The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Science

[Note: Friends of Justice is a personal blog. I speak only for myself.]

Dear Friend of Justice,

This afternoon my partner Jim D’Entremont and I will be attending the hearing on the new-trial motion of Paul Shanley ( This case, as most of you know, hinges on the junk-science “theory of repressed memory.” (Usually referred to as “recovered memory,” but that usage is somewhat misleading. Every time we remember anything we can be said to “recover” a memory.)

In an article in today’s Boston Globe, Middlesex DA Gerry Leone is quoted as saying, “The concept of recovered memory by victims of abuse has been accepted by both the scientific and legal communities…”

That statement, of course, is a lie. But it is a lie that few Globe readers will question. Had Mr. Leone said, “The concept of astrology has been accepted by both the scientific and legal communities..,” his statement would probably have raised a few eyebrows. Yet there is no more evidence for repressed memory than there is for astrology.

Repressed memory has, unfortunately, been accepted by a great many prosecutors. But that is because it enables them to win cases they would otherwise lose. Scientific validity is seldom a matter of concern to such people.

But support for the theory of repressed memory in the scientific community is almost nonexistent. The “scientists” who support this theory are, for the most part, crackpots.

Consider, for example, Dr. Corydon Hammond, one of the principal authors of Memory, Trauma Treatment, and the Law. This is an award-winning book published by Harvard University. It is perhaps the bible of the repressed-memory cult. I’m sure Mr. Leone would not hesitate in saying that Dr. Hammond is a leading scientist who “accepts” (and promotes) the theory of repressed memory.

One wonders what Mr. Leone would say if he were to read this speech by Dr. Hammond (

Many of you have already read this speech. But I suggest you take a little time to read it again.

I think any reasonable person reading the Greenbaum speech would conclude that Dr. Hammond is not playing with a full deck.

Unfortunately, neither are a great many Massachusetts prosecutors, journalists, and politicians.

The battle against ignorance and bigotry is indeed difficult. But to abandon it is to abandon our humanity.

-Bob Chatelle