I'm really enjoying this thread and I have been skeptical in regard to many elements of the Baker encounter for a number of years. Even trivial things like whether or not a civilian like
Truly is going to sprint up several sets of stairs (each floor had a shorter double set) ahead of a police officer who has his pistol drawn. Cambell's statement has always gotten my attention
since it showed up immediately in news reports.
I think we also have a good deal of instances where witness testimony tends to "converge" around the official story after the first day or so, you can see that in comparing
first day statements with latter testimony. But in addition to that, I would like to repeat the cautions about memory and witness reliablity from a post I put up on my blog some
time ago. Its caution about using anything other than essentially first day or so memories is something we need to take very seriously. The blog entry follows:
I've been doing some reading recently on the reliability of witness testimony, an issue that has fragmented our research for decades. For reference on the subject, I would heartily
recommend Sherry Fiester's new book Enemy of the Truth - which contains a detailed professional analysis of just what you can and cannot expect from ear and eye witnesses.
Sherry draws on her career in criminology and forensics for this and we really need to pay attention to her.
But beyond what we can expect from first hand witnesses, the other major issue is the time factor. In one classroom study, the instructor staged an impromptu incident and
asked his class to record what they had seen happen over the course of a minute or so. The incident actually involved someone running in and firing a gun at the
instructor, with blanks. The students immediately recorded their impressions and the results were actually quite good in terms of accuracy and similarity of observations.
However, when asked to write down their observations within only a week of time passing, all sorts of changes began to show up - number of shots fired, dialog heard, and
the clothing of the instructor and assailant. Not only did the individual descriptions start to change significantly but there was no longer general agreement among the witnesses.
In 1986 a psychology instructor performed a similar experiment following the Challenger disaster, a test of what is referred to as "flashbulb" memory. He then filed their responses
for three years and repeated the same questions with the students. In comparing the two sets of responses, a quarter of the class did not have a single memory a year later that
matched their initial response. In some instances students became quite irate, admitting that there was an issue but aggressively defending their current memory over their original
Clearly this must be a caution for all historical research. While many of us have long stressed first day evidence, we should probably be more candid about first day memories.
We have a host of interviews with witness beginning days, weeks, months and years later. The real question is if they were not on record as of Nov 22 or possibly Nov 23, can
we really rely on them, especially without some sort of independent corroboration?
PS...the Challenger study was done at Emory University by Professor Ulric Neisser