Is it possible that Joshua Rathmell had a false memory?
Here we are presenting information regarding how a false memory may be accidentally formed or placed through suggestions and cunning. We will also present how this specifically relates to Joshua Rathmell and his testimony.
Joshua Rathmell was the key witness used by the Crown.
Joshua walks through the park and witnesses an event.
Joshua pauses to talk to some people about the event.
Joshua observes the scene for a while.
Joshua goes to work. There is no way of knowing whether he spoke to anyone or was exposed to the news. It seems very likely that he would have indicated to some colleagues at work that he had observed the event.
Joshua calls the police 3 times and eventually speaks to the police and tells them
Joshua goes to police station and repeats the story face to face with the police and also responds to questions. Some of the questions the police pose are puzzling due to their suggestive nature. He is interrupted in full flow and stopped on the word “saw”. Almost as if he was about to say he saw “something” thrown or falling. He is asked if he saw a push or a jump, to which he responds negatively. This question is very troubling as it instantly indicates that a body was involved. Given that in his initial phone call to the police he indicated that he thought he saw a “junkie throwing rubbish” the question may have unduly influenced the rest of his statement.
He participates in a walk-through with the police in Hyde Park. At one point, he remarks how loud the ambient noise is. It is difficult to see the value of conducting the walk-through. If anything, given the level of interaction with the police in this way, could the walk-through have contributed greatly to creating a false memory?
Joshua re-tells his story for committal.
Joshua prepares for the trial.
The time lapse in between the actual event, the committal and the trial is quite large and the amount of media coverage at each stage has been widespread, frenzied and very negative towards Simon Gittany.
The expert on false memory, Dr. Kemp stated in his opinion that there was a good possibility that Joshua Rathmell had a false memory.
Recently in Palm Beach County, Florida, law enforcement started working to develop a consistent set of rules for eyewitnesses, hoping it will help to prevent false convictions. A new study finds that there may be good reason to question the memory of some eyewitnesses.
Jason Chan conducted a series of experiments to highlight the shortcomings of eyewitnesses and their memories. Specifically in relation to criminal cases, Chan theorises that an eyewitness who is asked to make a police statement about a crime may have his or her memory clouded by misinformation – possibly introduced accidentally by law enforcement, or through erroneous online accounts or news reports – by the time the witness is asked to provide testimony in court.
“There are many cases in which misinformation is introduced unknowingly to people,” said Chan, an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State. “It could be police, or through friends, or a number of sources. And people can confuse their memories, even if it’s information not specifically pertaining to that witnessed case. For example, if you saw a bank robbery and later saw a movie depicting bank robberies, whatever you remember from that movie — which has nothing to do with the real-life case — can interfere with your ability to recall the real-life case. “So misinformation comes from all sorts of sources, especially nowadays with TV news reports trying to compete with people’s accounts on Twitter with what they just saw,” he continued. “Outlets are trying to compete with these Twitter feeds all the time, so they report something and don’t verify the source of the information.”
Eyewitnesses play a key role in police investigations. But how likely is it that they remember everything correctly? Today the police place far too much emphasis on eyewitness accounts, according to experts.
In the interest of preserving the integrity of the memory of the events witnessed, it’s best that the crime is not discussed prior to giving a statement. Contrary to what one might believe, a person’s memory of an event is not improved by retelling the story. Instead, the risk of an incorrect account increases the more the story is retold and discussed.
“The most accurate witness statements come from people who have seen a crime and then write down what happened before they recount it or discuss it with anyone,” says Farhan Sarwar. However, it is quite unusual for witnesses to do this. On the contrary, many want to immediately discuss what they have seen. One example of how wrong they can be is the eyewitness descriptions of Anna Lindh’s murderer. Those who were there and saw the murderer were in agreement that he was wearing military clothing. When the pictures from the department store’s cameras were examined, it could be seen that he was wearing normal sports clothes.”
Distinguished Professor and memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, has demonstrated through her research that it is possible to induce false memories through suggestion.