By: David Bloomberg
Re: 1/2 Dateline NBC on Franklin
Date: Tue Mar 21 1995 18:35:30
From: SHEPPARD GORDON
Subj: False memories
Profile: Remember When; cases of repressed memories
may actually be caused by false memories encouraged
03/10/95 NBC News
ANNOUNCER: From our studios in Los Angeles, here is Maria
MARIA SHRIVER: Good evening. It was one of those stories that
both fascinated and horrified us--a daughter accusing her own
father of a murder she says she witnessed as a child but only
remembered as an adult. Doctors gave that phenomenon a
name--repressed memory. And over the years, cases involving
repressed memory multiplied. Families were ripped apart as adult
children suddenly remembered never before mentioned episodes of
childhood abuse. But now serious questions are being raised about
that long ago murder by one of those closest to the case who's
speaking out for the first time and by some experts who doubt
whether the phenomenon of repressed memory exists at all.
Mr. RICHARD OFSHE: It is wreckless. It is dangerous. It is
wrong. Recovered memory therapy is the psychiatric psychological
quackery of the 20th century.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) A year ago, these words could barely be
uttered in public without being booed.
(Ofshe speaking to audience)
Unidentified Man #1: I want you to meet this great man...
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) Today, this man's a hero to thousands of
parents who believe they've been falsely accused.
(Ofshe talking to members of audience)
Mr. OFSHE: Don't cry. You'll make me cry.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) They're accusers, their own children who
say they've recovered memories of childhood abuse.
(Ofshe and others talking)
SHRIVER: So in your opinion, there is no such thing as a
Mr. OFSHE: It is an utter fantasy without one shred of
Not only is Richard Ofshe a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and
professor of social psychology saying there's no such thing as
repressed memory, he's taking aim at its most famous case.
Mr. STAN ATKINSON: (News anchor) In the news tonight, a
20-year-old unsolved murder of a Bay area girl...
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) Five years ago, Eileen Franklin stunned
the nation and shattered her family when she said she suddenly
remembered that as a child, she'd seen her father kill her best
(Franklin walking with others)
SHRIVER: Do you think Eileen Franklin's accusations that her
father killed her best friend are indeed false?
Mr. OFSHE: Oh, yes.
Ms. EILEEN FRANKLIN: I know that there are repressed memories,
and I know I am telling the truth...
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) It was the first, but certainly not the
last time most people had ever heard of repressed memories or
SHRIVER: For those of us who have never had them, what are
they--what do they look like?
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: The picture will come, but it's a picture like
any other memory. The difference is that I don't remember seeing it.
SHRIVER: How did you first come to have a memory? One day, you
just had a memory?
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's about as boring as that. I was in
my home, and I had two little kids. My daughter asked me something,
and I looked down, and we made eye contact, and this feeling of
terror came over me.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) The case that put recovered memory on the
map began here, a hilly area about 20 miles southwest of San
Francisco. Susan Nason, a few days shy of her ninth birthday,
disappeared after school one day in 1969. Three months later, her
body was discovered in this ravine.
(Hill; picture of Nason; police cars and police; trees)
Sheriff EARL WHITMORE (San Mateo County, California): The cause
of death hasn't been established yet, but she did have a fractured
skull on the right side of the head.
SHRIVER: But for decades, police could not find a suspect.
Then, out of the blue, a breakthrough in the Nason murder case.
Unidentified Reporter: (News anchor) Tonight, News 10 has
learned a mystery witness came forward with some key information in
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: And I had the memory of my father with a rock
in his hands, approaching Susan Nason.
(From court proceedings) He had both of his hands above his
head like this.
There's nothing easy about coming forward and saying, `I've had
these memories, and that man that I once loved and that I called
daddy and that I adored needs to go to prison for it.'
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) Eileen's father, George Franklin, was
charged with murder. The prosecutor believed Eileen was telling
the truth and that evidence collected 20 years earlier supported
(Footage from courtroom)
Ms. TIPTON: At least two rocks from the crime scene were
recovered. A clump of hair that belonged to Susan, one of the more
interesting and noteworthy pieces of evidence got a lot of
attention was a ring that had been worn on her hand that was
crushed that helped establish how the murder occurred.
(From court proceedings) What did you see with relation to her
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: (From court proceedings) She had a--there was
blood--blood, and she had a ring on her finger that was smashed,
and her fingers were--her hand was...
