In September 1969, an 8-year-old girl disappeared in Foster City, California. Her body was found three months later, a few miles from her home. Twenty years later, in 1989, Eileen Franklin-Lipsker, the daughter of George Franklin, reported that she had recovered a memory indicating that her father had murdered and raped the girl. Eileen provided numerous details that matched details of the crime scene and, on the basis of her memory, George Franklin was arrested and charged with murder.
Eileen testified at Franklin’s trial about her recovered memory. Much of the trial focused on the reliability of repressed memory and each side presented experts. The jury found Franklin guilty of first degree murder in November 1990, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
A district court judge overturned the conviction in 1995 based on several trial errors, including the prosecution’s argument that by refusing to respond to accusations of guilt, Franklin had in essence confessed, and the trial judge’s refusal to allow the defense to argue that the details Eileen provided about the crime were based on newspaper articles of the murder, not a recovered memory.
While the case was awaiting retrial, Eileen Franklin's sister, Janice Franklin, revealed that Eileen Franklin's repressed memory was recalled through hypnosis. Both had testified at trial that Eileen had not been hypnotized.
Because the state Supreme Court had ruled that testimony based on memories “recovered” by hypnosis is unreliable, Eileen could have been barred from taking the stand at a new trial.
Further, Eileen Franklin's credibility was called into question because she later contended that she remembered another murder committed by her father, that of an 18-year-old woman. But DNA tests in 1995 and 20-year-old minutes from a firefighters’ meeting showed that Franklin could not have committed the murder.
In July 1996, prosecutors announced they would not retry Franklin, and he was released.
- Stephanie Denzel