False memory Syndrome in court

Figure 7-4

In December 1995, two women filed ethics complaints with the American Psychological Association (APA) against Elizabeth Loftus, PhD, regarding her published statements about two legal cases involving delayed memories of sexual abuse. Citing procedural considerations, however, the APA has declined to investigate the women's ethics complaints.

Jennifer Hoult (a concert harpist living in New York) and Lynn Crook (a Washington State consultant) each filed separate complaints with the APA, alleging that Loftus mischaracterized the facts of their legal cases in published articles. Both women brought successful civil suits because of the sexual abuse that the fathers (and the mother, in Crook's case) perpetrated against them during their childhoods. At their trials, they presented corroborative evidence that met the requirements for judicial proof of their allegations.

Loftus serves on the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Inc (FMSF). She also had been an active member of the APA since 1973, but she resigned in January 1996, shortly after the filing of the complaints. In a brief telephone interview with TREATING ABUSE TODAY, Loftus confirmed her resignation from the APA, but she denied any knowledge of the ethics complaints. She also cautioned that TREATING ABUSE TODAY should not state or imply that she resigned from the APA to avoid investigation of the ethics complaints.

When the ethic complaints were filed against Loftus, Jeffrey N. Younggren, PhD chaired the APA Ethics Committee. During his tenure in this position, Younggren appeared as an expert witness in many trials involving so-called "false memory syndrome, " generally as a witness for accused perpetrators or against therapists accused of implanting "false memories." At the time Hoult and Crook filed their complaints, Younggren and Loftus were both working as expert witnesses on the same side of the same case. When asked about this coincidence, however, Loftus stated that she had no knowledge of the fact, because she worked on many cases simultaneously and didn't always know which expert witnesses were scheduled to testify in any particular case.

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