Ms. TIPTON: What color was the ring?
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: I think it was silver.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) The ring was indeed silver, and it had
apparently been crushed as Susan attempted to shield herself from
the rock that would kill her. Eileen's grasp of details like these
was crucial to the prosecutor's case. So was testimony from
Eileen's mother, divorced from George Franklin for 15 years. Leah
Franklin told the court she believed her daughter.
(Footage from courtroom; newspaper headline; Leah Franklin)
Ms. LEAH FRANKLIN: I believed it in an instant. I thought it
was something that had happened in Eileen's childhood, and she had
just never told me about it.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) And even though Eileen's brother and his
sister testified in support of their father, Eileen's other sister,
Janis, was also convinced their father was guilty. She described
the home they grew up in this way.
(Pictures of family members; Janis in courtroom)
Ms. JANIS FRANKLIN: (From court proceedings) It was a
combination of alcoholism in the home, physical violence, physical
abuse, mental and emotional abuse.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) And this is how the state's expert
witness, child psychiatrist Lenore Terr, explained how Eileen could
have repressed a 20-year-old memory.
Ms. LENORE TERR: And the memory's there. It's just very deep
down, so that suddenly the memory starts coming, and it can come in
bits, or it can come in the whole piece.
Unidentified Woman #1: There are things that she couldn't have
known unless they actually happened.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) The jurors found Eileen's testimony
compelling and credible, even though there was no physical evidence
to link George Franklin to the scene of the crime or to the victim.
(People leaving courtroom)
Unidentified Man #2: No one could have told her. No one could
have made it up for her.
Unidentified Woman #2: The way she's described Susan is holding
her hands, and the way that the ring was crushed--the whole thing
fitted together very well.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) George Franklin Sr. was convicted of first
degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
(George in prison)
Mr. GEORGE FRANKLIN: I feel like I've taken a step off the
known earth, just into nothingness. It was incredible--sheer shock
SHRIVER: That your daughter would accuse you of this?
Mr. FRANKLIN: Unbelievable.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) This is the first time George Franklin has
ever spoken about his case. He would only answer limited questions.
(George and Shriver walking in prison)
Mr. FRANKLIN: It's an incredible, bizarre hoax. And I deal with
it as well as I know how.
SHRIVER: What is an incredible, bizarre hoax?
Mr. FRANKLIN: This so-called repressed memory notion.
SHRIVER: Have you ever, since the trial was over, since your
dad went off to prison, since your family fell apart, did you ever
sit there and say, `Maybe these weren't true; maybe I didn't have
them; maybe I said the wrong thing,' doubt yourself?
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: No, the memories stay, and they become more
real and more pieces fill in, and I think I've learned to--to not
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) But Richard Ofshe thinks she should doubt
them. He believes Eileen is the victim of an epidemic that has
claimed thousands of victims.
Mr. OFSHE: It's inexcusable; it's hurting people; and it's
something that should stop.
SHRIVER: Do you think George Franklin is innocent?
Mr. OFSHE: I think there's no evidence that George Franklin is
anything but innocent.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) And someone else thinks that too, someone
who fervently believed Eileen's memories but who now thinks she
made the mistake of her life.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) And now someone else--someone who has no
reason to defend George Franklin, has reluctantly come to believe
he may be innocent.
(Shriver and Leah Franklin walking)
SHRIVER: You no longer believe what Eileen said, correct?
Ms. L. FRANKLIN: Correct. I no longer believe it.
SHRIVER: So does that mean you no longer believe that George
Franklin murdered Susan Nason?
Ms. L. FRANKLIN: That's correct. I no longer believe that.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) Astonishing words from the woman who once
testified under oath that she believed her daughter.
(Leah and Shriver)
SHRIVER: Is that a really incredible thing that you find
yourself saying now?
Ms. L. FRANKLIN: Yes. That is the most incredible thing, and
I--I cannot believe that it's opened up, that my whole belief
system would change, that I would stop everything I was doing and
gradually, over a period of six or seven months, slowly become
convinced that there is no more reason for any of us to believe
that he committed that murder.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) This bombshell came to Leah Franklin, now
a practicing attorney, after four years of agonizing about what
could have happened to Eileen, and about the therapist she now
believes mislead her.
(Leah and Shriver)
SHRIVER: Do you wish you had not believed Eileen?
