Maxwell's Defense Questions 'False Memory' Expert, Casting Doubt on Possibly 'Corrupted' Accusations
Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers had reportedly teased “surprising revelations” in a "shocking" defence case ahead of a resumption of the disgraced British socialite’s trial in New York. Earlier, the prosecution rested their case on 10 December, referring to Maxwell as a “partner in crime" of the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Ghislaine Maxwell's defense team at her federal sex trafficking trial
called its witnesses to the stand on Thursday, with a psychologist testifying that accusers’ memories can be corrupted overtime by outside information or “suggestion.”
The defence is hoping to cast doubt on the accusations against Maxwell, charged with recruiting and grooming underage girls for the late convicted sex felon Jeffrey Epstein to deflower. The tycoon’s longtime girlfriend and alleged “pimp” denies the allegations and has pleaded not guilty.
After the prosecution rested its case
last Friday, calling 24 witnesses across 10 days of testimony, the defence team took over on Thursday. Dr Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine, told the courtroom that based on her research, people "can be subjected to post-event suggestion".
According to Dr Loftus, memories have three phases: acquisition, when they are formed; retention, when the memory is kept; and retrieval, when someone asks for the memory to be recalled. The deliberate act of remembering something, according to the psychologist, can alter the memory itself.
"[Memory] doesn't work like a recording device. We are actually constructing our memories while we retrieve memories," said Loftus, who previously appeared as a defence expert for Harvey Weinstein, Robert Durst, OJ Simpson, and Ted Bundy.
The expert claimed that extensive media coverage, such as the kind that allegations against Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell have received, can corrupt memories. "Emotion is no guarantee that you're dealing with an authentic memory," she said.
Under subsequent cross-examination Loftus acknowledged that while "peripheral memories" pertaining to a traumatic event may be forgotten, the "core memories" of what happened may grow stronger.
As many of the events described by Maxwell’s accusers took place in the 1990s, the defence, which argues that their client is being scapegoated for Epstein's actions, has emphasised the amount of time that has passed since then.
Also on Thursday, the defence summoned Maxwell’s former assistant, Cimberly Espinosa, to testify about the time she spent working for the woman at Jeffrey Epstein's company in New York from 1996 to 2002.
6 December 2021, 16:14 GMT
Espinosa recalled that "Jane," one of the four women who testified
earlier that Maxwell had groomed them for sexual abuse, appeared to be "probably 18" when she met her. “Jane”, summoned earlier in the trial by the prosecution, had testified that Epstein sexually abused her in Palm Beach, Florida, and Manhattan when she was 14, 15 and 16 years old. Furthermore, she claimed that Maxwell participated in the abuse.
According to the witness for the defence, Jeffrey Epstein treated “Jane” nicely, as far as she could see. Regarding the relationship between Maxwell and Epstein, Espinosa testified that it appeared to be a "little flirty". She suggested that in the early 2000s the two stopped travelling to and from the office together, and had possibly stopped dating.
The assistant could not fault Ghislaine Maxwell’s treatment of her, praising her as “fair” and praised Epstein as “generous.” Espinosa testified she had not witnessed anything to suggest either Maxwell or Epstein had ever behaved inappropriately with underage girls.
14 December 2021, 07:11 GMT
In another development on Thursday, the judge ruled that three potential defence witnesses who sought to testify anonymously or “under a pseudonym” because they "might get a lot of unwanted attention” will not be allowed to do so.
The defence's case is expected to last several days, with closing arguments anticipated on 20 December. After that, the case goes before the jury, allowing it two days to deliberate ahead of the Christmas break.
Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to six federal charges: sex trafficking of minors, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three counts of conspiracy. Epstein, indicted
on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019, died in prison a month later, with the coroner ruling his death a suicide. Maxwell was arrested in New Hampshire in July 2020. If convicted, the woman faces up to 80 years in prison.