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Legal Decision: Borawick v. Shay
JOAN S. BORAWICK, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. MORRIE SHAY and CHRISTINE SHAY,
BORAWICK v. SHAY
Docket No. 94-7584
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 29707
December 19, 1994, Argued
October 17, 1995, Decided
PRIOR HISTORY: [*1] Plaintiff-appellant appeals from a final judgment entered on
May 10, 1994 by the United States District Court for the District of
Connecticut, (T.F. Gilroy Daly, J.), granting the defendants� motion for summary
judgment, following an in limine ruling prohibiting the plaintiff from
testifying based on hypnotically refreshed recollections of sexual abuse.
COUNSEL: HELEN L. McGONIGLE, Brookfield, CT, for Plaintiff-Appellant.
CHARLES W. FLEISCHMANN, Bridgeport, CT (GULASH & FLEISCHMANN, Bridgeport, CT),
JUDGES: Before: VAN GRAAFEILAND, WALKER, and CABRANES, Circuit Judges.
OPINION BY: WALKER
Opinion: Walker, Circuit Judge
This case presents an issue of first impression: the circumstances under which
an alleged victim of sexual abuse may testify as to memories of abuse following
therapeutic hypnosis. Plaintiff-appellant, Joan S. Borawick, appeals from a
final judgment entered on May 10, 1994 by the United States District Court for
the District of Connecticut (T.F. Gilroy Daly, District Judge), adopting the
recommendations of Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis and entering summary
judgment in favor of defendants, Morrie and Christine Shay, whom Borawick
accused [*2] of sexually abusing her as a child. This judgment for defendants
followed an in limine ruling prohibiting the plaintiff from testifying based on
hypnotically refreshed recollections of sexual abuse. Borawick v. Shay, 842 F.
Supp. 1501, 1508 (D. Conn. 1994).
Borawick, who is currently thirty-eight years old and a citizen of California,
brought a diversity tort action alleging that her aunt and uncle, Christine and
Morrie Shay, Connecticut citizens, sexually abused her in the summers of 1961
and 1964, when she visited them at their home at the ages of four and seven,
respectively. At the time, she lived in Seattle. Borawick had no memory of the
alleged abuse for more than twenty years.
During the fall of 1984, Borawick began to experience panic attacks. When they
continued, in the winter of 1985, she sought and received treatment or. five or
six occasions with a psychiatrist, Dr. Irwin Ruben. From April, 1986 through
July, 1987, Dr. Anthony Reading, a clinical psychologist, continued the
treatment. In the spring of 1987, she also sought medical treatment for chronic
physical illness with Dr. Ronald Peters, a medical doctor and part owner of the
Pacific Medical [*3] Center (�PMC�) in Santa Monica, California. PMC�s clientele
was largely composed of people from the entertainment industry.
After reviewing Borawick� s medical history of chronic illness, Dr. Peters
referred Borawick to Valerian St. Regis, a hypnotist who worked under Peter�s
supervision, since �problems in childhood� sometimes cause chronic illness and
are susceptible to recall through hypnosis. Borawick underwent twelve to
fourteen hypnotic sessions with St. Regis from the summer of 1987 through the
fall of 1988. Before and immediately following these sessions, she had no
recollection of abuse, much less of any abuse by these defendants.
When deposed in 1993, St. Regis testified that he had no permanent records
relating to the hypnosis of Borawick; however, prior to his deposition, he had
read a portion of Borawick�s deposition. St. Regis maintained that, before
hypnotizing Borawick, he had no expectation of the type of information that the
hypnosis would reveal. He explained that he used �regression therapy� to take
Borawick back to the age of between three and five years old. St. Regis also
testified that, in general, instead of using hypnotic suggestion with Borawick,
he asked [*4] broad questions such as �what happened?,� �what do you remember?,�
or �what do you recall?�
St. Regis testified that Borawick revealed under hypnosis that her aunt,
defendant Christine Shay, persuaded Borawick, at age four, to strip and engage
in �ritual dancing.� St. Regis further stated that during hypnosis Borawick
described anal object penetration by Christine Shay, as well as another incident
in which her aunt inserted a �cap pistol in [Borawick�s] vagina.� St. Regis also
testified that during hypnotic sessions, Borawick disclosed that her uncle,
defendant Morrie Shay, anally raped her. St. Regis did not know whether the
alleged anal rape involved penile insertion or object insertion.
St. Regis testified that he did not reveal to Borawick what she had described
during the sessions, because, in his opinion, such revelations would have been
�devastating� and would probably surface in time. Borawick attended her last
session with St. Regis in the fall of 1988.
Borawick testified in her deposition that during the second week of February,
1989, several months after her final hypnotic session, she experienced her first
non-hypnotic memory of sexual abuse by her father, who [*5] is not a defendant
in this case. Following this initial recollection, according to Borawick,
subsequent memories surfaced in Abits and pieces.� Her first memory concerning
defendant Christine Shay allegedly occurred on February 10, 1989. On that date,
Borawick first recalled her aunt vaginally raping her with a pistol. In late
1990 or early 1991, she first remembered an incident when Christine Shay forced
Aa broomstick into [Borawick�s] vagina. �Borawick also stated that she regained
memory of being naked in the presence of her aunt and Ahaving to dance around.�
Borawick testified that her memory of being anally raped by defendant Morrie
Shay surfaced in 1990. In addition to recalling sexual abuse by her father,
aunt, and uncle, Borawick also claims sexual abuse by numerous others, including
family members and her father�s friends. More detailed references to these
individuals and their various �rituals� and other alleged abusive conduct are
described in the sealed portion of the appendix.
On January 24, 1992, Borawick commenced this action, seeking compensatory and
punitive damages from Morrie Shay and Christine Shay for their alleged willful,
wanton, and malicious sexual exploitation [*6] of her in 1961 and 1964. Borawick,
842 F. Supp. at 1501. Judge Daly denied plaintiff�s motion to enlarge time for
discovery on July 23, 1992. On November 4, 1992, defendants filed a motion in
limine seeking to exclude the plaintiff�s testimony. The in limine motion was
referred to Magistrate Judge Joan Glazer Margolis. Borawick�s second motion to
enlarge time for discovery, filed on February 10, 1993, was not ruled upon.
