For last week's discussion we were assigned to read an article on the Paul Ingram case. The tragic story started when Paul's daughter, Ericka, went on a church retreat and was confronted by a speaker, Karla Franko. Franko insisted that she, "felt the Lord prompting her with information," and proceeded to tell Ericka that she had been sexually abused as a child. Once home, Ericka and her sister, Julie, began making accusations against their father, Paul, claiming that he had in fact molested them as children. Paul eventually confessed to the events after he had been manipulated, brainwashed and interrogated while secluded in jail.
This particular case arouses the question; did Paul actually sexually abuse his two daughters? Many may answer this question without any hesitation saying, "of course he did, he admitted it." However, they fail to acknowledge other very important aspects concerning the case.
In chapter seven of the Lilienfeld text, it introduces the idea of suggestive memory techniques and false memories. Suggestive memory techniques are described as persistent methods that work hard to assist people in recalling their memories, often creating recollections that were never present to begin with (false memories). These two concepts or ideas played a huge role in the Paul Ingram case, starting with Franko planting false memories in Ericka's head. Then while Paul was in jail, his Priest would relay the daughter's most recent story in full detail and constantly urge him to confess which caused him to also develop false memories. Furthermore, Dr. Richard Ofshe conducted an experiment that would test Paul's false memories. The study consisted of Ofshe explaining in vivid detail an event to Paul that never actually took place and then asking Paul to pray on it that night. The following day, Paul gave Ofshe a three-page confession of the event. Although this study proved of great significance, it was ignored due to Paul's inability to admit that it was not real.
I think that these concepts are very important and they should have been taken into greater consideration during Paul's case. Because police failed to further evaluate these concepts and how they related to Paul, an innocent man was forced to serve fifteen years of his life behind bars.
Paul's confession was heard well over the lack of evidence and the questionable stories that his daughters provided. Why? Was it because the girls made multiple, detailed claims? Or was it because Paul failed to deny any of the claims? Is everybody susceptible to false memories? Do false memories have enough validity to be used in the justice system?
Click here to watch an experiment about creating false memories.