Dr Elizabeth Loftus, who is being paid $600 per hour, has been called in an effort to undercut the accounts of four women who say Maxwell groomed them for abuse by the pedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Loftus told the Manhattan Federal court that people can confidently recall events that never happened.
She described to the jury experiments in which she and colleagues had successfully planted false memories in study participants’ minds.
‘Even traumatic experiences can be subjected to post-event suggestion,’ Loftus said.
‘False memories … can be very vivid, detailed. People can be confident about them, people can be emotional about them, even though they’re false.’
Dr Elizabeth Loftus, who is being paid $600 per hour, arriving at the Manhattan Federal court on Thursday
Maxwell glances back to the public gallery as Loftus testifies on memory corruption at the trial on Thursday in this court sketch
The psychologist has also helped Ted Bundy (left) and OJ Simpson (right). The defensive in Bundy’s trial used her study on the unreliability of memory between initial and recalled memory of Carol DaRonch, who Bundy attacked in her car while he dressed as a police officer
Loftus has worked on numerous trials, including convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein (pictured), where she failed to convince the jury of his witness Annabella Sciorra’s memory was defective
Maxwell’s attorneys argue that her four accusers’ memories have become corrupted over the years, the alleged abuse taking place between 1994 and 2004.
Maxwell, 59, denies eight counts of sex trafficking and other charges.
Her lawyers say that she is being tried as a stand-in for Epstein, who was found hanged in his Manhattan prison cell in 2019 while awaiting trial.
Loftus, a professor at the University of California, said: ‘The older the event is the more susceptible people are to having post-event suggestion contaminate their memory.’
Maxwell’s lawyers have said the accusers did not mention Maxwell during initial talks with law enforcement, and Loftus’ testimony could help them argue that their memories of Maxwell’s involvement was shaped by news reports or questions FBI agents asked them.
Prosecutor Lara Pomerantz sought to portray Loftus’ work as irrelevant to the case.
‘Have you conducted a study where you arranged for girls to be sexually abused?’ Pomerantz asked.
‘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.
Pomerantz noted was Loftus profiting from her testimony after the psychologist said she was receiving $600 an hour from the defense.
She also accused Loftus of bias, referencing her 1992 book ‘Witness for the Defense.’
‘You haven’t written a book called “Impartial Witness,” right?’ said Pomerantz.
‘No,’ replied Loftus.
Loftus has testified at more than 300 trials, including that of serial killer Ted Bundy and the officers accused in the Rodney King beating.
She also testified at Weinstein’s trial – but he was convicted in February, 2020, of sexual assault and rape.
The professor has spent years researching the malleability of human memory and often claims in court that memories are wrong or distorted.
‘The world is full of people who support accusers,’ Loftus said in a 2020 interview with the Los Angeles Times. ‘I think people who are accused deserve some modicum of support as well.’
Maxwell, Epstein’s ex lover, is accused of grooming teenagers for her then-boyfriend
Maxwell, 59, denies eight counts of sex trafficking and other charges. Her lawyers say that she is being tried as a stand-in for Epstein, who was found hanged in his Manhattan prison cell in 2019 while awaiting trial.
Loftus has studied the supposed unreliability of witness accounts and memory repression and has used it against sexual assault survivors to support the alleged rapist discontinue the victim’s testimony.
Bundy used Loftus’ study on inconsistent memories to point out that Carol DaRonch – whom Bundy attacked in her Volkswagen Beetle and got away – had inconsistencies in her initial description of the serial killer and what she later recollected.
Bundy had dressed as a fake police officer when he attacked DaRonch and witness accounts from her showed that she added more color in her description of the police badge he wore after authorities showed her a picture, and that his car went from white or light blue to the actual color beige.
‘When people are afraid their memories slip and slide, neglecting details, rearranging facts,’ Loftus said at the time.
‘When we remember, we pull pieces of the past out of some mysterious region in the brain – jagged pieces that we sort and shift, arrange and rearrange until they fit into a pattern that makes sense…it is part fact, part fiction, a warped and twisted reconstruction of reality.’
Time’s Up – a feminist movement popularized by the overwhelming number of women coming forward and having support from major celebrities, such as Emma Watson, Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep – called Loftus’ ‘false memory’ work a ‘tool that has been used to try to discredit survivors of sexual assault for decades.’
False memory syndrome has not been ratified by the American Psychological Association and is labeled ‘controversial’ and is ‘not [an] accepted diagnostic term.’
The charges against Maxwell:
Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts (5 years max sentence)
Enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts (20 years)
Conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity (20 years)
Transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity (10 years minimum, life maximum)
Sex Trafficking Conspiracy
Sex Trafficking of a Minor
Ghislaine Maxwell also faces two charges of perjury but those counts are due to be tried after her sex crimes trial.
The charges relate to testimony she gave in 2016 in a defamation case filed against her by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre.
Prosecutors say Maxwell groomed three girls between 1994 and 1997 for Epstein.
They are not named in the indictment, but she allegedly targeted them in London, Florida, New York and New Mexico.
Maxwell, it is alleged, would befriend the girls by asking them about their life and their schooling. She would put them at ease by taking them to the movies and taking them shopping, winning their trust to later deliver them to Epstein, it’s alleged.
To ‘normalize’ the abuse that would come later, prosecutors say she undressed in front of the girls herself and asked them sexual questions.
She then not only facilitated Epstein abusing them, prosecutors say, but took part in some of it herself.
The alleged sex abuse includes ‘sexualized group massages’.
The indictment also says Maxwell made the girl feel ‘indebted’ to Epstein by encouraging them to take money from him and let him pay for their education and travel.