After an initial ruling on March 24, 1993 that set forth the test the magistrate
judge would follow in deciding the in limine motion and after receiving further
written submissions, the magistrate judge issued a supplemental ruling on May
26, 1993. The ruling recommended granting the defendants� motion in limine to
exclude Borawick�s testimony, principally on the ground that St. Regis was �not
appropriately qualified.� Borawick, 842 F. Supp. at 1508.
While Borawick�s objections to the magistrate judge�s initial and supplemental
ruling were pending before the district judge, the United States Supreme Court
decided Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469, 113 S. Ct.
2786 (1993). Accordingly, the plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the in
limine rulings [*7] on the ground that the therapeutic use of hypnosis and her
resultant testimony satisfied Daubert. Borawick submitted as additional evidence
copies of two letters purportedly received from her younger sister in 1989. Both
referenced sexual assault against the sister, and one expressly identified the
defendants as the perpetrators. Borawick also submitted two expert affidavits,
one from a board-certified psychiatrist, Matthew Klein, M.D., and one from a
clinical and forensic psychologist, Anne Pratt, M.D., as further support that
the therapeutic use of hypnosis is widely accepted in the mental health
community and is used for treatment of victims of sexual abuse. The defendants
filed a reply and objection to plaintiff�s objections, including a letter dated
August 1, 1992, also allegedly written by the younger sister, that recanted her
earlier allegations. Upon reconsideration, the magistrate judge adhered to her
earlier recommended ruling. Borawick, 842 F.Supp. at 1509. On January 10. 1994,
the district court adopted the magistrate judge�s recommendation. Id. at 1501.
Shortly thereafter, the defendants moved for summary judgment. After the
magistrate judge issued a recommended [*8] ruling granting the defendants�
motion, the plaintiff refiled and the district court retained and denied a
motion by Borawick dated February 10, 1993 to reopen discovery and to enlarge
the time for taking depositions. On May 10, 1994, final judgment was entered in
favor of the defendants. Borawick appeals from this judgment. n1
n1 The Record on Appeal includes both an original record from the district court
after oral argument and a supplemental record submitted pursuant to a
stipulation approved by the district judge.
Borawick raises the following claims on appeal: (1) the district court erred in
granting the in limine motion because it applied the incorrect legal rule
regarding the admissibility of hypnotically refreshed testimony; (2) the
district court�s ruling was inconsistent with the holding in Daubert v. Merrell
Dow Pharmaceuticals, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469, 113 S. Ct. 2786 (1993); (3) the district
court violated Borawick�s right to a jury trial in granting the in limine
motion, which resulted in a summary judgment [*9] in favor of the defendants;
(4) the district court deprived her of due process in its rulings on Borawick�s
1. Admissibility of Post-Hypnotic Testimony
This circuit has yet to address the admissibility of post-hypnotic testimony of
memories elicited as a result of hypnosis. While numerous state and federal
courts have considered this issue, nearly all of them dealt with recall in the
context of hypnosis that was specifically intended to enhance a memory of a
particular known or suspected occurrence. The parties have not cited, nor are we
aware of, any case concerning the specific issue before us: the admissibility of
testimony about memories of childhood sexual abuse that are recalled for the
first time in adulthood following the use of hypnosis as part of psychotherapy.
A. District Court�s Approach
Judge Daly and Magistrate Judge Margolis were highly sensitive to the various
concerns surrounding post-hypnotic testimony. The district court recognized
that, although most of the case law concerns situations in which hypnosis was
used to refresh a victim�s or witness�s memory of a crime or accident, the
hypnosis in this case was used for therapeutic as opposed [*10] to investigative
purposes. Borawick, 842 F. Supp. at 1503B05. Giving credence to Borawick�s claim
that her �psychological injuries caused by childhood sexual abuse are different
than for victims of other torts, and that victims of sexual abuse may repress
conscious memories of the abuse for years,� the district court concluded that
hypnosis is appropriate for the type of repression and loss of memory Borawick
allegedly experienced. Id. at 1505.
Before testimony induced by hypnosis would be admissible, however, the district
court determined that certain safeguards were necessary �not only to bolster a
plaintiff�s legitimate claims for childhood sexual abuse, but also to protect a
defendant against devastating charges.� Id. These safeguards were that (1) the
hypnotist be appropriately qualified, (2) the hypnotist �avoid adding new
elements to the subject�s description,� (3) �a permanent record be available to
ensure against suggestive procedures,� and (4) there be �other evidence to
corroborate the hypnotically enhanced testimony.� Id. The linchpin of the
district court�s ultimate decision to exclude Borawick�s testimony was its
finding as to the first safeguard: that St. [*11] Regis was not qualified. n2
Id. at 1509 & n.5. The district court did not address the third element, but
noted that St. Regis was not able to produce the reports that he claimed to have
prepared contemporaneously, Id. at 1507. The district court suggested, however,
that the second safeguard was met in that there was �no indication that St.
Regis added new elements to plaintiff�s descriptions while under hypnosis.� Id.
at 1508. Given these findings, particularly St. Regis�s lack of qualifications,
the district court saw no need to decide whether the corroborating evidence
Borawick offered satisfied the fourth safeguard. Id. at 1508 n.5. With two of
the four safeguards not met, the district court granted the in limine motion to
exclude Borawick�s testimony of sexual abuse.
n2 The court initially found the record devoid of any information regarding St.
Regis�s qualifications and any safeguards he may have used in conducting the
hypnosis of Borawick. Borawick was given the opportunity to supplement the
record by deposing St. Regis and to offer any corroborating evidence. Id. at
B. Borawick�s Claims
Borawick first contends that the district court erred in characterizing her
recall of sexual abuse as hypnotically refreshed. Rather, she asserts, these
memories may have �unfolded on their own� even without therapeutic hypnosis.
