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Profile: Elizabeth Loftus
Elizabeth Loftus was a participant or observer in the following events:
Dr. Elizabeth Loftus. [Source: Injustice Busters (.org)]The Libby defense team presents a memory expert in a pre-trial hearing, but special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald dismantles her credibility and her expertise during the proceedings. Lewis Libby’s lawyers intend to argue that the pressure of his work during his stint as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff caused Libby to “misremember” conversations he had with reporters about former CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson (see January 31, 2006), and therefore he cannot be guilty of perjury or obstruction of justice (see October 28, 2005). Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a professor of criminology and psychology at the University of California at Irvine, testifies in support of a motion by Libby’s lawyers that Dr. Robert Bjork, chairman of the UCLA psychology department, be allowed to testify in Libby’s defense during the actual trial (see July 31, 2006). For three hours, Fitzgerald conducts what MSNBC terms a “blistering” questioning session of Loftus, causing her to admit that some of her own findings about what juries know about memory are faulty, and that her own research may be flawed. [MSNBC, 10/26/2006; Jurist, 10/26/2006; Washington Post, 10/27/2006]
Uses Own Book to Disprove Claims - Fitzgerald quotes Loftus’s own book, Witness for the Defense, asking how she might try to sway a jury if she were to testify. Loftus had written that, “using my arsenal of subtle psychological tools” she could make an impression on a jury about her perception about guilt or innocence. Fitzgerald shows Loftus a line in her book that expressed doubts about research she had just cited on the stand as proof that Libby needs an expert to educate jurors. Loftus replies, “I don’t know how I let that line slip by.”
Loftus Admits Own Study Flawed - Loftus explains to Judge Reggie Walton that, according to a study she conducted in 2006, most jurors believe memory is like a “tape recorder,” a perception that many memory experts say is untrue. But, using material from Loftus’s study, Fitzgerald forces Loftus to admit that the study is most likely flawed, and that the answers some jurors provided in the study prove just the opposite of what Loftus claimed they said—that jurors can in fact use common sense to ascertain the effects of memory on witness testimony. Her study actually found that only 46 percent of jurors viewed memory as a “tape recorder” or “videotape.” [MSNBC, 10/26/2006; Washington Post, 10/27/2006]
Loftus's Memory Failure - Fitzgerald even catches Loftus in her own embarrasing memory failure; when Loftus insists she has never met Fitzgerald before, he reminds her that he had cross-examined her before, when she was a defense expert and he was prosecuting a case for the US Attorney’s office in New York. [Washington Post, 10/27/2006]
Judge Skeptical of Loftus - Walton is skeptical of Loftus throughout the hearing, and repeatedly questions her about her stance that jurors have trouble using “common sense” to determine the effect of memory on witness testimony. Fitzgerald wants Bjork’s testimony disallowed (see September 7, 2006), saying the testimony of such a memory expert would be “confusing, misleading, and prejudicial,” and would unnecessarily delay the proceedings. [MSNBC, 10/26/2006]
Former Prosecutor: Very 'Difficult to Trip Up an Expert Witness' - Former prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith, writing for the progressive blog FireDogLake, writes, “I cannot begin to tell you how difficult it is to trip up an expert witness on the stand, especially when you are doing cross-examination of someone who is considered to be a top expert in the field and who has had courtroom experience in prior cases for similar research material.” [Christy Hardin Smith, 10/27/2006] In November, the judge will disallow Bjork’s testimony (see November 2, 2006).
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