Victims and their memories
Wrongful-conviction narrative is out of place here
In his Oct. 10 column “Kavanaugh fallout: Victims may be sincere, but memory is fallible,” Jeff Jacoby attempts to co-opt wrongful-conviction narratives about innocent men wrongly accused of sexual assault. His argument is, at best, ill-informed. While indeed eyewitness misidentifications have played a critical role in cases of wrongful conviction, the science Jacoby references is inapplicable to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.
His analogy to Jennifer Thompson’s case is inapt as well. As Thompson recounted in “Picking Cotton,” a book she coauthored with the man she wrongly accused, her original identification bore many of the hallmarks of unreliability: a cross-racial identification of a stranger based on a single encounter, stemming from faulty police identification procedures. By contrast, Ford and Kavanaugh, who are both white, knew each other casually, and Ford was never asked to identify him from a lineup or photo array.
Wrongful Conviction Day was last week, and its purpose was to raise awareness about the prevalence of convictions of factually innocent people. The stories of the thousands of innocent men and women who have served time in prison for crimes they did not commit are tragic, and they suggest a need for broad reforms. But they have absolutely nothing to do with Brett Kavanaugh.
The writer is a professor at Northeastern University School of Law and a member of the board of the New England Innocence Project.
Argument over Ford’s testimony gets lost in a time warp
When Jeff Jacoby asserts that Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony about Brett Kavanaugh was “wholly inconsistent with the judge’s longstanding reputation for rectitude,” he is referring, no doubt, to Kavanaugh’s more recent reputation, not that at the time she recalled in her testimony (high school and college). At that time, he was a (self-described) heavy drinker and carouser. More of this would have come out had the FBI background check been more extensive.
In addition, Jacoby’s equating the reliability of her memory of the alleged rape attempt is far different from normal witness accounts — she knew Kavanaugh personally, she talked with him, she knew his friend. It was not a short encounter. She remembered enough to have had the FBI confirm the location and date of the event, had they been allowed to do so.
It appears that Jacoby really doesn’t understand the situation, or perhaps doesn’t want to.
Perpetrators of sexual assault have memory problems too
Jeff Jacoby is right. Memory is fallible. But it’s disconcerting how this case of failed memory on the part of the victim gets trotted out when an accusation has surfaced, as if the problem of memory exists only on the part of the one attacked. In my social work practice, I’ve worked with both perpetrators and victims of sexual assault. I find the memory problems to be much more prevalent among the perpetrators.
In sex offender treatment programs, it’s not unusual for a perpetrator to flatly and convincingly deny the accusations, even when confronted with irrefutable evidence. The belief in these cases is that the truth of the accusation and the pain of knowing they’ve done something horrible is too much to bear (sometimes moral people do horrible things), and as a psychological protection from such knowledge, they dissociate from the memory of the behavior.
To the accused, they genuinely don’t believe, nor can they remember, they committed the act. That doesn’t mean they didn’t do it. This is one way that memory is fallible. I find this explanation more convincing than Jacoby’s.
Jacoby’s take on the process is a breath of fresh air
Although I’m a 30-year subscriber, I have become totally disgusted with the Globe’s unrelentingly vitriolic coverage of the president over the last two years. The sad fact is that the entirety of the A section of the paper has become unreadable. Now we can add coverage of the Brett Kavanaugh appointment process to the Globe’s ever-increasing lack of journalistic integrity.
But one member of your staff stands out above all others for the honor of his profession. Jeff Jacoby’s dispassionate, fine-tuned, and compelling assessment of Kavanaugh’s case — devoid of prejudice and fact-based — clearly conveyed the undeniable elements that constitute the presumption of innocence for any rational American.
The Globe managerial staff and its condemnatory writers should take a lesson from Jacoby, who time and again has proved to be an authentic journalist rather than one dispersing unreflective advocacy and enmity to indiscriminating readers.
Vincent J. MacDonald
It was the Republicans who made due process impossible here
Jeff Jacoby’s “Kavanaugh fallout: Victims may be sincere, but memory is fallible” is a specious rendering of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation story. Jacoby makes a valid point that the he-said/she-said approach is fallible and requires further corroboration. But he omits a critical piece of the story: the lack of any sincere effort at fact finding.
Yes, there was a “casual repudiation of due process,” but that repudiation favored Kavanaugh and went against Christine Blasey Ford. Jacoby fails to even mention the sham FBI investigation that was so hasty and limited in scope that Ford never got the chance to respond to Kavanaugh’s claims. Kavanaugh got the last word.
Ford had multiple people she wanted to be interviewed to support her claims, but these people were not part of the so-called fact finding. It was the Kavanaugh supporters who avoided the facts in this case and made a rush to judgment. Jacoby concludes, “When people’s lives, freedom, or careers are at stake, facts alone are what we should believe.” Yet it was the Republicans who controlled the fact finding.
Kavanaugh and the GOP were allowed to manipulate this story to obfuscate the facts, not Ford. Jacoby’s opinion piece is a manipulation as well.
Protect the presumption of innocence above all
Re “Kavanaugh fight is far from over” (Editorial, Oct. 8): The real fight, it seems to me, is keeping the presumption of innocence a basic principle of our society. Without this we have anarchy.