Based on the timing and nature of the recollections, however, we discern no
basis for disturbing the district court�s finding that the memories were in fact
refreshed by hypnosis.
The gravamen of Borawick�s appeal is that even if her testimony were to be
construed as post-hypnotic, the district court erred in adopting its legal test
in requiring both independent corroborating evidence and a permanent record of
the hypnosis. She also argues that the district court clearly erred in
concluding that St. Regis was not qualified as a hypnotist. Instead, Borawick
argues, she should be deemed competent to testify under Federal Rule of Evidence
601, which reflects a strong presumption in favor of witness competency, and
that this circuit should adopt a rule of per se admissibility of testimony
related to memories following the use of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes.
C. Standard of Review
Before turning to the merits of this case, [*13] we address the appropriate
standard of review. Borawick argues that because the exclusionary rule resulted
in her inability to oppose the summary judgment motion, which led to her
ultimate defeat on the summary judgment motion, we should review the challenge
de novo. The Shays contend that because this is an evidentiary issue, the
district court had broad discretion and we should therefore review its decision
for abuse of discretion.
Our review must be de novo on the question whether, in exercising its discretion
to admit evidence, the district court applied the proper legal test. See A/S
Dampskibsselskcabet Torm v. Beaumont Oil Ltd., 927 F.2d 713, 716 (2d Cir.),
cert. denied, 502 US. 862, 116 L. Ed. 2d 144, 112 S. Ct. 183 (1991). We review
the district court�s finding that St. Regis was unqualified for clear error. Id.
D. What Is Hypnosis?
While �there is no single, generally accepted theory of hypnosis, [or] consensus
about a single definition,� Council on Scientific Affairs, �Scientific Status of
Refreshing Recollection by the Use of Hypnosis,� 253 JAMA 1918, 1919 (1985)
[hereinafter, Scientific Affairs], A �there is considerable consensus at the
descriptive level� as to how the [phenomenon] [*14] manifests itself in the
hypnotized individual,� 27 Charles A. Wright & Victor J. Gold, Federal Practice
and Procedure: Evidence ' 6011, at 116 (1990) [hereinafter Federal Practice]
(quoting Orne, �On the Simulating Subject as a Quasi-Control Group in Hypnosis
Research, What Why and How,� in Hypnosis: Developments in Research and New
Perspectives, 519B21 [E. Fromm & R. E. Shor, eds., 2d ed., 1979]). The American
Medical Association has described hypnosis as a temporary condition of altered
attention in the subject which may be induced by another person and in which a
variety of phenomena may appear spontaneously or in response to [verbal] or
other stimuli. These phenomena include alterations in consciousness and memory,
increased susceptibility to suggestion, and the production in the subject of
responses and ideas unfamiliar to him in his usual state of mind.
People v. Zayas, 131 Ill. 2d 284, 546 N.E.2d 513, 515B16, 137 Ill. Dec. 568
(Ill. 1989) (alteration in original) (quotations omitted).
As early as 1958, the American Medical Association recognized hypnosis as a
valid therapeutic technique. Council on Medical Health of the American Medical
Association, �Medical Uses of Hypnosis,� 168 JAMA [*15] 186, 187 (1958). It has
been found useful in psychotherapy, in the treatment of psychosomatic illness,
to alleviate pain or as a substitute for anesthesia, and for memory recall. See
People v. Hughes, 59 N.Y.2d 523, 533; 466 N.Y.S.2d 255, 259, 453 N.E.2d 484
(1983); Jacqueline Kanovitz, �Hypnotic Memories and Civil Sexual Abuse Trials,�
45 Vand. L. Rev. 1185, 1210 n.101 (l992). Hypnosis has been credited with
restoring lost memories that include repressed memories of painful experiences.
Federal Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 117; see also Kanovitz, supra, at 1225 &
n.168 (1992). It has sometimes been useful in developing leads in criminal
investigations. See Harker v. Maryland, 800 F.2d 437, 440 (4th Cir. 1986)
(noting that �Dr. Martin Orne, a psychiatrist and frequent expert witness,
believes that ��hypnosis may be useful in some instances to help bring back
forgotten memories following an accident or a crime.�� (quoting Orne, �The Use
and Misuse of Hypnosis in Court,� 27 Int. J. Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis
311, 317B18 ); see Hughes, 59 N. Y.2d at 533; 466 N.Y.S.2d at 259; Federal
Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 118B19. Despite these successes, many in the field
[* 16] remain skeptical of the reliability of hypnosis as a technique for
refreshing or restoring memory. Hughes, 59 N.Y.2d at 533; 466 N.Y.S.2d at 259
(noting it provides �at best mixed results� in criminal investigations).
Empirical studies calling into question the ability of hypnosis to restore
memory effectively have engendered �considerable controversy� concerning the
validity of using hypnosis for that purpose. Scientific Affairs, supra, at 1918.
Thus �the popular belief that hypnosis guarantees the accuracy of recall is as
yet without established foundation,� Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U.S. 44, 59, 97 L.
Ed. 2d 37. 107 S. Ct. 2704 (1987), and no consensus has been reached regarding
the ability of hypnosis to enhance memory. Scientific Affairs, supra, at 1918.
The controversy over the effectiveness of hypnosis in memory enhancement centers
in large part on disagreements concerning theories of memory. Those scientists
who are most optimistic about the role of hypnosis in memory recall
conceptualize a process whereby the brain records and stores sensory input
accurately, much like a videotape. Recall is the ability to �play back� that
tape, and loss of memory is the inability to retrieve that information. [*17]
See Little v. Armontrout, 819 F.2d 1425, 1429 (8th Cir.), aff�d, 835 F.2d 1240
(8th Cir. 1987) (en banc), cert. denied, 487 U.S. 1210, 101 L. Ed. 2d 894, 108
S. Ct. 2857 (1988); Harker, 800 F.2d at 439; United States v. Valdez, 722 F.2d
1196, 1200 (5th Cir. 1984); Scientific Affairs, supra, at 1920. Under this
theory, hypnosis simply enhances the retrieval process.