Ms. L. FRANKLIN: Oh, I wish I had asked questions. I should
have asked the questions I'm asking today five years ago when no
one knew about this phenomenon.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) So this past year, Leah began reading
about repressed memories, beginning with "Unchained Memories" by
therapist Lenore Terr. Terr refused to speak with us on camera,
though she's gone on to testify in other repressed memory cases.
She was, you'll remember, the prosecution's expert witness in the
Franklin case. In her book, Terr wrote that Eileen had a big,
bleeding bald spot that developed as Eileen unconsciously set out
to duplicate the wound she had seen on Susan Nason's head. Leah was
stunned. She says she brushed Eileen's hair every day and never saw
a bald spot.
(Book; Terr in courtroom; picture of Eileen)
Ms. L. FRANKLIN: Look at her hair. She's got it brushed up from
the sides, and you would hardly be brushing your hair up from the
right side of your head or having me do it for her if there was a
bleeding bald spot.
SHRIVER: Your mother has said that, in fact, `No, my daughter
never had a big bald bloody spot.'
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: The truth is, that my mother was--was not
present in the home. It's just real clear that she needs to
maintain her belief that she was a good mother.
SHRIVER: Are we talking about a big, bald, bleeding spot, or
are we talking about like a scratch in the head?
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: What I did as a child is I would start pulling
hairs back here, and I got to the point where I was scratching it
open, and I would make it bleed.
SHRIVER: Your mother never brought it up to you. Your teachers
never said, `Something happening at home, Eileen?'
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: No. I would say it was definitely concealed to
some degree under other hair.
Ms. L. FRANKLIN: How do you think I feel reading this book,
suddenly finding out all this misinformation? How do you think I
feel saying, `Is this what was presented to a jury?'
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) If the Terr book wasn't shocking enough to
Leah, there was this book written by Eileen after the trial which
detailed her turbulent life.
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: It got to the point when I was younger when I
was heavily involved in drugs, I was involved in prostitution. I
mean, that is extreme behavior. Because the memories were buried,
my life was reflecting this.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) The book was made into a TV movie staring
Shelly Long as Eileen, and depicted more of Eileen's recovered
memories--memories of sexual abuse by her father, beginning at age
three, that she says her mother witnessed.
(Footage of TV movie)
Ms. L. FRANKLIN: That would not have happened. I would not ever
have allowed him to bath nude with any of the children.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) But Eileen is still convinced these movie
scenes accurately portray her childhood, and says that she's
recently recovered even more memories.
(Footage from movie)
SHRIVER: Since you wrote the books, since your father was
convicted, you've had new memories that have come up.
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: I've had continual memories of his sexual
SHRIVER: Ones you weren't aware of at the time of the trial.
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: Maria, if I'd been aware of them before, I
probably would have killed him and he wouldn't have made it to
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) George Franklin denies he ever sexually
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: He's safe in prison, and it allowed me the
safety to have the memories come back.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) Eileen's mother Leah was bewildered by
what was happening to her daughter, until one day she saw Richard
Ofshe on the news and called him. Ofshe explained that Eileen was
having what he believed were false memories.
(Leah watching television)
Mr. OFSHE: That like thousands of other women who have been
victimized by their therapists, Eileen has been persuaded to
believe something that's utterly artificial.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) In his new book, "Making Monsters," Ofshe
says Eileen and people like her have been influenced by their
therapists to believe what he calls "visualizations."
(Ofshe signing book)
Mr. OFSHE: They have been told by the people who are supposedly
well trained, competent experts on this, their therapists, that
these visualizations are memories.
SHRIVER: Did you have these memories of your father killing
Susan before you went into therapy, or did they come to you in
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: My husband and I were seeing a marriage
counselor, so yes, we were in some form of therapy. And when I had
the memories, I asked the therapist about it. I don't know that the
two are connected in any way.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) But Ofshe thinks they are. He believes
some therapists encourage patients to trust these memories of
childhood abuse whether they're true or not, and to use them as
easy explanations for adult problems.
(Eileen and Shriver walking)
Mr. OFSHE: With that, it explains things about their lives.
Somebody goes, `Ah-hah, you were brutalized. That's why your life
is not perfect. That's why you got into the bad marriage. Now
there's an explanation.' And that's, after all, what Eileen
Franklin was seeking when she went into therapy, an understanding
of why her life was a mess.'
