June 21st, 2017

Another daycare child abuse conviction overturned

The 80s and 90s featured a great deal of hysteria about child abuse in daycare, and there were a number of high-profile miscarriages of justice, most notably the McMartin case and Fells Acres in Massachusetts. In large part, the convictions were a result of the fact that investigative techniques were primitive and prejudicial to the accused, with a great deal of cross-contamination and leading of the tiny child witnesses.

There were a few “real” cases—child abuse exists everywhere. But they were far more rare than believed at the time. Unfortunately, though, once a conviction has occurred, it’s extremely hard to reverse it.

Here’s news of a Texas case (one with which I was previously unfamiliar) in which a convicted couple has been exonerated—after 25 years, most of them spent incarcerated:

The exoneration is the first for the nascent conviction integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office under the new DA, Margaret Moore. Court documents filed Tuesday announced that there is “no credible evidence” against the Kellers. Moore said she personally reviewed the case and believes exoneration “to be a just outcome.”

Fran and Dan Keller were each sentenced to 48 years in prison for the alleged sexual assault of a 3-year-old girl who was an occasional drop-in at their home daycare center on the rural outskirts of Austin. The child initially accused Dan of spanking her “like daddy” used to, but under intense and repeated questioning by her mother and a therapist, the story morphed to include claims of rape and orgies involving children. From there, the number of children alleging abuse increased and the accusations grew even more lurid and confounding: The Kellers had sacrificed babies; they held ceremonies in a local graveyard; they put blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; Fran cut off the arm of a gorilla in a local park; they flew the children to Mexico to be sexually assaulted by military officials.

At the time of their conviction, there was a prevailing belief that children never lie in such cases. That was always a preposterous supposition, and it is no longer the going theory. Fortunately.

11 Responses to “Another daycare child abuse conviction overturned”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    The global warming scam will be viewed in the same light in 25 years.

  2. Frog Says:

    “Child abuse exists everywhere.”
    Mostly in the homes of the children. Getting worse in the era of single baby mommies and boyfriends who come and go. Part of our societal descent into the netherworld. What is that over yonder? Cerberus.
    The McMartin prosecution was a travesty to anyone with eyes, ears, and half a brain. The Child Abuse Saga was conducted with the eager cooperation of “therapists” (a word that covers many sins) and PhD. clinical psychologists. Needless to say, the Left had a vested interest in the outcome of this Saga, because greater regulation would and did result.

  3. Ray Says:

    Wasn’t Janet Reno a big believer in these child abuse stories?

  4. Snow on Pine Says:

    Reports say that the Kellers, who spent almost 21 years in jail, and who finally were officially declared guiltless this year, four years after their release from prison, would be able to apply to the State that wrongly prosecuted them and threw them in jail for a total of a measly $3.2 million as restitution.

    That hardly seems adequate to repay them for their humiliation, and for all those irreplaceable prime decades of life lost.

    How about $10 million each, or thereabouts?

    Another vitally necessary part of this restitution should be the prosecution of each and every official, police officer, social worker, judge, district attorney, psychologist, person, or “expert” who falsely testified or who, in any way, participated in railroading the Kellers.

    In addition, I’d pauperize any and all of the guilty, and put all of their confiscated assets–bank accounts, retirement accounts, houses, cars, boats, jewelry, and any other valuable possessions–everything towards paying some of the $20 million that should be given to the Kellers, tax free.

    Such a draconian approach would, I believe, discourage people from false prosecutions and perjury.

  5. The Other Chuck Says:

    “We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!”
    The Crucible – Arthur Miller

  6. AesopFan Says:

    Salem lives.

  7. Gringo Says:

    Wasn’t Janet Reno a big believer in these child abuse stories?

    Liberal female Democrat politicians have their fingers on a lot of those cases:
    1)Martha Coakley, who was defeated by Scott Brown in the race for Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat, was not involved in the initial Fells Acres case, but was involved when it became clear that Fells Acres was an example of justice miscarried. Coakley was not on the side of the angels.

    In December 1997, Coakley resigned her position, in order to campaign for District Attorney in Middlesex County.

    In 2001, Coakley successfully lobbied Acting Gov. Jane Swift to deny clemency to Gerald Amirault, a defendant in the Fells Acres Day Care Center preschool trial, whom many regarded as a victim of day care sex abuse hysteria. Prior to this, clemency for Amirault had been recommended unanimously by the Massachusetts Parole Board,.[7] Amirault’s co-accused mother and sister had already been released from custody.

    From the link on the Austin case:

    After the 2013 hearing, DA Rosemary Lehmberg — who had been head of the office’s child abuse unit at the time of the Kellers’ prosecution — ultimately agreed that the couple had not received a fair trial, and they were released shortly before Christmas that year. While there was no doubt the couple would not be retried, over the intervening years, Lehmberg declined to take the final step and exonerate them, claiming to my former editor that she could not “find a pathway to innocence” for the Kellers. She was essentially trying to prove a negative — seeking evidence that would prove a crime never happened.

    Rosemary Lehmberg, as then-head of the child abuse unit, bears some responsibility for the Kellers’s unjust imprisonment.
    Rosemary Lehmberg and Governor Perry made some headlines. From Wiki on Rosemary Lehmberg:

    In 2013, she was arrested for and pleaded guilty to drunk driving. She was sentenced to forty-five days in jail.[5] According to Lehmberg’s lawyer, David Sheppard, Lehmberg’s sentence was “without doubt the harshest sentence anyone has ever received for first time DWI” in Travis County.[6] Video of her detainment and extremely inebriated and aggressive behavior was released to the public. Governor Rick Perry demanded Lehmberg’s resignation, and stated that if she did not step down, he would use his line-item veto power to cut all funding to the Public Accountability Office which is under Lehmberg’s authority. Lehmberg refused, and Governor Perry vetoed the office’s funding. Perry was indicted for this action but was later cleared of all charges.

    Fortunately, Rosemary Lehmberg is now retired.


  8. Surellin Says:

    The awfulness of the police and prosecutors in this case reminds me of the Documentary Now! episode “The Eye Doesn’t Lie”. Horrible. Also, I was studying educational psychology when this string of “satanic day care centers” trials was going on. It’s amazing what you can get a child to say. They aren’t as firmly affixed to reality as adults, having less experience and less theory of how the world is supposed to work. OTOH, recent political opinions of some adults are sort of unmoored from reality, also.

  9. Susanamantha Says:

    The great Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal wrote several editorials on the Amirault case(s) in the 1990’s. Her excellent writing made abundantly clear what a travesty it was. I remember being astounded that such medieval witch hunts were occurring in the US in the 1990’s. I’ve learned a lot since then and am no longer shocked at anything, more’s the pity.

  10. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Given the frequency of prosecutors suborning perjury and withholding exculpatory evidence, I think it’s best for a jury to vote to acquit despite evidence presented. It’s said that it’s better to let ten guilty men go than to imprison one innocent man.
    Choose your own ratio.
    Until cops and prosecutors clean up their acts, don’t risk imprisoning the innocent.

  11. I'm with Decius Says:

    Still going on: http://thesestonewalls.com/

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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