Many scientists reject this theory, however. They view memory recall as �much
more complex and much less accurate than previously thought.� State v. Tuttle,
780 P.2d 1203, 1210 (Utah 1989), cert. denied, 494 U.S. 1018, 108 L. Ed. 2d 498,
110 S. Ct. 1323 (1990); see Scientific Affairs, supra, at 1920. Instead, they
espouse a �construction theory� of memory, which holds that a memory is formed
and influenced by numerous factors when the mind creates and integrates the
information from an event �into the memory representation of that event.�
Valdez, 722 F.2d at 1200. The composite created by this process is malleable and
evolves over time as additional input is received. In fact, a leading proponent
of this theory has written that memory is Abeing continually remade [and]
reconstructed in the interest of the present,� F. Bartlett, Remembering 213
[*18] (reprint 1964) (1932), quoted in Little, 819 F.2d at 1429.
The �constructivists� are highly skeptical of any view that hypnosis can
effectively and accurately enhance memory. They believe that because hypnosis
has the power to contribute to memory reconstruction, it can create inaccurate
memories. In other words, if present events can contribute to a construction of
a memory that differs from that which was originally perceived and if the
process of hypnosis is such an event, then hypnosis may distort memory.
The courts have identified several problems with the reliability of hypnotically
refreshed recall. First, a person undergoing hypnosis becomes more susceptible
to suggestion. The subject may be influenced by verbal and nonverbal cues,
intentionally or unintentionally planted by the hypnotist. This suggestibility
may be enhanced by the perception that hypnosis will refresh one�s memory and by
a wish to please the hypnotist. See Rock, 483 U.S. at 59B60; Little, 819 F.2d at
1429; Hughes, 59 N.Y.2d at 534B35, 466 N. Y.S.2d at 260; State v. Hurd, 86 N.J.
525, 432 A.2d 86, 93 (N.J. 1981).
In addition, a hypnotized person may �confabulate,� that is, fill in the gaps in
her [*19] memory to make it comprehensible. The added details may be derived
from irrelevant or unrelated facts or from pure fantasy. See Rock, 483 U.S. at
60; Little, 819 F.2d at 1429B30. Like suggestibility, confabulation can occur as
a result of the subject�s desire to please the hypnotist by coming up with
complete and coherent memories. See Harker, 800 F.2d at 440; Pearson v. State,
441 N.E.2d 468, 471 (Ind. 1982) (citing Levitt, �The Use of Hypnosis to
>Freshen� the Memory of Witnesses or Victims,� Trial, April 1981, at 56);
Hughes, 59 N.Y.2d at 535, N.Y.S.2d at 260.
A third problem with hypnotically refreshed recall is �memory hardening,� a
phenomenon which gives the subject enhanced confidence in the facts remembered,
whether they be true or false. See Rock, 483 U.S. at 60; Harker, 800 F.2d at
440; Hughes, 59 N.Y. 2d at 535, N.Y.S.2d at 260 (describing experiments that
demonstrate this phenomenon). Even as inaccurate recollections increase, the
subject�s confidence is likely to remain constant or even to increase. In 1985 a
leading scientific journal reported that no studies have shown �an increase in
accuracy associated with an appropriate increase [*20] in confidence in the
veracity of recollections.� Scientific Affairs, supra, at 1921. The lack of
correlation between the accuracy of recall and the subject�s confidence in the
accuracy makes it more difficult for a jury or even an expert to judge the
credibility of hypnotically-enhanced testimony, see Hurd, 432 A.2d at 93B94, and
makes cross-examination difficult, Rock, 483 U.S. at 60.
Finally, after undergoing hypnosis to refresh memory, individuals may lose the
ability to assess their memory critically and be more prone to speculation than
if they had relied only on normal memory recall. Little, 819 F.2d at 1430B31.
The subject becomes less able �to discriminate between accurate and inaccurate
recollections.� Scientific Affairs, supra, at 1921. He or she may also
experience �source amnesia,� believing that a statement heard prior to hypnosis
was a product of his or her own memory. Little, 819 F.2d at 1430.
As a result of the foregoing phenomena, the �hypnotically recalled memory is apt
to be a mosaic of (1) appropriate actual events, (2) entirely irrelevant actual
events, (3) pure fantasy, and (4) fantasized details supplied to make a logical
whole.� Bernard [*21] L. Diamond, �Inherent Problems in the Use of Pretrial
Hypnosis on a Prospective Witness,� 68 Cal. L. Rev. 313, 335 (1980); see
Scientific Affairs, supra, at 1921. In the worst case, someone who has undergone
hypnosis might �inaccurately reconstruct the memory ... and ... then become
convinced of the absolute accuracy of the reconstruction through memory
hardening.� Harker, 800 F.2d at 441. The �constructionist� views, supported as
they are in the scientific community, have considerable force. In our view, they
cannot easily be discounted when the integrity of the judicial fact-finding
process is at stake, particularly when no study has shown that hypnosis used to
refresh memory increases only accurate recall. Scientific Affairs, supra, at
E. Various Approaches to the Admissibility Question
The state and federal courts that have been faced with the admissibility of
hypnotically refreshed testimony have followed four different approaches. Some
courts treat all such testimony as per se admissible under the theory that
hypnosis does not render the witness incompetent, but goes to the question of
credibility. See, e.g., Kline v. Ford Motor Co., 523 [*22] F.2d 1067, 1069 (9th
Cir. 1975) (�That [a witness�s] present memory depends upon refreshment claimed
to have been induced under hypnosis goes to the credibility of her testimony not
to her competence as a witness.�); United States v. Waksal, 539 F. Supp. 834,
838 (S.D. Fla. 1982), rev�d on other grounds, 709 F.2d 653 (llth Cir. 1983);
Pearson, 441 N.E.2d at 473; Federal Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 123B24. This
