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September 1938

NEGATION OR REVERSAL OF LEGAL TESTIMONY

Author Affiliations

Eloise, Mich.

From the Eloise Hospital.

Arch NeurPsych. 1938;40(3):548-553. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1938.02270090142007

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Abstract

The spontaneous, sincere and apparently completely unmotivated negation, reversal or alteration of condemnatory legal testimony previously given by credible witnesses constitutes a difficult and confusing problem. Although found more often by the psychiatrist than by the jurist, such change of testimony can, and not infrequently does, entail serious legal difficulties.

Such alteration of testimony is characterized by a complete change in the beliefs and understandings of the witness, effected by unrecognized factors within the personality. It occurs most frequently among the witnesses who are themselves the injured parties and, hence, have presumably every reason for telling only the truth, and it develops usually in relation to crimes of a personally horrifying, traumatic or repugnant character.

Because of the significance of this type of behavior psychiatrically as well as legally, the following material from the histories in two illustrative cases is presented as a clinical note for the purpose of directing

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