BRENTWOOD — A hearing to dismiss a sexual abuse case against a Derry man took an unusual turn last week, when the defense argued the alleged victim’s memories are false using a study of people who believed they were abducted by aliens.
The hearing July 5 was the second dealing with the defense’s move earlier this year to throw out 18 counts of sexual abuse and incest against Murray Huber, 57, based on the assertion that the alleged victim’s memories were unreliable.
The Derry News/Eagle-Tribune does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
The prosecution has argued that the victim didn’t disclose the abuse earlier due to fear and trauma. The defense says her memories of abuse were falsified “recovered memories,” which some psychologists believe can be repressed due to trauma. Recovered memories are not admissible as evidence in New Hampshire.
During the hearing, expert witness Harvard professor Dr. Harrison Pope testified that the victim’s memories are likely false, citing a 2003 study that tested whether highly improbable traumatic events — in this case, alien abductions — could induce emotional and physical symptoms like post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep paralysis, anxiety and more. That study, he said, indicates that the victim could have experienced PTSD or other psycho-physical reactions, even if the abuse had not actually happened.
“The study found that when these people were recalling the supposed abduction, they experienced a full gambit of emotional responses,” Pope testified. “It shows that the emotional reactions that are displayed by an individual when recalling a memory does not tell us whether memory is true or false.”
The alleged victim reported the sexual abuse to police last year after disclosing it to her boyfriend and seeking treatment for depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Officials had investigated Huber more than a decade ago when the victim reported that he had gotten into bed with her, but did not unearth any indications of sexual abuse.
Pope testified that there are several indicators that her memories are false, including that she did not report the alleged abuse previously. He testified that she told her boyfriend she had previously forgotten the abuse.
“My opinion... to a reasonable medical certainty is that (the victim) was not able to remember the punitive sexual abuse prior to 2015,” Pope said, noting upon cross-examination that he had assembled evidence that weighed in favor of his opinion.
Neither Pope nor the expert witness for the prosecution, Dr. Scott Hampton, interviewed the victim or has seen all of her therapists’ notes.
Disclosing information about abuse many years after the events and in fragments is not unusual, Hampton testified.
“The defense’s arguments seems to be based on the assumption that not disclosing means that they do not recall the events. But disclosure is not the default. ... There are reasons why we have mandatory reporting laws,” he said.
Whether the case continues to trial depends if judge Marguerite Wageling determines the victim’s memories real. Her decision is expected sometime in August.