UKIAH, 4/1/2017 — The defense called its final witness in the case against Charles Reynolds on Thursday afternoon. Reynolds is charged with felony assault and inflicting great bodily injury on Kenneth Fisher, who died after Reynolds allegedly punched him once outside Boomer’s bar and grill in Laytonville on August 28.
Defense attorney Justin Petersen called on Dr. Geoffrey Loftus, a psychologist from Seattle who often serves as an expert witness in the fields of memory and perception. Under questioning from Petersen, Loftus testified on the fallibility of memory, and how witnesses may not be aware of where their own memories come from. Deputy District Attorney Luke Oakley then called on Detective Matt Croskey, of the sheriff’s department, to testify about his interviews with witnesses shortly after the killing.
Loftus told the court that memory has two sources, consisting of conscious experience, and “post-event information.” The latter, he said, is “not necessarily false, but it is dubious,” because it can be acquired after an event. He also asserted that it is common to integrate the two sources of memory to “fill gaps and plug holes, make a better story.” He said that witnesses are “especially inclined to do this when it’s salient,” though they may not know which parts of their memories come from conscious experience and which parts are pieced together after the fact. Also, he stated, time, light, and distance can affect a witness’ ability to accurately perceive details. Chris Bradley, the first witness for the prosecution, testified that he saw Reynolds punch Fisher from across the parking lot late in the evening in August.
Luke Oakley, the deputy District Attorney prosecuting Reynolds, began his cross-examination with detailed queries about Loftus’ professional experience as a defense witness, before asking him questions about perception and memory. Loftus told him that he has testified roughly 390 times, all but once for the defense, and that Reynolds and his family had paid him $900 in expenses and $1500 in fees to prepare for the case. He testified that he derives about two-thirds of his income from serving as an expert witness.
Oakley then recalled Croskey to the stand. Presiding Judge John Behnke overruled Petersen’s objection, noting that, “There’s been a challenge to how memories are formed.” Croskey, in testifying about his interview with Bradley the night of Fisher’s death, did not recall that Bradley had told him that Fisher went down head-first. In court, Bradley himself did not recall this detail. However, Croskey did recall his interview with Matthias Marsh, who was outside with Reynolds when Fisher came out of the bar. “Did you ask him if Kenneth Fisher looked like a man on a mission?” Oakley asked. Croskey remembered that Fisher, according to Marsh’s perception of him, did not appear to be a man on a mission, though he did not provide details of what such a man would look like.
The attorneys will deliver their final arguments on Monday morning. The jury will then begin deliberations.
Sarah Reith [email protected]