Within the past few weeks, NBC news anchor Brian Williams has been in the spotlight of media attention, not because of his anchoring skills, but because of a story he told about himself. In 2003, Williams was in Iraq and riding in a helicopter when the helicopter in front of the one in which he was riding came under fire by a rocket propelled grenade. However, over the years Williams changed his story. He recounted on several occasions, including on television broadcasts that he was actually a passenger in the helicopter that came under fire. He also recounted how hard the landing was after the RPG hit the helicopter.
Williams has made several public apologies for his false story, including in Stars and Stripes newspaper in which he stated, “‘I would not have chosen to make this mistake. I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.'” What if this story was not a mistake that Williams chose to make? What if his mind really screwed up?
A false memory could be the reason behind Williams’s fabricated account of the events that took place in 2003. False memories are recollections of events that are misrepresented and inaccurate. False memories are very real and can become implanted in a person’s brain causing him or her to believe the false memory as truth of the event that happened. Memories become falsified due to a number of factors, such as a suggestion, prior existing knowledge and memories, and distortion of the actual event that took place. Over time, the false memories can become more clear and easier to believe for the person who has the memory. New information or happenings could also be integrated into the existing memory over time. False memories also have a tendency to appear more frequently when the original memory has faded away due to lapse of time. It is very likely that Williams could have suffered from a false memory of the events that occurred in 2003 because a period of 12 years has passed.
People who suffer from having false memories are often believed, until some piece of information is offered to prove otherwise. The downfall of Brian Williams’s story came when soldiers came forward who were in the helicopter that hit with the RPG and said “Williams was nowhere near the helicopter shot down.” Now Williams has been suspended from NBC news for a period of six months for his falsified account of what happened in 2003.
False memories have the potential of causing false convictions of defendants in criminal proceedings. What many people do not realize is how often and why false memories happen. False memories are very common and can be completely untrue accounts. These memories are also very common for children because they are highly suggestible and easily absorb information from their surroundings.
Smith Blythe, PC realizes the significance of false memories in handling complex criminal sexual conduct cases. Our practice focuses on defending those accused of criminal sexual conduct against minors. These cases are the most difficult criminal sexual conduct cases out there because the alleged victim will talk as if it’s a true memory of abuse. It is critical to hire an attorney with experience in this area if you have been accused of CSC, especially by a child, adolescent or teenager. Call us to set up a consultation today.