Harvey Weinstein's defence team call memory expert to the stand


Harvey Weinstein's defence team have called a psychologist and memory expert to the witness stand.

The 67-year-old disgraced producer is currently on trial in Manhattan on five charges relating to sexual assault, and on Friday (07.02.20), his defence team called Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a professor at the University of California, to the stand in order to explain to jurors how memory "fades over time".

Loftus was brought in by the defence team as all of the charges against Weinstein are historical, and the defence claims the alleged victims' memories cannot be reliable evidence.

Annabella Sciorra claims Weinstein raped her in the early 1990s, whilst Miriam 'Mimi' Haleyi alleges she was sexually assaulted in 2006, and Jessica Mann has accused Weinstein of raping her in 2013.

The professor explained on the stand: "It doesn't take a PhD to know memory fades over time. As time is passing and as the memory is getting weaker and weaker it becomes more vulnerable to post-event information, five years is quite a long time where there would be significant memory decay."

Loftus was then asked how the memory would be impacted in relation to an event 27 years ago, as is the case with Sciorra, and she replied: "That's an extraordinarily long period of time where there can be a substantial fading of memory."

Defence attorney Diana Fabi Samson also inquired about the possibility of the trial forcing the witnesses to "fill in the gaps of their memory", to which Loftus - who said she had testified in roughly 300 trials since 1971 - said that could be "motivation for some people".

Samson asked: "If one feels that they need to come up with a memory that they feel will support a criminal prosecution, is that motivation something that could cause them to fill in the gaps of their memory?"

And Loftus replied: "That certainly might be a motivation for some people. I've seen other situations where people are motivated to try to remember more and it has led to filling in the gaps of an ambiguous or weakened memory with details that start to feel like memories."

Loftus then said people can create false memories surrounding a real-life event.

She said: "You can make people believe that a perpetrator was wearing a brown jacket when it was really a green jacket. Here we are changing the details of an event that was actually experienced. You can go even further with people. You can plant entire events into the minds of ordinary, otherwise healthy, people."

Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, Loftus revealed that she was getting paid $600-an-hour to testify.

Illuzzi-Orbon also asked Loftus about the nature of memories, as she said: "Is it also correct to say that after time passes from a traumatic event, that some ...details may be lost, but the core memory will remain strong?"

To which Loftus replied: "Generally it will remain stronger, but it will fade to some extent ... and will be susceptible to some contamination."

Weinstein is facing two counts of predatory sexual assault, two counts of rape and one count of criminal sex act, all of which he has pleaded not guilty to.

He has also denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.