Letter to Editor: Distorted memory?



To the Editor:

I am a retired lawyer who has argued 21 cases before the United States Supreme Court. As a registered independent I have a vital but nonpolitical interest in the competence and integrity of anyone nominated to serve on the court.

I watched with great interest the testimony of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh and came away with the strong feeling that although we may never know precisely what happened 36 years ago, Dr. Ford’s testimony should not be taken at face value.

Dr. Ford was a sympathetic witness. She has suffered emotional trauma and appeared to be genuinely sincere. Yet her inability, even with the aid of a team of lawyers, to adduce any corroborative evidence whatsoever is troubling. In addition, because her testimony has been explicitly refuted by every person she has named as a witness, it is reasonable to be skeptical of her idiosyncratic and unsupported version of events.

But my concern here is quite different. Dr. Ford is a professor of psychology and a research psychologist. She even gave a short lecture on the neurology of basic memory functions in response to a question from Senator Feinstein. But she did not then go on to acknowledge that much academic work in her own field has shown that memories become increasingly unreliable with age and that memories, even of emotionally traumatic events, can become warped, distorted, and corrupted.

Dr. Ford had a duty to acknowledge that, according to research conducted by her fellow academic psychologists, distant memories such as hers may well be false. Her failure to do so rendered her testimony disturbingly lacking in the intellectual honesty and forthrightness that the occasion demanded. That testimony, on its own, cannot fairly be taken as a basis for opposing the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh, who otherwise is eminently qualified to sit on the Court.

Keith A. Jones

Bar Harbor

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