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) Eileen's therapist at the time was Kurt
Barret, a marriage and family counselor practicing in Southern
California. He refused to talk to us on camera, but here's what he
told the court back in 1990: `My purpose really was just to help
her have those memories. I had told her it wasn't important whether
they were real or not.' Barret was never accused of implanting
false memories, and he says it's not the therapist's job to prove
the truth of patient's memories. But Ofshe worries subtle
encouragement from a therapist can help create false memories.
(Barret; excerpt of court document)
SHRIVER: Why would Eileen Franklin do this? She loved her
Mr. OFSHE: Because she was misled by the therapy process. It is
typical of people to whom this is happening. It's not that they
want to hurt anyone. They sincerely believe that the visualizations
are memories. It's just that they're wrong.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) And what about all those details about
Susan Nason's murder that Eileen got right? It turns out most of
them had been published in the Bay area newspapers at the time of
the crime--the blood stained rock, the silver ring on her right
middle finger that got crushed when she put her right hand up to
protect herself, and a file of these stories was kept by Eileen's
first husband, Barry Lipscer, now deceased. Eileen was asked about
this in her pre-trial hearing without the jury present.
(Excerpts from newspaper; Lipscer)
Unidentified Man #4: (From court proceedings) Where is it now?
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: (From court proceedings) It's kept in my
Man #4: (From court proceedings) Locked?
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: (From court proceedings) No.
Man #4: (From court proceedings) Somewhere that it's accessible
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: (From court proceedings) Yes.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) But Eileen testified she never looked at
these clippings. Then, two years after the trial, her younger
sister, Diana, signed this affidavit saying she was in Eileen's
hotel room during the trial and saw Eileen look at newspaper
stories about the case.
(Eileen; picture of Eileen and Diana; court document)
Unidentified Woman #3: I would still believe what we did was
right. I still believe Eileen Franklin told the truth.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) When we got the members of the jury
together, they said they still believed Eileen though they do find
the newspaper information troubling.
(Jury members with Shriver)
Man #2: I would have been more skeptical now than I was then.
Unidentified Man #5: I would definitely second guess myself or
question it today if it all went to trial again.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) Ofshe says that's what was wrong at the
trial. In the absence of physical evidence to place George Franklin
at the scene, the focus was on whether or not Eileen was telling
Mr. OFSHE: And that's not where it should have been. The focus
should have been on the process whereby Eileen generated the
visualizations and accepted them as memories.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) And that process is now being questioned
in courtrooms all over the country. In New Hampshire, this
presiding judge is demanding scientific proof of repressed memories
before he'll allow two sexual abuse cases to go forward. In Texas,
the therapist seen in this training video is contesting lawsuits
filed by 10 people who say she encouraged false memories. And in
California last year, Lenore Terr's testimony about repressed
memories wasn't enough to convince a jury this time. They found two
therapists implanted or reinforced false memories. In fact, the
medical and psychological communities are groping for answers,
including experts on both sides of the issue with whom we spoke.
Three professional associations recently noted repressed childhood
memories often cannot be verified, and therapists can unwittingly
help create them.
(Newspaper excerpts; judge; clip from therapist's training
video; Terr in courtroom; man speaking to audience)
SHRIVER: Who is the villain in all of this, in the Franklin
case? Is it Eileen?
Mr. OFSHE: The villain is the belief that it's possible to
recover these memories. That's the core mistake of this. It's not
Eileen Franklin's fault. This is something that is happening to
tens of thousands of women.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) Knowing this still doesn't comfort Leah
Franklin. She has not seen her daughter for more than four years,
when this picture was taken.
Ms. L. FRANKLIN: This is when Eileen came up to my home after
the trial and said, `Mom, thanks for supporting me. I love you.' I
want to be back in this picture.
SHRIVER: (Voiceover) George Franklin wants more than that. He
has appealed his conviction and wants his freedom back.
Mr. FRANKLIN: You have to consider that just a few days ago I
started my sixth year of imprisonment by the government for a crime
I didn't commit.
SHRIVER: Does it anger you that some people don't believe you?
Ms. E. FRANKLIN: Oh, but I believe me. The jury believed me.
Thousands of people I've met believe me. I think the bigger peace
has helped me and healed me, helped people like me, don't tear me
apart, don't tear my family apart, and to heal us--heal me.