But for the fact that DNA evidence has proven, conclusively, that things too obvious for dispute are false, the testimony of an eyewitness would remain the gold standard. The witness would get misty-eyed, turn to the defense table as the jurors watched with bated breath, point her finger and exclaim, “I can never forget that face. It was him!” There would be gasps. Conviction was certain.
Except we’ve learned from voluminous empirical studies, from post-conviction DNA tests, from sad meeting of putative crime victims and the innocent guy who sat in prison for decades because she was certain he was the one when he wasn’t, that eyewitnesses are so very certain of their beliefs, and so very wrong. There is no evidence more damaging, because of its strength and unreliability, as eyewitness identifications.
And now, in this freakish moment when it serves the cause to rehabilitate eyewitness IDs after years, decades of effort to end our adoration of bad evidence, the evidence responsible for so many wrongful convictions is once again beloved. The New York Times brings us the new darling of evidence, the memories of the sexual assault victim.
As a psychiatrist I know something about how memory works. Neuroscience research tells us that memories formed under the influence of intense emotion — such as the feelings that accompany a sexual assault — are indelible in the way that memories of a routine day are not.
There are literally hundreds of studies, tens of thousand of psychiatrists (see why appeals to authority, as begins this argument, are a logical fallacy?) that empirically and conclusively demonstrate that this assertion isn’t merely simplistic, but absolutely false.
So why, why in the world, would the New York Times now take the position that some of the worst, most damning, most dangerous, most unreliable evidence is essentially irrefutable?
That’s why it’s credible that Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers, has a vivid recollection of the alleged long-ago event.
The memories of a purported victim are the worst evidence ever, until we want them to believe them, and then they’re back to being the best evidence ever, because reasons. Bear in mind, if Ford has a “vivid recollection” and her memories, “formed under the influence of intense emotion,” are now scientifically valid, so too does that apply to all the other victims who accuse all the other defendants who committed no crime, and over whom we kvell for their decades in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.
Ford doesn’t have magic memories, somehow different from every other person who claims to be a victim. Did Elizabeth Loftus, the seminal researcher in the failure of eyewitness memories, waste her life proving the point when, at this peculiar moment in time, the woke will do anything to rehabilitate the lie?
This is part of an ongoing scheme to recreate history to achieve outcomes people desperately desire to obtain, at the expense of processes that are factually accurate and substantively critical to achieving correct outcomes.
The virtue of due process, for example, has been a hallmark of efforts to prevent wrongful convictions, and yet it’s now being vilified as promoting rape on campus by making it harder to guarantee that every person accused of rape will be “convicted.” The “believe the victim” mantra, rather than believe the facts and give the accused a full and fair opportunity to defend himself, has been adopted by women who proclaim themselves to be progressive. Their only caveat is that they demand hegemony, and refuse to tolerate any outcome that doesn’t conform to their will.
In the name of woke outcomes, we are watching the unduly passionate resurrect the lies that we not only know to be false, but have spent decades trying to correct. Yet, the same people who were passionately, but obviously ignorantly, in support of finding the truth and eradicating the flawed “common sense” errors that permeated the legal system, have gleefully abandoned all of it for this one opportunity to crush their enemy. And here is the New York Times, yet again, cheering on the lie if it will produce the outcome its editors so passionately desire.
Are they really prepared to sacrifice the entirety of empirical reality, that eyewitness memories are unreliable garbage, because they so desperately want to stop Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation that they will do anything, absolutely anything, to achieve their goal? The irony is that it would seem to be all about their concern for Christine Blasey Ford, but she’s merely the mechanism of last resort to accomplish the real goal.
Nobody gave a damn about her before, though she will become a progressive hero regardless of outcome (and earn, accordingly, when her book comes out). Even Ford didn’t care enough to do anything about her alleged sexual assault in the 35 years since it allegedly happened. And she still doesn’t, really, as she could make a complaint to Maryland police if this was about vindicating her victimhood. But she hasn’t.
And it appears she’s not going to testify, having won the support of the woke for her rationalizations for not doing the one thing she could do, she wanted to do until she was offered the opportunity, whereupon she immediately flipped, give her testimony. Yet, in the name of extolling her claims in the absence of her testimony, we are willing to forfeit the reality, the decades of effort, the fact that eyewitness testimony, eyewitness memory, is inherently unreliable all for the sake of derailing the Kavanaugh confirmation.
Granted, the fragile women on campus are willing to admit that they don’t give a damn how many innocent men are held responsibility for offense that aren’t offenses, that never happened, that are lies, if it means they can accomplish the accusatory hegemony they have long sought. They knowingly sacrifice due process, fundamental fairness, because they want to seize control by any means necessary.
And in this peculiar moment of time, this deranged hatred of the fantasy image of this man who was totally fine when he was confirmed for the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, but is now the most horrible, despicable, evil man every that he must be stopped at all costs, are we prepared to sacrifice every innocent defendant whose conviction was based on what we know to be grossly unreliable evidence?
At least be honest and admit that this is an absurd lie, and its only purpose is to find anything, no matter how false, how intellectually dishonest, how utterly full of shit, to rid the Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh. At least then you can attack the beast without destroying the legal system for everyone else.