In a story reported by lehighvalleylive.com, an expert witness in Washington Township, NJ faced a pretrial qualification hearing to determine if he could take the stand as a defense expert witness in a criminal trial over alleged child abuse. Elliot Atkins, a forensic psychology expert witness, who was also a defense expert in the Jerry Sandusky trial, will testify that the recollections of child abuse victims should be looked at with a “certain degree of skepticism” due to the way memories, true or false, develop.
Atkins pointed to recollections by the victims that increased the severity and frequency of the abuse the more times they were interviewed by police or prosecutors, as evidence suggesting memory formation may be tainted and easily influenced. Defense attorneys hope that Mr. Atkins will be permitted to testify at trial that the memories of the victims have been altered by biased questions, which would call into question key victim testimony the prosecution has planned. The accuracy of eye witness testimony and first-hand accounts are a frequent hotbed of disagreement during criminal trials. It is not uncommon for defense attorneys to seek out expert witnesses to call eye-witness accounts to task because of faulty or bias memory. Mr. Atkins has based his testimony on scientific study of memory formation and recall, forcing prosecutors to question his credentials, his methodology, and his ability to apply his science to the specific facts at hand. Whether or not Mr. Atkins testifies will be determined when the case resumes early next year.