The Manhattan D.A.’s office is seeking to block Harvey Weinstein’s defense team from calling an expert witness who would testify about false memories.
Weinstein is scheduled to go on trial on Jan. 6 on five charges of rape and sexual assault.
Weinstein’s attorneys want to call Deborah Davis, a psychologist at the University of Nevada at Reno who has studied how trauma can lead to false and “recovered” memories. She is often called to testify for the defense in criminal trials, especially on the issues of false identification and false confessions.
Weinstein’s attorneys also want Davis to testify about “voluntary unwanted sex,” saying it is important for the jury to understand the phenomenon of “sex that is undesired, but that the person chooses to engage in,” and how that could lead to distorted memories.
In response, Assistant D.A. Joan Illuzzi-Orbon argues that Davis’ theories have not been accepted by the scientific community. She also cites numerous cases in which Davis has been barred from testifying, often on the grounds that her testimony would confuse the jury, and claims that Davis has never been allowed to testify on the issues that Weinstein’s team wants her to discuss.
Further, Illuzzi-Orbon argues, “no showing has been made that she has ever even interviewed, let alone treated, a single individual who is or claims to be the victim of a sexual assault.”
Damon Cheronis, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, has argued that one of the witnesses who is slated to testify against Weinstein appears to have gone through “suggestive psychotherapy” to recover memories of her alleged assault. Cheronis has asked the court to exclude the testimony.
Illuzzi-Orbon replied that there is “no basis” to claim that the witness engaged in memory recovery therapy. Instead, she said the witness “simply saw a therapist and engaged in classic, traditional mental health counseling to help her heal from the trauma of having been sexually assaulted by the defendant.”
The prosecution also opposed Weinstein’s motions to unseal the names of two witnesses, arguing that Weinstein is merely seeking to embarrass them publicly. The opposition also cites “Catch and Kill,” the Ronan Farrow book on the Weinstein case, to argue that Weinstein’s “efforts to intimidate his victims and silence them are well documented.”