A psychologist called to testify for the defense at the trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who is accused of helping her close confidant Jeffrey Epstein recruit and sexually abuse underage girls, said that Maxwell’s accusers may have fallen prey to “false memories.”
Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist and professor at the University of California, Irvine, testified on behalf of the defense that humans can be exposed to misinformation about an event after the fact and incorporate it into their memory, rendering it inaccurate, Reuters reported
“Even traumatic experiences can be subjected to post-event suggestion,” Loftus said, per the news wire.
“False memories … can be very vivid, detailed. People can be confident about them, people can be emotional about them, even though they’re false,” she added.
Loftus testified that her research implied that memories of traumatic events, like the ones recalled by Maxwell’s accusers, are reconstructed by the mind instead of being simply retrieved.
The start of the trial saw four accusers taking the stand for the prosecution to testify against Maxwell and speak about the abuse they allegedly suffered at the hands of Epstein and Maxwell.
The defense has argued that prosecutors are blaming Maxwell for Epstein’s crimes, saying that accusers did not originally make any mention of Maxwell while talking to officials.
“This case is about memory, manipulation and money,” Maxwell’s attorney Bobbi Sternheim said in an opening statement for the defense.
The prosecution sought to dismiss the veracity of Loftus’s testimony on cross examination.
“Have you conducted a study where you arranged for girls to be sexually abused?” prosecutor Lara Pomerantz asked Loftus, per Reuters.
“No, absolutely not,” Loftus replied, adding that she had never conducted a study in which she attempted to implant a false memory of sexual abuse either.
Loftus has also previously testified for defendants in other high-profile cases, including in the sexual assault and rape trial of Harvey Weinstein and the murder trial of real estate tycoon Robert Durst. She was paid $600 per hour for her testimony by the defense, according to Reuters.
Lawyers for Maxwell previously said they were planning to call 35 defense witnesses to the stand
in the British socialite’s trial.
Maxwell, 59, who was a close confidant of Epstein’s, is facing a total of six counts: conspiracy to entire a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors and sex trafficking of minors.