position depends in considerable part on one�s faith in the jury�s ability to
evaluate the testimony accurately in light of cross-examination, expert
testimony relating to hypnosis, and jury instructions. Federal Practice, supra,
' 6011, at 124. Such an approach was particularly favored when courts were just
beginning to address the admissibility of hypnotically refreshed testimony, see
Tuttle, 780 P.2d at 1208, but it �has sparsely been followed since 1980,� Zayas,
546 N.E.2d at 516.
Courts at the other end of the spectrum have found that post-hypnotic testimony
is per se inadmissible because the witness is incompetent to testify regarding
such matters. See, e.g., Zayas, 546 N.E.2d at 518; Tuttle, 780 P.2d at 1211;
People v. Shirley,[*23] 31 Cal. 3d 18, 723 P.2d 1354, 1384, 181 Cal. Rptr. 243
(Cal.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 860 (l982). The common thread running through
these cases is that the possible distorting effects of hypnosis on memory are
impossible to circumvent and are so substantial that �the game is not worth the
candle.� Shirley, 723 P.2d at 1366. Worse yet, �hypnotism aggravates the
unreliability of normal memory.� Valdez, 722 F.2d at 1200 (referring to finding
of California Supreme Court). Reasoning that no safeguard can adequately ensure
reliability, these courts deem the evidence inadmissible. n3 See Shirley, at 723
P.2d at 1384. A number of courts apply a modified version of the rule by
confirming the witness�s testimony to matters recalled before undergoing
hypnosis. See, e.g., Tuttle, 780 P.2d at 1211; Hughes, 59 N.Y.2d at 545; 466
N.Y.S.2d at 266.
n3 Many courts have taken this position on the basis that the testimony does not
meet the requirements of Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923),
since there is no general acceptance in the scientific community that hypnosis
can reliably enhance memory. See Tuttle, 780 P.2d at 1209B10; Hughes, 59 N.Y:2d
at 543, 466 N.Y.S.2d at 265; Federal Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 132B33. This
rationale is now called into question with the Supreme Court�s decision in
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 2793
(1993), holding that the Federal Rules of Evidence supersede Frye. See Federal
Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 8 (Supp. 1995).
In Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U.S. 44, 97 L. Ed. 2d 37, 107 S. Ct. 2704 (1987), the
Supreme Court reviewed Arkansas�s rule that a criminal defendant�s hypnotically
refreshed testimony was per se inadmissible. While the Court recognized the
problems with hypnosis, it concluded that certain procedural safeguards could
reduce the potential inaccuracies of post-hypnotic testimony. Id. at 59B60.
Focusing on the due process right of criminal defendants to testify in their own
defense, id. at 51, the Sixth Amendment right to call witnesses in the
defendant�s favor, id. at 52, and the Fifth Amendment guarantee against
compelled testimony, id. at 52B53, the Court concluded that the rule of per se
inadmissibility was an �arbitrary restriction on the [criminal defendant�s]
right to testify in the absence of clear evidence by the State repudiating the
validity of all post-hypnosis recollections,� id. at 61. Consequently, the Court
deemed Arkansas�s prohibition unconstitutional. The Court, however, explicitly
limited the reach of its holding by refusing to express an opinion as to the
appropriate rule of admissibility �of testimony of previously hypnotized
witnesses other than criminal defendants.� Id. [*25] at 58 n. 15.
The third and fourth approaches occupy a middle ground. These attempt to balance
the competing concerns that animate the per se positions. The third approach,
articulated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the oft-cited State v. Hurd, 86
N. J. 525, 432 A.2d 86 (N.J. 1981), requires adherence to a list of prescribed
safeguards intended to ensure the reliability of hypnotically refreshed
testimony. The court concluded that Aa rule of per se inadmissibility is
unnecessarily broad and will result in the exclusion of evidence that is as
trustworthy as other eyewitness testimony.� 432 A . 2d at 94.
In light of recommendations offered by a frequent expert witness, Dr. Martin
Orne, the court adopted the following procedural requirements:
First, a psychiatrist or psychologist experienced in the use of hypnosis must
conduct the session. This professional should also be able to qualify as an
expert in order to aid the court in evaluating the procedures followed.
Second, the professional conducting the hypnotic session should be independent
of and not regularly employed by the prosecutor, investigator or defense.
Third, any information given to the hypnotist [*26] by law enforcement personnel
or the defense prior to the hypnotic session must be recorded, either in writing
or another suitable form.
Fourth, before inducing hypnosis the hypnotist should obtain from the subject a
detailed description of the facts as the subject remembers them [without] ...
asking structured questions or adding new details.
Fifth, all contacts between the hypnotist and the subject must be recorded.
Sixth, only the hypnotist and the subject should be present during any phase of
the hypnotic session, including the pre-hypnotic testing and the post-hypnotic
Id. at 96B97 (footnote omitted).
The presence of these safeguards, however, was not sufficient in Hurd for the
admissibility of post-hypnotic testimony. The trial court was also directed to
assess the reliability and the admissibility of the testimony in light of the
following non-exclusive list of considerations, id. at 96: �the kind of memory
loss that hypnosis was used to restore and the specific technique employed,� id.
at 95, whether the memory loss in question is �likely to yield normal recall if
hypnosis is properly administered,� and [*27] �whether the witness has any
discernible motivation for not remembering or for >recalling� a particular
version of the events,� id. at 96. Finally, the court held that the party
attempting to admit the hypnotically-enhanced testimony bears the burden of
demonstrating that the testimony is reliable based on the standards described.
Id. at 97.
Several courts have followed the Hurd guidelines or adopted similar ones. See
State v. Weston, 16 Ohio App.3d 279, 475 N.E.2d 805, 813 (Ohio App. 1984); House
v. State, 445 So. 2d 815, 826B27 (Miss. 1984); see also Federal Practice, supra,
' 6011, at 168.
