Wednesday 13 March 2013

America’s  most  expensive mistake in  the  history  of criminal  prosecution

In 1983, Judy Johnson, the mother of one of the Virginia McMartan Pre-School students in the town of Manhattan Beach, California, complained to the police that her son had been sodomized by her estranged husband, Raymond Buckley and also by a Virginia McMartin Pre-School teacher, Ray Buckey. This young teacher was the grandson of the school’s founder Virginia McMartin and son of the school’s administrator, Peggy McMartin-Buckey.

Johnson's belief that her son had been abused began when her son had painful bowel movements which all of us have had some time in our lives.  What happened next is still disputed. Some sources state that at that time, Johnson's son denied her suggestion that his preschool teachers had molested him, whereas others say he confirmed the abuse. It was later determined that Johnson was at the time and continued to be, mentally ill. It was also established that she made the accusation against her estranged husband so that she could continue having custody of their only child. Johnson was actually diagnosed with and hospitalized for acute paranoid schizophrenia and in 1986, she was found dead in her home from complications of chronic alcoholism before the preliminary hearing into her accusations (and later the accusations of others) had been concluded. When this mentally ill woman made her initial bizarre and impossible statements about her husband, she claimed that he could fly. Though the prosecution asserted Johnson's mental illness was caused by the events of the trial, Johnson had admitted to them that she was mentally ill beforehand. 

This mentally ill woman also made outrageous allegations that the people at the daycare had sexual encounters with animals; that Peggy drilled a child under the arms b with an electric drill and that Ray flew in the air. Now that should have been the signal that this woman was completely bonkers and that her allegations were unworthy of serious contemplation.  Ray Buckey was questioned, but was not prosecuted due to lack of evidence. There were no indications to confirm Johnson's accusation that he was able to fly under his own power, unassisted by any form of technology. If a child had been drilled under his or her arms, the police would have known about that and there was no call to the police by the parent of such a so-called victimized child.

Then the police did a really stupid thing. Instead of contacting several of the parents and speaking to their children to see what the children who were schooled at the daycare had seen; they sent a letter to each and every one of the parents of the preschool children. In the September 8, 1983 letter, the police said;

“Dear Parent: This Department is conducting a criminal investigation involving child molestation. Ray Buckey, an employee of Virginia McMartin's Pre-School, was arrested September 7, 1983 by this Department. The following procedure is obviously an unpleasant one, but to protect the rights of your children as well as the rights of the accused, this inquiry is necessary for a complete investigation. Records indicate that your child has been or is currently a student at the pre-school. We are asking your assistance in this continuing investigation. Please question your child to see if he or she has been a witness to any crime or if he or she has been a victim. Our investigation indicates that possible criminal acts include: oral sex, fondling of genitals, buttock or chest area, and sodomy, possibly committed under the pretense of "taking the child's temperature." Also photos may have been taken of children without their clothing. Any information from your child regarding having ever observed Ray Buckey to leave a classroom alone with a child during any nap period, or if they have ever observed Ray Buckey tie up a child, is important. Please complete the enclosed information form and return it to this Department in the enclosed stamped return envelope as soon as possible. We will contact you if circumstances dictate same. We ask you to please keep this investigation strictly confidential because of the nature of the charges and the highly emotional effect it could have on our community. Please do not discuss this investigation with anyone outside your immediate family. Do not contact or discuss the investigation with Raymond Buckey, any member of the accused defendant's family, or employees connected with the McMartin Pre-School.” unquote

Now everyone knows that if you ask a very young child questions about specific sex acts, it is possible that the mere suggestion of those acts having occurred may cause the child to believe that they really did happen.  That is because young children have vivid imaginations. Also some parents are prone to put pressure on their children to say things that aren’t necessarily true. That in fact is what really happened in this police and prosecutorial fiasco.

