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Witness for the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trial Paperback – July 15, 1992
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“Witness for the Defense is an important book.” ―The New York Times
“An intriguing and disturbing work in which forensic psychologist Loftus, a specialist on memory, examines the fallibility of eyewitness testimony in criminal cases . . . A fascinating examination of human memory, with troubling implications for the American criminal-justice system.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Highly recommended for the general public and scholars interested in whether justice is served in the criminal justice system.” ―Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
Elizabeth Loftus, an internationally known expert on memory, applies research and her experience to the topic of eye witness testimony in the legal setting. The book attempts to be both entertaining in its often informal presentation of case histories, and modestly academic in presenting psychological theory and research. The case histories for the most part describe trials in which eyewitness testimony resulted in the conviction of an innocent person. Loftus shows how inaccurate recollections combined with inappropriate police photo and lineup presentations can cause a witness to create false recollections. As a side note the book also shows how fallible juries can be. All in all this book provides further proof that eyewitness testimony is not superior to circumstantial evidence.
My only criticism of this book should probably be directed toward the co-author. This book is oriented toward the general public, and the case descriptions are often fluffed to create the "true crime" approach used by writers in that genre.Read more ›
Coauthor Katherine Ketcham stated in the "Author's Note" of this 1991 book, "[This] is a collection of true stories based on Dr. Elizabeth Loftus's personal experiences as an expert witness. It is our goal to use these real-life courtroom dramas as a vehicle for conveying information about psychology in general and memory in particular... Although we have struggled to correct obvious biases and base our accounts on the known and undisputed facts, it is unavoidable that these retrospective interpretations contain memory flaws. We know all too well from the psychological research and the experience of writing this book that memory is not always the same thing as the truth." (Pg. xiii-xiv)
Loftus notes, "In my studies, a subject's reported confidence for suggested or imagined memories is often as great as that reported for memories based on actual perceptions... subtle differences do exist between perceived and suggested memories, but ... most people are unable to detect these differences. In other words, when people remember something, they tend to believe it's the truth. And when they describe their memories, their reports can be so realistic and detailed that someone listening (like a juror) tends to think that the memory is, in fact, real." (Pg.Read more ›
Loftus does give some illustrations of how police can contaminate witness accounts, but I wish she had gone into even more detail about the studies she has conducted showing how this can happen, and about the advice she gives to police officers on how to avoid such undue influence. Perhaps though more detail on this score would have made the book too long. There is a bibliography provided to fill in some of these gaps.
Here the author concentrates more on the circumstances of the crimes themselves. As it turned out, she didn't always work on the side of the "good guys." She tells about testifying for Ted Bundy's defense. Thinking back, she remembers disliking how Bundy smiled at the prosecutor, something an innocent man doesn't ordinarily do. A few scattered comments such as that might make the reader wonder if Loftus' memory might itself be showing the kind of after-the-fact malleability that she saw it as her role to remind juries to take into consideration. Did she really suspect Bundy at the time?
In several of the cases Loftus recounts, there have been interesting reversals since this 1991 book was published. Some of the other individuals for whose defense she testified, also later appeared to be guilty.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Another great eye opener book for me. I think I am trying to educate myself during retirement years by reading things that I have always wanted to learn. Read morePublished 6 months ago by E. Ervin
Excellent book for professionals, fans of crime shows or novels.Published 16 months ago by Sarah Stone
Took a while to get here. The book was very folded and is ripped as well. It looks like if it got wet or something.Published on April 22, 2013 by Nat
This book was well-written and very interesting. It delves into several cases wherein the author, Elizabeth Loftus, testified or was asked to testify as a memory expert. Read morePublished on November 13, 2012 by Garnet
I thought that this book was amazing. I'm getting a double major in public relations and communication management with a minor in english. Read morePublished on May 6, 2012 by Darby
had to read for college course but surprisingly good book. passed it on to family to read. definitely eye opening! bought used but came looking new. pleasantly surprised. Read morePublished on July 10, 2011 by Stephy
Selected Quotes from the Book:
..."our memory can be changed, inextricably altered, in that what we think we know,
what we believe in our hearts, is not necessarily... Read more
(...) leave book buyers with the false impression that Loftus's book is a universally acknowledged authority. It is not. Read morePublished on June 18, 2004