Weinstein Defense Expert Testifies That Memories Can Be Contaminated

Harvey Weinstein’s lawyers called a forensic psychologist on Friday to testify about the fallibility of memory, on the second day of the defense presentation.

Elizabeth Loftus, a professor at UC Irvine, has testified for the defense hundreds of times and worked in numerous high-profile cases, including O.J. Simpson, Ted Bundy and the McMartin preschool case.

“Memory does not work like a video recorder,” she told the jury. “When people experience an event and later are exposed to some kind of new information about the event … that new information can become incorporated into memory and can cause a contamination of memory.”

In previous testimony, the defense challenged the memory of Tarale Wulff, a model and former waitress at Cipriani Upstairs, who alleges that Weinstein raped her and masturbated in front of her in 2005. Defense attorney Donna Rotunno suggested that Wulff only recalled certain details after seeing a therapist.

Loftus testified on Friday that therapy can distort memories. She also said people are susceptible to misremembering things in a way that enhances their prestige.

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The prosecution rested its case on Thursday, after calling six women who gave often emotional testimony about being raped or sexually assaulted by Weinstein. In calling Loftus, the defense sought to take some of the sting out of that testimony.

“False memories can be experienced with a great deal of emotion,” Loftus said. “The emotion is no guarantee that we’re dealing with an authentic memory.”

She also said alcohol and other drugs can impair the acquisition of memories.

“Anything that leads to a weaker original memory makes it a little more susceptible or sometimes a lot more susceptible to contamination,” Loftus said.

On Jan. 23, Rotunno asked Annabella Sciorra, who alleges she was raped by Weinstein in late 1993 or early 1994, whether she was drinking on the night of the encounter. Sciorra testified that she might have had one drink.

On cross-examination, Loftus said she is paid $600 per hour for her work.

In a ruling in November, Justice James Burke allowed Loftus and another expert, Deborah Davis, to testify, but barred them from specifically addressing how memory works in sexual assault cases.

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