Memory is an important part of our lives. It fills us with comfort, warmth, and happiness when recalling a joyous event; it may also illicit feelings of anger, sadness, or discontent. Unfortunately, our memory is not as perfect as we may think. In fact, our memory is extremely malleable. Most people think memory acts as a tape recorder; you experience an event, and like a video tape, you can replay the event over and over in exact detail as it happened. This belief could not be further from the truth. In fact, our memory is constantly being shaped by external factors. It is reconstructed in the way we want to remember it. Memory does not act as a tape recorder; rather it is constructed by us and warped by time, emotions, and external forces. Such forces can include the input of family members and friends who want “get the facts straight” with their recollection of the event. This ...view middle of the document...
Case after case, convictions were handed down rendering the defendant guilty. In each case, the conviction was due to the traumatic and detailed testimony of the victims. Unfortunately, the courts were unaware that these precise accounts were falsified memories the victim believed to be true.
False memory was the single, most affective, driving force behind the witness’ testimony. As described above, the witnesses recounted their memories from psychologist interviews, determined prosecutors, and the influence of their peers. This can prove problematic because when numerous accounts of the same type of testimony are bombarding the courts, the jury has no other option but to believe the false memory testimony. As a defense attorney, it is your job to discredit the witness’ claims by providing expert witnesses of your own. However, the defense cannot use an expert witness’ testimony against the testimony of another witness if the expert is deeming the witness’ testimony false; this type of testimony becomes inadmissible. Unfortunately, the only way to discredit the false memories of a witness is to point out the flaws of their testimony. Thus, if eyewitness’ testimony is being used as a key component of the prosecutor’s case, then it should undergo an extensive screening process to verify the accounts being declared by the witness. However, this can cloud the waters because psychologist for the defense can claim false memories, while the psychologist for the prosecution will say otherwise.
The phenomenon of false memory plagues our judicial system, and it not only negatively impacts the life of the defendant, but also the psychological well being of the witness reporting the account. If found guilty for their crime, the defense may serve unwarranted jail time and suffer the effects of a damaged reputation even if their conviction is overturned by appellate courts. Also, the witness is not spared from any damage. Reliving a traumatic event in which they believe to be true, may cause unjustified fear, anxiety, and other psychological ramifications.