Finally, the approach most frequently taken by the federal courts, Federal
Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 173, is a so-called case-by-case or
totality-of-the-circumstances approach, see, e.g., McQueen v. Garrison, 814 F.2d
951, 958 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 US. 944, 98 L. Ed. 2d 359, 108 S. Ct. 332
(1987); Wicker v. McCotter, 783 F.2d 487, 492B93 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 478
U.S. 1010, 92 L. Ed. 2d 723, 106 S. Cl. 3310 (l986); Sprynczynatyk v. General
Motors Corp., 771 F.2d 1112, 1123 (8th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1046,
89 L.. Ed. 2d 572, 106 S. Ct. 1263 (1986). While recognizing the benefits of the
Hurd guidelines, these courts conclude [*28] that the district court should be
given discretion to balance all of the factors to determine the reliability of
the evidence and the probative versus prejudicial effect of the testimony. They
note that even though the safeguards required by other courts
represent the type of general reliability inquiry that must be made[,] ... a
court cannot necessarily rest solely on the reliability vel non of the hypnosis
procedures in ruling on the admissibility of the proffered testimony. Even
though all of the Hurd safeguards might be employed, the defendant may still be
able to demonstrate by expert testimony that a witness�s memory has been
irreparably distorted by hypnosis. On the other hand, even if the hypnosis
procedures are flawed, a trial or appellate court might discern that a witness�s
testimony was nonetheless independent of the dangers associated with hypnosis.
McQueen, 8I4 F.2d at 958 (citations omitted). As the foregoing summary
indicates, the law continues to be in a state of flux regarding the reception of
hypnotically-enhanced testimony. See Federal Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 123.
F. Hypnosis as a Therapeutic Tool
The existing [*29] case law concerning the admissibility of post-hypnotic
testimony, while helpful to our analysis, is grounded in fact situations where
the hypnosis is specifically directed to the witness�s recollections of known
events, rather than where repressed memories of past traumas previously unknown
simply emerge following hypnosis. Borawick, relying heavily on a law review
article, Kanovitz, supra, at 1213, argues that hypnosis functions differently
and more reliably when it results in the retrieval of repressed memories of
traumatic events than when it is used to refresh one�s memory of eye-witnessed
events and therefore testimony relating to the former should be admitted on a
per se basis.
The research on hypnosis only uses subjects with normal memory function who are
exposed to simulations of real-life events to �replicate eyewitness situations,�
id. at 1212, 1223, since for practical and ethical reasons, it is impossible to
design effective controlled studies to test the ability of hypnosis to retrieve
accurate, suppressed memories of childhood trauma, id. at 1221B22. The Kanovitz
article sets forth some arguments in support of the view that hypnosis may be
better able to retrieve [*30] memories �kept out of conscious awareness by
ego-defenses that protect the psyche from trauma,� id. at 1194, than hypnosis
used for normal memory recall. In the clinical setting, hypnosis may overcome
the psychological barriers to remembering past traumas because it induces
profound relaxation and calmness, intensifies concentration, and focuses the
subject�s attention inward. Id. at 1213. In addition, the clinical literature
�abounds with case histories of spectacular memory successes.� Id. at 1225.
Finally, repressed memories of events that have a traumatic impact upon the
witness may, even if unconscious, tend to remain fixed and survive longer than
memories of events witnessed quickly, in the context of a great deal of other
sensory information. Id. at 1231B32.
Based on those reasons, the article concludes that courts should be more willing
to accept testimony based on retrieval of repressed memories than when hypnosis
is used to enhance eyewitness accounts, particularly since failure to admit
post-hypnotic testimony in cases like this one might discourage the use of
hypnosis in therapy. Therapists might fear that patients who discover they were
victimized as [*31] children could lose the opportunity for legal redress if
their testimony was based on post-hypnotic recall. See id. at 1255B56. Noting,
however, that clinical hypnosis is not without some risk of memory
distortion--for example, clinicians may �overstep the boundaries of interviewing
neutrality� and may be especially interested in their patients� �subjective
impressions� of their pasts, rather than accurate recollections, id. at 1218Cthe
Kanovitz article suggests that courts should ask �whether hypnosis can create
sexual abuse memories in subjects who have never experienced abuse.� Id. at
1220. Because the �only evidence that hypnosis can implant false
autobiographical memories comes from experiments with subjects who are
hand-picked for their high hypnotizability,� id. at 1235, a characteristic that
can be measured, id. at 1238, the article suggests that �high hypnotizability
[may be] a factor bearing on admissibility.� Id. at 1239.
While we appreciate the force of many of these arguments, the fact remains that
the literature has not yet conclusively demonstrated that hypnosis is a
consistently effective means to retrieve repressed memories of traumatic, [*32]
past experiences accurately. For example, the Council on Scientific Affairs has
pointed out that the case histories of Aspectacular memory successes� are
anecdotal and difficult to verify independently and there are no controlled
studies confirming these reports. Scientific Affairs, supra, at 1919. In
addition, some in the clinical community express reservations concerning the
theory of memory repression, or at least the phenomenon�s prevalence. See Julie
M. Murray, �Repression, Memory, and Suggestibility,� 66 U. Colo. L. Rev. 477,
505B08 (1995). Furthermore, we are highly skeptical of the belief in the
clinician�s ability to �weed out most patently groundless claims� because
childhood sexual abuse often �fits like a tailor-made glove� to certain
psychiatric disorders. Kanovitz, supra, at 1242. Some therapists may be too
eager to find patterns of behavior demonstrative of childhood sexual abuse. See
Murray, 66 U. Colo. L. Rev. at 507B08. But cf. Colette M. Smith, �Recovered
Memories of Alleged Sexual Abuse,� 18 Seattle Univ. L. Rev. 51, 61 (1994)
(noting that Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Judith Herman �believes that
therapists rarely wield enough power over [*33] patients to impose false
memories on them�). Therefore, even though there may be important distinctions
between the use of hypnosis to enhance memories of witnessed events and the use
of hypnosis to retrieve repressed memories, given the lack of empirical studies
as to the latter and the complicated nature of hypnotically-induced recall, we
are not willing to assume that the risks of suggestibility, confabulation, and
memory hardening are significantly reduced when the hypnosis that triggers the
testimony is used for therapeutic purposes.