But to make matters worse; prior to the preliminary hearing, Lael Rubin, the prosecutor brought in a charlatan, Kee MacFarlane—a woman who later claimed to be an authority on the sexual abuse of children when in fact she  wasn’t licenced as a social worker or a psychologist or as a psychiatrist. In fact she wasn’t even trained in these professions. She said she got her training by reading books etc.  She operated her own clinic called the Children's Institute International; a Los Angeles abuse therapy clinic.  How stupid could the prosecutor be to hire this woman without first checking to see if she had valid credentials and training?  

More importantly, why would this really stupid prosecutor do this in the first place? The answer is obvious. This case was becoming a national spectacle and if she got convictions, she would be famous all over the United States. Well, she became famous alright but not in the way she had envisioned.

MacFarlane’s interviewing techniques used during investigations of the allegations were highly suggestive and invited children to pretend or speculate about supposed events. No doubt the questioning itself may have led to false memory syndrome among the children who were questioned by this phony expert. These speculations included the allegation that a rabbit was sacrificed on the altar of St. Cross church and a child was forced to drink the rabbit’s blood. It was later established that the church was always locked when Mass wasn’t performed or confessions taken and that the only people who had the keys to the church were the priest and his sexton. One boy claimed that he and the others in the school were taken for a ride in a plane that had no windows. One young boy kept denying that anything of a sexual nature happened to him at the school but MacFarlane wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept pressing the boy for a different version. 

Videotapes of the interviews with the children were later reviewed by Dr. Michael Maloney, a British clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry, as an expert witness regarding the interviewing of children. Maloney was highly critical of the interviewing techniques used by Kee MacFarlane, referring to them as improper, coercive, directive, problematic, adult-directed in a way that forced the children to follow a rigid script and that many of the kids' statements in the interviews were generated by the examiner. Transcripts and recordings of the interviews contained far more speech from MacFarlane than children and demonstrated that highly coercive interviewing techniques were used by this quack.

Just to give you a sense of just how bizarre these allegations were, this quack McFarlane was able to get some of the children to tell her that they saw witches fly; they traveled in a hot-air balloon, and were taken through secret underground tunnels under the school. There were also claims of sex orgies at car washes and airports, and of children being flushed down toilets to secret rooms where they would be abused, then cleaned up and presented back to their unsuspecting parents. 

Why would anyone with any semblance of brains in their head believe such nonsense coming from the mouths of these little children? Well, the quack McFarlane did and so did that prosecutor who had envisions of being famous.

Some of the children who were interviewed talked of a game called Naked Movie Star suggesting they were forcefully photographed while they were nude. During the trial, testimony from the children stated that the Naked Movie Star game was actually a rhyming taunt used to tease other children—"What you say is what you are, you're a naked movie star,"—and had nothing whatever to do with having naked pictures of the children taken by the McMartins in their school. When shown a series of photographs by Danny Davis, the McMartins' lawyer, one child identified actor Chuck Norris as one of the abusers.  This just goes to show you how far this farce had progressed though the office of the prosecutor.

One of the children later said, “Never did anyone do anything to me, and I never saw them doing anything. I said a lot of things that didn't happen. I lied. Anytime I would give them an answer that they didn't like, they would ask again and encourage me to give them the answer they were looking for. I felt uncomfortable and a little ashamed that I was being dishonest. But at the same time, being the type of person I was, whatever my parents wanted me to do, I would do.” 

By the spring of 1984, the prosecutor claimed that 360 children had been abused in the school over the years. This gives you some idea of just how far this hysteria had progressed. This isn’t the first time that mass hysteria has occurred. Once it begins, it just moves on like a speeding train and no one can stop it. It also tells you just how gullible people can be to accept such outrageous assertions.

Astrid Heppenstall Heger, who is a medical doctor and professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the USC Keck School of Medicine and the founder and executive director of the Violence Intervention Program at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles, performed medical examinations and took photos of what she believed to be minute scarring, which she stated was caused by anal penetration.  Give me a break. Journalist John Earl believed that her findings were based on unsubstantiated medical histories.

