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“Recovered memories shouldn’t be used as evidence in court.”

“[Recovered memory] is not reliable evidence, and that's the position that we take in this case, that this evidence of recovered memory because it is based on suggestion… when we're in a court of law, we have to deal with the factual and not what's important to the therapy of the victim… in the case of recovery of repressed memory, that that is per se inadmissible evidence.” - John Roberts, at the FMSF Day of Contrition Conference. [1]

“Because there is no scientific support for the theory of repression, so called "repressed" and recovered memories must not be allowed as evidence in our Courts of Law… To admit such controversial "evidence" would not only violate the very rules on which the legal system relies but also violate the rights of those who are subjected to our Court system.” - FMSF Amicus Brief [2]


The Daubert criteria, established in 1993 by the supreme court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., concerns rules of evidence in the US federal law that determine whether scientific evidence is admissible in court. For evidence to be admissible in court under Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, scientific testimony must be both relevant and reliable. The supreme court set forth four factors to evaluate scientific evidence on these qualities, including:
1. Whether the theory can and has been tested
2. Whether the theory has been subjected to peer review and publication
3. Whether the theory has a known or potential rate of error
4. Whether the theory has is generally accepted within the relevant scientific community.

Critics of recovered memory argue that the phenomenon of recovered memory, as well as related scientific theories and biological mechanisms, do not satisfy the Daubert criteria as relevant and reliable science. Thus, they argue that testimony based on recovered memories is inadmissible as evidence in court.

However, the phenomenon of accurately recovering memories has been shown to satisfy the Daubert criteria, and as such is reliable as evidence in court:

Recovered Memories: The Current Weight of the Evidence in Science and in the Courts
In a 126 page review of how scientific evidence, the Daubert criteria, and opposing arguments manifest in court, Brown concludes that “For the purpose of a Daubert hearing, the generally accepted opinion in the general psychiatric community is that repressed memories or dissociative amnesia exists.”

Excerpt: “Our conclusion, consistent with previous critical reviews, is that the weight of the scientific evidence strongly favors the position that substantial forgetting of childhood sexual abuse and its later recovery is a commonly observed phenomenon in a sizable minority of people.” [3]

Recovered Memory and the Daubert Criteria: Recovered Memory as Professionally Tested, Peer Reviewed, and Accepted in the Relevant Scientific Community
Dalenberg presents a 30 page analysis of scientific evidence backing the phenomenon of recovered memories, as well as refuting common arguments claiming recovered memories are inaccurate and unqualified as evidence.

Excerpt from the abstract: “Research during the past two decades has firmly established the reliability of the phenomenon of recovered memory. This review first highlights the strongest evidence for the phenomenon itself and discusses the survey, experimental, and biological evidence for the varying mechanisms that may underlie the phenomenon… It is concluded that the weight of the evidence should allow the recovered memory victim to come before the court. [4]

Excerpt: “The phenomenon of recovered memory does meet the Daubert standard… There should be no negative assumption as to the accuracy of the recovered memory victim (as compared to the alleged continuous memory victim) in courts of law. Both should be subject to the same standards of proof for their allegations.” [4]

Memorandum and Order: Shahzade v. Gregory
In 1996, Judge Edward Harrington of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts ruled that recovered memories were admissible as evidence in court under the Daubert criteria, dismissing a defendant's motion that recovered memories are unqualified as evidence.
Here are two notable quotes from the ruling:
“After considering these factors, this Court finds that the reliability of the phenomenon of repressed memory has been established, and therefore, will permit the plaintiff to introduce evidence which relates to the plaintiff's recovered memories.”
“Repressed memories [are] not a scientific controversy, but merely a political and forensic one.” [5]

Forensic Expert Jim Hopper serves as an expert witness in court, providing evidence that accurately recovering childhood memories of abuse is generally accepted by the scientific community and serves as admissible evidence under the Daubert criteria. Through his work, many courts have decided similarly that recovered memories satisfy the Daubert criteria and are admissible as evidence in court.


[1] Roberts, John. (1997, January 14). [Announcement of involvement in a case in New Hampshire.] Day of Contrition Revisited, Salem, MA, USA.

[2] Commonwealth v. Shanley, Brief of Amicus Curiae, False Memory Syndrome Foundation. No. SJC-10382 (Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 2009)

[3] Brown, D., Scheflin, A. W., & Whitfield, C. L. (1999). Recovered Memories: The Current Weight of the Evidence in Science and in the Courts. The Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 27(1), 5–156. doi:10.1177/009318539902700102

[4] Dalenberg, C. (2006). Recovered Memory and the Daubert Criteria. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 7(4), 274–310. doi:10.1177/1524838006294572

[5] Shahzade v. Gregory, 923 Federal Supplement 286 (D. Mass. 1996)

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