miscarriages of justice are an almost inevitable consequence, according to a book published today by the British False Memory Society. Miscarriage of Memory , edited by William Burgoyne, Norman Brand, Madeline Greenhalgh and Donna Kelly, presents factual accounts of prosecutions in the UK that were based entirely upon memories of sexual abuse recovered during therapy in the absence of any supporting evidence. Typically such cases occur when a vulnerable individual seeks help from a psychotherapist for a commonly occurring psychological problem such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and so on. At this stage, the client has no conscious memories of ever being the victim of childhood sexual abuse and is likely to firmly reject any suggestion of such abuse. To a particular sort of well-meaning psychotherapist, however, such denial is itself evidence that the abuse really did occur. Despite strong criticism from experimental psychologists, many psychotherapists still accept the Freudian notion of repression — the idea that when someone experiences extreme trauma, a defence mechanism kicks in that buries the memory of the traumatic event so deep that it cannot be retrieved into consciousness. Like radioactive waste, its presence is said to exert a malign influence.

All 53 of the cases in this file involve claims in legal proceedings. Some cases are criminal, some are civil, and a few are administrative or involve an estate. The criminal cases all resulted in either a guilty verdict or a guilty plea. The civil cases all resulted in either a civil judgment or a civil settlement. The cases included pre-trial discovery on the facts, and often full-blown adjudication. In short, the corroboration in these cases has been scrutinized and in many cases verified through a legal proceeding.

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