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Weinstein defense team calls memory expert as second witness

Lauren del Valle, CNN

Updated: Fri, 07 Feb 2020 21:00:45 GMT

Source: CNN

Harvey Weinstein's defense team called an experimental cognitive psychologist to testify about the unreliability of memories Friday.

Elizabeth Loftus, the second defense witness, told jurors that as time goes on, memories are more susceptible to being misremembered.

Post-event information and leading questions can influence an person's memory of an event, she said.

"It does not take a PhD to know that memory fades over time," Loftus said.

Extreme levels of stress and fright can impair the retention of memories, Loftus told jurors.

Loftus also acknowledged that when it comes to victims of traumatic events, they usually recall the core memory and core details for a long time.

Loftus said that while they typically remember the core information, it is common for these individuals to forget or misremember peripheral details around the traumatic event.

Witnesses also might produce more details about a situation that might not be accurate because they feel pressure to satisfy a need for information, and those contrived details can eventually feel like a memory, she said.

Loftus acknowledged during the cross-examination that she's read and watched media coverage about Weinstein's sexual assault case.

During direct examination, when asked if prescription drugs affect memory quality, Loftus responded that Valium is a prescription drug that can weaken a person's ability to retain a memory when it happens.

Loftus acknowledged during the cross-examination that she knew Valium played a role with some relevance in this case.

Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi, a prosecutor in the case, suggested that the doctor "customized" her testimony for the benefit of this case because of that answer.

Actress Annabella Sciorra testified that Harvey Weinstein once sent her a care package with Valium and she was dependent on the drug for a period of time in the 1990's.

Loftus testified that some studies have shown that an individual can recall information about an event they haven't thought about for a long time, when sparked by retrieval cues.

For all six women who have testified to sexual assault allegations against Weinstein in this case, timelines and inconsistent statements have been hot topics for defense questioning.

Loftus is an extensively published scientist of experimental studies pertaining to cognitive memory with several degrees.

A professor at the University of California Irvine, she is an experimental psychologist that does not treat patients but rather studies them or simulates behavior in situations, she said.

Loftus typically testifies and consults for defense cases and has only worked on a prosecution's case five or six times in her more than 40-year career, she said. Loftus told jurors, however, "The science does not change depending on who is asking the questions."

Prosecutors also called an expert psychologist as the second witness during their case. Dr. Barbara Ziv testified to dispel "rape myths" and speak to sexual assault victims' behavior.

Ziv was in court Friday and could be seen conversing with prosecutors during a break before Illuzzi's cross examination of Loftus.

Loftus was on the stand for less than two hours in total.

A forensic document examiner testified briefly about scribbled out, illegible entries in Miriam Haley's 2006 calendar that was an integral part of Haley's testimony.

The expert retained by the defense team testified to his findings that were previously entered during Haley's testimony.

After the jury was dismissed for the day, Weinstein attorney Arthur Aidala told the court that his team would present their most important defense witnesses Monday and asked Judge James Burke to be cognizant of his tone and body language toward witnesses, because the defense felt Burke "could have been at the very least a little nicer and kinder" to Loftus. Judge Burke disagreed with this assessment.

Court adjourned around noon Friday and will resume Monday morning.


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