Jameis Winston Ruling: Faulty Memories and Poor Judgment


The ruling from the state attorney for Florida’s second judicial circuit Willie Meggs declaring that there was not enough evidence to bring a rape charge against Jameis Winston has brought about a public outcry from varied constituencies around the country and people in general.

The story deserves the attention it is getting due to the seriousness of the charges and the gravity of the event. The state attorney provided the public with the evidence they had garnered and invited all to look it over.

Moreover the case may not be over due to the fact that both sides have continued legal options.

There is little doubt that the evidence will be poured over and dissected in the coming days and months with thousands of opinions rendered.

And yet with all the attention paid to the case we are more than likely never going to find out what happened between Winston and his accuser. 

The Winston case is filled with inconsistencies and questions about people’s motives, timing and actions during the course of the entire event which is ongoing. This only serves to further heighten people’s response.

But this is to be expected as it speaks to our abilities, cognitive capacities, emotional makeup and memories.

How often is it that we have all the information in front of us but we still cannot come to any clear conclusion or even a decision?

Psychological research journals are filled with papers detailing how all can see the exact same event and report it differently.

Common sense and everyday life tells us that people’s recounts of things they see or heard vary widely.

Back in the day there was a game called telephone which started with the teacher giving a simple phrase to a student and then having that student whisper it in the next student’s ear and so on down the line.

It was a game played for fun and the last student had to say what they heard out loud to the rest of the class which of course was more often than not nowhere near what the teacher originally said.

The last student’s response invariably elicited laughter from the class. Unfortunately in the Winston case there is little to laugh about from evidence that was garnered and the lack of clarity it provided.

Unfortunately for fact gatherers they too face human nature– their own as well as ours.  Here too research shows that individuals recount events differently especially over varying lengths of time.

In fact childhood memories are rarely exactly as they happened as the emotional reworking of the event has taken place to assist us in making it either a more pleasant one or one that suits our needs.

In a day and age where we have the most sophisticated technology and eyes everywhere we somehow cannot get breaking news stories correct. And it often takes some time to get a clear picture of what did occur with initial reports often far off from what is actually happening in real time on the scene.

For example to this day there are a million stories and inconsistencies about how Osama Bin Laden was killed or how JFK was assassinated. This tells us that the real truth is often difficult to find.

People have great difficulty accepting life’s imperfections and often the imperfections of others.  Rarely does life go perfectly or often smoothly especially when tragic events happen and when so many people are involved.  It is most unfortunate that it often affects us all adversely, but that has to be accepted.

It is both fortunate and unfortunate that the Winston case is getting the media scrutiny it is, as one would hope that all cases of this nature would be given the highest priority and scrutiny they deserve.

While there is no silver lining to an incident like this—it does however raise the consciousness level of all about an event that happens too frequently to women in our society.

It is always hoped that incidents like this will educate us all further about how to prevent these actions from occurring in the future, as that is one of many goals that need to be achieved in this matter.

Moreover, because this case involves a football player and sports it does of course bring up all the abuses and problems that are endemic to the college football and athletic scene.  And here too, it is always helpful to have an open debate about how our student-athletes comport themselves.

There is little doubt that this Winston case will bring intense scrutiny to all involved but we need to accept that there may never have the facts of what truly happened between Winston and his accuser.

That is because of who we are.

Parts of this article were adapted or taken from my previous article on Winston which you are invited to read:  http://psychologyofsports.com/2013/11/23/the-jameis-winston-rape-case-reflects-the-best-and-worst-of-us/





Dr. Richard Lustberg

About Dr. Richard Lustberg

Dr. Lustberg’s On The Couch Column, Blog and Psychology of Sports Podcasts are syndicated on the Internet. He is extensively quoted and published, and is the sole developer and creative force behind The Psychology of Sports. Dr. Lustberg has helped launch and host Psyched Up, a Psychological Podcast addressing pertinent psychological issues for the Suffolk County Psychological Association and Psychology And You for the New York State Psychological Association.

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