G. Totality-of-the-Circumstances Approach
Based on our review of the literature and the case law, we conclude that the
district court was correct to reject a per se rule of admissibility or
inadmissibility. A per se rule of exclusion or inclusion is too blunt a tool
with which to address the concerns regarding the reliability of post-hypnotic
testimony or the concerns that people who have been sexually abused may lose an
opportunity to bring suit against their abusers.
To be sure, the exclusion of such testimony in every case avoids the problems of
unreliability, but it ignores Federal Rule of Evidence 601, which �abolished
almost all grounds [*34] for witness disqualification based on new assumptions
that took a more optimistic view of witness reliability and jury
perceptiveness.� Federal Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 124, 129. In addition. we
believe that it risks the elimination of reliable testimony. See State v.
Iwakiri, 106 Idaho 618, 682 P.2d 571, 577 (Idaho 1984).
On the other hand, to admit all such testimony without pause, even if the jury
is informed of the risks of the potential problems of hypnotically-enhanced
testimony, creates the danger of having a lay jury speculate as to the effects
of the hypnosis in the case before it. As a result, such an approach seems to us
inadequate to protect defendants from unfounded charges in either criminal or
civil suits. See Federal Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 127B28. While we appreciate
the care and sensitivity with which the district court chose its methodology, we
nevertheless find its approach too rigid and restrictive and prefer a
�totality-of-the-circumstances� approach. First, we believe that to treat the
presence or absence of safeguards as the sole criteria of admissibility may not
always mitigate the problems associated with hypnotically refreshed memory, and
it may [*35] �give hypnosis an aura of reliability which misleads the jury into
disregarding the remaining dangers.� Federal Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 169B70.
Second, like the Fourth Circuit, we are reluctant to treat the presence of
safeguards as a litmus test for determining the reliability of pre-trial
hypnosis, since even though the safeguards are relevant to the inquiry, �a court
cannot necessarily rest solely on the reliability vel non of the hypnosis
procedures in ruling on the admissibility of the proffered testimony.� McQueen,
814 F.2d at 958. Conversely, the absence of safeguards does not compel the
conclusion in every case that post-hypnotic testimony is unreliable: �Even if
the hypnosis procedures are flawed, a trial or appellate court might discern
that a witness�s testimony was nonetheless independent of the dangers associated
with hypnosis.� Id.; see also Iwakiri, 682 P.2d at 578 (AMerely because one of
the safeguards was not followed should not result in the automatic exclusion of
the entire testimony.�).
Thus, we believe that the rule of admissibility should be more flexible than the
one suggested by the district court and we therefore find preferable the [*36]
approaches taken by the Eighth Circuit in Sprynczynatyk, 771 F.2d at 1112, and
the Fourth Circuit in McQueen, 814 P.2d at 951. In Sprynczynatyk, the Eighth
Circuit required pretrial hearings to assess the procedures used in hypnosis to
determine �in view of all the circumstances,� whether the testimony was
sufficiently reliable and whether its probative value outweighed any prejudicial
effect. 771 F.2d at 1122.
In McQueen, the Fourth Circuit required the trial court to
conduct a balanced inquiry to determine if the testimony had a basis that was
independent of the dangers associated with hypnosis--in other words, a balanced
inquiry to determine whether a witness�s memory and ability to testify from it
was distorted by the earlier hypnosis. The balanced inquiry...can-not be
circumscribed by narrow considerations, and...must be determined by a detailed
factual analysis on a case-by-case basis.
814 F.2d at 958. Despite flawed hypnosis procedures, the Fourth Circuit
concluded that the hypnotically-enhanced testimony of a witness to a murder was
admissible because �considerable circumstantial evidence corroborated [the]
testimony,� id. [*37] at 959, her testimony �exhibited the characteristics
normally expected from a witness recalling details of facts five years after
their occurrence,� and there was �no indication of a memory unshakably frozen by
hypnosis,� id. at 961.
In conducting a case-by-case analysis, the district court should consider the
following non-exclusive list of factors. First, it should evaluate the purpose
of the hypnosis: whether it was to refresh a witness�s memory of an accident or
crime or whether it was conducted as part of therapy. In the former instance,
the subject may feel pressured to remember details, to aid the criminal
investigation, whereas when the subject has undergone therapy to explore the
sources of her psychological ailments, she may be less inclined to confabulate
or describe a complete coherent story. In the latter case, however, the court
should be mindful of the possibility that the subject may have received subtle
suggestions from her therapist that abuse or other traumas could be at the root
of her problems. Thus, a second important consideration is whether the witness
received any suggestions from the hypnotist or others prior to or during
hypnosis such as a theory of [*38] the cause of the subject�s ailments or key
information relevant to the investigation for which she underwent hypnosis. A
third and related factor is the presence or absence of a permanent record, which
can help the court ascertain whether suggestive procedures were used. Ideally,
the session should be videotaped or audiotaped. Fourth, a court should consider
whether the hypnotist was appropriately qualified by training in psychology or
psychiatry. A fifth factor is whether corroborating evidence exists to support
the reliability of the hypnotically refreshed memories. Sixth, evidence of the
subject�s hypnotizability may also be relevant. A highly hypnotizable subject
may be more prone to confabulate and more susceptible to suggestion. Seventh,
the court should consider any expert evidence offered by the parties as to the
reliability of the procedures used in the case. Finally, a pretrial evidentiary
hearing is highly desirable to enable the parties to present expert evidence and
to test credibility through cross-examination.
After consideration of all of the relevant circumstances, the trial court should
weigh the factors in favor of and against the reliability of the hypnosis
procedure [*39] in the exercise of its discretion whether to admit the
post-hypnotic testimony. Finally, we add that the party attempting to admit the
hypnotically-enhanced testimony bears the burden of persuading the district
court that the balance tips in favor of admissibility. Hurd, 432 A..2d at 97.
H. Application of Admissibility Approach to This Case
While we conclude that the test for admissibility adopted by the district court
in this case was insufficiently flexible, and while we believe that it would
have been more appropriate for the district judge to have conducted an
evidentiary hearing prior to issuing his ruling, we nonetheless affirm the
district court�s in limine ruling and subsequent summary judgment. Since in our
view the factors before the district court weighed decisively against the
admissibility of Borawick�s testimony, we are convinced that if the district
court had followed our test, it would have necessarily reached the same
conclusion. We see no point in remanding the case so that the district court can
reach the same finding.
