Memory expert in CIA leak case forgot that she met prosecutor before

Published: Friday October 27, 2006

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A memory expert testifying on behalf of a former aide to Vice President Cheney who is accused of lying to prosecutors in the CIA leak case forgot that she had met the special prosecutor before and was reduced to "stuttering" and "backpedaling" on the stand, according to the Washington Post.

Elizabeth F. Loftus, a professor of criminology and psychology at the University of California at Irvine, was trying to bolster I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's defense, but Patrick J. Fitzgerald "sliced" her up.

"Citing several of her publications, footnotes and the work of her peers, Fitzgerald got Loftus to acknowledge that the methodology she had used at times in her long academic career was not that scientific, that her conclusions about memory were conflicting, and that she had exaggerated a figure and a statement from her survey of D.C. jurors that favored the defense," Carol D. Leonnig writes.

The Post reports that "Loftus was completely caught off guard by Fitzgerald, creating some very awkward silences in the courtroom."

"One of those moments came when Loftus insisted that she had never met Fitzgerald," the article continues. "He then reminded her that he had cross-examined her before, when she was an expert defense witness and he was a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in New York."

Excerpts from Post article:


Her defense-paid visit to the federal court was crucial because Libby is relying on the "memory defense" against Fitzgerald's charges that he obstructed justice and lied to investigators about his role in the leaking of a CIA operative's identity to the media. Libby's attorneys argue that he did not lie -- that he was just really busy with national security matters and forgot some of his conversations.

When Fitzgerald found a line in one of her books that raised doubts about research she had cited on the stand as proof that Libby needs an expert to educate jurors, Loftus said, "I don't know how I let that line slip by."

"I'd need to see that again," Loftus said when Fitzgerald cited a line in her book that overstated her research by saying that "most jurors" consider memory to be equivalent to playing a videotape. Her research, however, found that to be true for traumatic events, and even then, only 46 percent of potential jurors thought memory could be similar to a videotape.