Confronted with statements he made during recorded phone calls at the jail, murder suspect William Lamar Hinson III took the stand again Tuesday to say he now has different memories about what happened before Georgia tourist Khanh Lam was killed in July 2015 in a Garberville alley.

Hinson previously testified he only shoved Lam as Lam was trying to take a small child out of a van parked near the Garberville town square. Lam kicked out at him and connected lightly with his upper leg. After hearing Lam say something about having or getting a gun, he left the square and didn’t return. Lam died later of massive head injuries.


But in recordings played to the jury Tuesday, Hinson told callers he hit or slapped Lam twice and may have caused a concussion. Lam kicked him in the groin, where he has a hernia, and he fell to the ground. He stayed there as a crowd of people pursued Lam down the alley. He speculated that Lam was killed later by other people beating him.

“He did kick me, I probably did hit the ground,” Hinson admitted under questioning by his attorney, Public Defender Marek Reavis. “I slapped him two times.”

Reavis asked whether Hinson was changing his story after listening to himself speaking on the phone.

“No, I’ve been thinking it out for the last couple of weeks.”

A surveillance camera shows Hinson leaving the town square after the incident with Lam. Despite having been kicked in his hernia, he’s walking fine.

“I’ve grown used to the pain,” Hinson explained, saying he’s had the hernia since 2010 and wears a hernia brace.

Under cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees, Hinson acknowledged he made the phone calls before reading police reports and witness statements about Lam’s death. Hinson changed his story about being kicked in the groin after viewing the surveillance tape and watching himself walk normally, Rees suggested.

Hinson has had a couple of years to study evidence in the case. When Rees asked if he had been obsessing about it, Hinson said yes.

“I’m looking at a very long term in prison if I”m found guilty,” he said.

At one point Rees accused Hinson of lying about his hernia and other facts. Hinson responded he’d be happy to show Rees his hernia.

Ironically, Hinson changing his testimony provided the jury a prime example of what the previous witness, defense expert and memory researcher Dr. Geoffrey Loftus, calls “post-event information.”

Loftus, a retired psychology professor, has studied human memory for 50 years. He was called as a witness to cast doubt on the reliability of eyewitness testimony. This is a major issue for the defense, because three people testified they saw Hinson strike Lam in the head with a piece of wood.

Loftus provided the jury with a science lesson on why eyewitness testimony may be unreliable. He said many factors can skew a person’s memory of an event. That is particularly true if the event is chaotic, as in witnessing a crime when several people are involved.

Loftus said part of a person’s recollection is “conscious experience,” which tends to be valid. But then there is “post-event” information, true or false, that can be incorporated into the memory to fill in the gaps and form a complete story.

Loftus gave an example of witnessing a collision involving a white car and a black car. That event would occur in seconds and would constitute conscious experience. But then, he said, what if emergency personnel arrived and pulled out the driver of the white car, and one of the medics said “I know this guy and he’s drunk most of the time.”

The witness later tries to reconstruct the memory, and may sincerely and confidently testify he remembers the white car driving erratically and running a stop sign. This is because he’s used “post-event” information to form a coherent story.

Loftus also discussed cases in which a defendant is convicted by a trial jury and later exonerated by new evidence, usually DNA.

“In 70 percent of those cases there was an eyewitness or several eyewitnesses who positively identified the defendant as the person who committed the crime,” he said.

Reavis asked whether it’s possible that a person who receives no post-event information could come up with an unreliable story on their own, even though they believe the story to be true. Loftus said yes, that people sometimes do that so the memory makes sense.

“It’s their way to figure out what happened by making inferences to make a coherent story,” he said.

Also, after hearing other people’s versions of an event, a person may incorporate that information into the memory and believe it’s something they actually saw.

Another example is finding out something you remembered was wrong, then thinking “Now I remember that.”

For instance, witness Reginald “Green Man” Newlin was positive he was not wearing a bandana on the day of Lam’s killing. When he saw himself on video wearing a bandana, he said “That’s right! I was wearing a bandana that day!”

Several witnesses testified Lam was hit on the head with a board, though the descriptions varied widely on its size. Reavis wondered whether a person could mistake a suspect’s identity because he was focusing on something other than the suspect.

Loftus said a lot of research has been done on that subject.

“When there is a weapon in the scene people’s attention will tend to be drawn to the weapon.”

Lam, 37, was on his way to the Legoland amusement park when he stopped in Garberville to work on his truck. Toxicology tests revealed he had a potentially toxic level of methamphetamine in his system. When trying to take the little girl out of the van, he reportedly was punching her screaming mother in the face.

Hinson, now 41, was arrested at his father’s home in Florida in November 2016. He had been implicated by witness Ray Preschern, who admits he beat Lam up and knocked him out but denies inflicting the fatal blows. Preschern pleaded guilty to felony assault and is on probation.

Evidence wrapped up Tuesday, and the trial is not in session today because attorneys and Judge Larry Killoran need to discuss jury instructions. Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday morning, and then the case will go to the jury.