First, Borawick�s assertions notwithstanding, it is beyond question that St.
Regis lacked adequate professional qualifications as a hypnotist. [*40] While a
panoply of academic qualifications is not necessary in all cir�cumstances for
one to qualify as an expert, there should be a general presumption in favor of
appropriate academic credentials. The district court�s finding that St. Regis
was not properly qualified finds ample support in the record: his formal
education ended with a high school diploma; he had no formal training in
psychiatry or psychotherapy; his hypnotic technique used an experimental cranial
electronic stimulator; he did not read the professional literature; and his work
experience prior to being a hypnotist at Pacific Medical Center was
intermittent. The fact that Dr. Peters, a medical doctor, self-servingly stated
that he considered St. Regis to be qualified is not enough to disturb the
district court�s determination.
There was also no permanent record of the procedures that St. Regis used, no
videotapes, audiotapes, or even contemporaneously-drafted medical reports
existed. 842 F. Supp. at 1507. As a result, the district court was not provided
with any means, independent of St. Regis�s testimony, to determine whether or
not he was inadvertently suggestive in his approach or otherwise used suspect
techniques [*41] in conducting the hypnosis. Without such a record, expert
testimony would have been of little value, since experts similarly would have
had no basis on which to evaluate the actual procedures St. Regis used.
Finally, we receive no comfort from the fact that St. Regis read excerpts from
Borawick�s deposition transcript prior to testifying himself. Given that he is
not qualified and that the record lacks any basis on which to assess the
reliability of the procedures he used, this circumstance further undermines the
value, if any, of his testimony.
Our conclusion is reinforced by the inherent incredibility of Borawick�s
allegations. In this case, Borawick has leveled fanciful accusations of sexual
abuse against numerous persons other than the defendants in this matter that
include persons both familiar and unfamiliar to her. For example, Borawick
allegedly recalls being raped and sexually abused at the age of three during
rituals by men whom she believed to be members of the Masons. She also purports
to recollect several incidents in which she was drugged by injection as well as
an incident in which she was forced to drink blood at a ritual involving a dead
pig, incense, chanting, [*42] and people dressed in black gowns. Several
additional incidents of a similarly unlikely nature involving sexual abuse by
others are included in the sealed record. That Borawick has made these
far-fetched, uncorroborated accusations against others, in addition to the
defendants, erodes our confidence in the allegations against Morrie and
Christine Shay and properly weighs against the admissibility of her
We note that the district court failed to consider the evidence that Borawick
offered as corroboration in her motion for reconsideration, including letters
from her sister alleging abuse. In the face of the record before the district
court, we find that Borawick�s corroborating evidence was simply too weak to
overcome the very strong evidence against admissibility. Consequently, we affirm
the district court�s ruling as to the in limine motion.
II. The Application of Daubert
Borawick also contends that the district court�s in limine ruling was not
consistent with Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469, 113
S. Ct. 2786 (1993), in which the Supreme Court held that the test set forth in
Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), [*43] was superseded by the
adoption of the Federal Rules of Evidence. 113 S. Ct. at 2793. In determining
�the proper standard for the admission of expert testimony,� id. at 2792, the
Court noted that several of the Federal Rules of Evidence applied. Rather than
impose a rigid framework of criteria that must be met in order for the testimony
to be admissible, the Court ruled that judges must determine whether an expert�s
testimony Ais scientifically valid� by examining (1) whether the theory had been
tested, (2) whether it had been subjected to peer review, (3) what the potential
or known rate of error is, (4) what sort of standards control the technique�s
operation, and (5) whether the theory or technique has generally been accepted.
Id. at 2796B97. This inquiry, the Court emphasized, should be flexible. Id. at
2797. In giving trial judges Athe task of ensuring that an expert�s testimony
both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand,� id. at
2799, the Court assigned trial judges �a gatekeeping role� for the admissibility
of scientific evidence. Id. at 2798.
We do not believe that Daubert is directly applicable to the issue here since
Daubert [*44] concerns the admissibility of data derived from scientific
techniques or expert opinions. The issue before us is whether Borawick is a
competent witness, see Federal Practice, supra, ' 6011, at 125B26, or whether
her lay testimony is admissible, Valdez, 722 F.2d at 1200B01. Under either
characterization, the question does not concern the admissibility of
experimental data or expert opinions. See id. But see Tuttle, 780 P.2d at 1211
(rejecting the State�s position that the issue only concerns the admissibility
of testimony from a lay eyewitness as opposed to an expert on the basis that
�the hypnotically-enhanced testimony given by the witness is the product of
Even though Daubert does not provide direct guidance, our decision today is
informed by the principles underlying the Supreme Court�s holding. First, by
loosening the strictures on scientific evidence set by Frye, Daubert reinforces
the idea that there should be a presumption of admissibility of evidence.
Second, it emphasizes the need for flexibility in assessing whether evidence is
admissible. Rather than using rigid �safeguards� for determining whether
testimony should [*45] be admitted, the Court�s approach is to permit the trial
judge to weigh the various considerations pertinent to the issue in question.
Third, Daubert allows for the admissibility of scientific evidence, even if not
generally accepted in the relevant scientific community, provided its
reliability has independent support. Finally, the Court expressed its faith in
the power of the adversary system to test �shaky but admissible� evidence,
Daubert, 113 S. Ct. at 2798, and advanced a bias in favor of admitting evidence
short of that solidly and indisputably proven to be reliable. Finally, we note
that, even if Daubert were of direct application, nothing in Daubert is
inconsistent with our outlined approach.
We have considered the Due Process and Seventh Amendment claims raised by
Borawick and conclude that they are meritless. Consequently, for the foregoing
reasons we affirm the district court�s summary judgment in favor of defendants
dismissing the complaint.
Cultic Studies Journal, Volume 13, Number 1 1996