Saturday, 22 May 2010

North Carolina ruling sets precedent

A recent ruling in a Carthage rape case will make new law in North Carolina.

The case against a Moore County man accused of raping his 8-year-old daughter in 1996 is based on a controversial theory called "repressed memory" syndrome. It has various other names, but all refer to the idea that traumatic events can be hidden - sometimes for years - and then suddenly recalled.

Superior Court Judge John O. Craig III recently listened for hours to testimony by two leading psychiatrists on the current state of scientific knowledge about repressed memory and to arguments by attorneys for the state and the defense before granting a defense motion to suppress any evidence involving this particular psychological phenomenon....

....possibilities that have been suggested, Craig said, include "distorted memory, confabulation, pseudo memory and self-suggestion that would be emerging from the patient's internal mental workings."

Without declaring recovered memory either invalid or valid science, Craig said he was acting on his inherent authority under the rules of evidence to exclude testimony on repressed memory as prejudicial and apt to confuse jurors.

"So in that regard I'm going to grant the motion to suppress," Craig said, asking the attorneys to craft a more detailed order.

The ruling, if upheld, will set a precedent in North Carolina, denying admission of recovered memory testimony, as no court in the state has previously ruled on the question in any criminal case. Parker said last week that the state has filed an appeal with the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Further to this story, the state has appealed the ruling, and legal developments are covered at: