Weinstein defence expert questions accusers’ memories

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and argues that any sexual encounters were consensual. (AP pic)

MANHATTAN: A psychologist testifying for Harvey Weinstein in his rape and sexual assault trial questioned his accusers’ accounts, saying memories fade over time and can also be tainted by “post event information” like law enforcement questioning.

“It doesn’t take a PhD to know that memory fades,” said Dr Elizabeth Loftus on the stand Friday. She has testified as an expert witness for the defence in more than 300 trials, including those of OJ Simpson and serial killer Ted Bundy. Loftus is especially well-known for debunking the reliability of so-called repressed-memory testimony.

Weinstein, who’s accused of the rape and sexual assault of two women, has pleaded not guilty and argues that any sexual encounters were consensual.

Prosecutors, who rested their case Thursday, had put on the stand the two women he is charged with attacking as well as four others who also said the assaulted them. Their testimony was vivid and often graphic.

Loftus seemed to specifically seek to cast doubt on the account of actor Annabella Sciorra. The first witness for the prosecution, Sciorra described how Weinstein forced his way into her Gramercy Park apartment one night in either late 1993 or early 1994 and raped her.

Weinstein’s lawyer suggested on cross-examination that Sciorra had been addicted to Valium or been drinking the night of the alleged assault, and Loftus sought to bolster that theory.

Valium can “specifically affect the acquisition” of memory and cause it to degrade, Loftus said. She also contended that questions from investigators or therapists can plant “rich false memories”, causing “post-event contamination”.

Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi challenged Loftus’ credibility by suggesting she was on a mission to discredit Sciorra.

“Doctor, you said Valium instead of Xanax or Adderall or any other drug, because you were tailoring your testimony to this case and for this jury based upon what you knew about the facts here, correct?” Illuzzi asked.

Loftus denied knowing Valium had been mentioned specifically in connection with Sciorra’s testimony.

“I knew that maybe some Valium played a role in somebody’s memory but I can’t even tell you which person,” Loftus said.

The defence said they could rest their case early next week and jurors could get the case as early as Feb 18.