We in Canada had a similar so-called medical authority testify in court that the bodies of many children he looked at during their autopsies caused him to believe that the babies were murdered by their parents who were later arrested, tried and convicted of murder and sent to prison for those so-called crimes. It was later determined that this medical doctor’s findings were invalid and the unfortunate parents who had been imprisoned, were eventually released although, some of them had lost the custody of their other children in the interim.

This particular fool’s autopsies and along with the McFarlane and Heger examinations of the so-called victims are what happens when jurors believe the testimony of these so-called experts.

Ultimately only 41 of the original 360 children testified during the grand jury and pre-trial hearings, and fewer than a dozen testified during the actual trial.

On March 22, 1984, Virginia McMartin, Peggy McMartin Buckey, Ray Buckey, Ray's sister, Peggy Ann Buckey and teachers Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor, and Babette Spitler were charged with 115 counts of child abuse, later expanded to 321 counts of child abuse involving 48 children. In the 20 months of preliminary hearings, the prosecution, led by attorney Lael Rubin, presented their theory of sexual abuse which we all know now didn’t exist at all.

The children's testimony during the preliminary hearings was obviously inconsistent. Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder, co-authors of the now-discredited satanic ritual abuse autobiography Michelle Remembers, met with the parents and children involved in the trial, and were believed by the initial prosecutor Glenn Stevens to have influenced the children's testimony. Had he been the prosecutor from the beginning to the end, this farce wouldn’t have proceeded as far as it did. Unfortunately, that fool, Lael Rubin took over the prosecution for a while. That is when the office of the prosecutor should have gone to damage control.

In 1986, a new district attorney called the evidence "incredibly weak," and dropped all charges against Virginia McMartin, Peggy Ann Buckey, Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor and Babette Spitler.  Unfortunately, Peggy McMartin Buckey and Ray Buckey remained in custody awaiting trial. Peggy McMartin-Buckly’s bail had been set at $1 million and Ray Buckey had been denied bail.

In 1989, Peggy Anne McMarin-Buckey's appeal to have her teaching credentials re-instated after her suspension was ordered. The judge ruled that there was no credible evidence or corroboration to lead to the license being suspended, and that a review of the videotaped interviews with McMartin children "revealed a pronounced absence of any evidence implicating her in any wrongdoing at all.” The following day the credentialing board of Sacramento endorsed the ruling and restored Buckey's right to teach.

During the trial, former prison inmate, George Freeman was called as a witness and he testified that Ray Buckey had confessed to him while sharing a cell. Freeman later attempted to flee the country after confessing to perjury in a series of trials of other fellow inmates. In those cases, he manufactured testimony in exchange for favorable treatment by the prosecution. In order to guarantee his testimony during the McMartin case, Freeman was given immunity to previous charges of perjury. Under immunity, Freeman then admitted to fabricating Buckey's confession. The prosecution’s against this unfortunate man went straight down the toilet. 

In 1990, after three years of testimony and nine weeks of deliberation by the jury, Peggy McMartin Buckey was acquitted on all counts. Ray Buckey was cleared on 52 of 65 counts, and freed on bail after more than five years in jail. Nine of 11 jurors at a press conference following the trial stated that they believed the children had been molested but the evidence did not allow them to state who had committed the abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. Eleven out of the thirteen jurors who remained by the end of the trial voted to acquit Buckey of the charges; the refusal of the remaining two to vote for a not guilty verdict resulted in the deadlock. The media overwhelmingly focused on the two jurors who voted guilty at the expense of those who believed Buckey was not guilty. Buckey was retried later on six of the 13 counts, which produced another hung jury. The prosecution then gave up trying to obtain a conviction, and the case was closed with all charges against Ray Buckey dismissed. He had been jailed for 5 years without ever being convicted of any wrongdoing

What happened to these most unfortunate accused persons was a terrible injustice and will go down in American history as one of the most outrageous cases of injustice and legal farces ever experienced by victims of mass hysteria, quacks and prosecutorial wrongdoing. It didn’t help the victims that the media coverage which could only be classed as a frenzy was skewed towards an uncritical acceptance of the prosecution's viewpoint. The school was set fire by an arsonist. I am convinced that the members of the grand jury were swayed by the unfair reports by the media.

Virginia McMartin lost her Pre-School when it was burned and later leveled.  She died on December 18, 1995 at age 88.  When it was over, Virginia’s daughter, Peggy McMartin Buckey spoke bitterly of the price she had paid in the longest and costliest trial in American history (15 million dollars) one which, from a legal standpoint, she had won.  She had lost her licence to teach but after the trial, it was restored and she was awarded $180,000 for lost wages and went on to teach extremely disadvantaged children in a special school in Anaheim, California. She died in December 2000 at the age of seventy.  Her son Ray Bucky meanwhile went on to finish college and then went to university to study law. On February 19, 2001, Betty Evans Raidor, a former teacher at McMartin, died at the age of 81. She had been charged with 32 instances of child molestation, along with four other teachers. The charges were dropped after the preliminary hearing. The trial ruined her financially. The publicity turned her into a pariah.

I should add that if this case occurred in Canada, these victims of prosecutorial abuse would have been compensated and each of them given millions of dollars.

In The Devil in The Nursery, Margaret Talbot for the New York Times summarized the case: 

When you once believed something that now strikes you as absurd, even unhinged, it can be almost impossible to summon that feeling of credulity again. Maybe that is why it is easier for most of us to forget, rather than to try and explain, the Satanic-abuse scare that gripped this country in the early 80's.  The myth that Devil-worshipers had set up shop in our day-care centers, where their clever adepts were raping and sodomizing children, practicing ritual sacrifice, shedding their clothes, drinking blood and eating feces, all [being] unnoticed by parents, neighbors and the authorities.” unquote

Does this Manhattan Beach case bring to mind the Salem witch trials? Three hundred years ago, the people of Salem, Massachusetts were strongly convinced that the area was infested with witches. Their suspicions brought about the deaths of two dozen innocent people accused as being witches.

The evidence was simply invented and transmogrified into a national cause celebre by the misplaced zeal of six people: Judy Johnson, the mentally ill mother; Jane Hoag, the detective who investigated the complaints; Kee MacFarlane, the [so-called] social worker who interviewed the children; Robert Philibosian, the district attorney who was in a losing battle for re-election; Wayne Satz, the television reporter who first reported the case, and Lael Rubin, the prosecutor.  All of their legacies are doomed to shame.

Glenn Stevens, an assistant to the lead prosecutor, Lael Rubin, resigned his office in disgust after having worked for two years on the case. He revealed material to the lawyer who was defending the defendants that had been withheld from the trial, including claims by the original accuser, Judy Johnson, people had flown through windows, killed lions, and had sexual encounters with giraffes. According to this mentally disorganized woman, Ray Buckley was alleged to have beaten a giraffe to death with a baseball bat.

The 7 adults who were charged had been financially impoverished although later Peggy was awarded $180.000 that represented the earnings she lost while she was a defendant. The Virginia McMartin Preschool was closed, and leveled to the ground. The pastor of St. Cross church was the victim of harassment and death threats. He closed the church and moved to another part of the country.

Children's stories of mysterious, secret tunnels appeared in various other child molestation cases around the world. None were ever found. Tens of millions of Americans began to erroneously believe that young pre-school children across the U.S. were being abused by their teachers.

A ritual abuse disaster like the Manhattan Beach fiasco in California is unlikely to happen again because child welfare and police authorities know much about more memory processes in the brain and interview techniques for young children. I would be remiss however if I didn’t mention that there was a similar fiasco that took place in Canada but that is gist for another article at a later date.

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