STORY: "The ongoing legacy of the great satanic sex abuse panic," posted by Radley Balko, published by the Washington Post on May 26, 2105. (Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.)
GIST: "The state’s highest criminal court on Wednesday threw out the 1992 sexual assault convictions against Dan and Fran Keller but declined to find the former Austin day care owners innocent of crimes linked to a now-discredited belief that secret satanic cults were abusing day care children nationwide. The Kellers spent more than 22 years in prison after three young children accused them of dismembering babies, torturing pets, desecrating corpses, videotaping orgies and serving blood-laced Kool-Aid in satanic rituals at their home-based day care. No evidence of such activities was ever found.........The nine judges did not provide an explanation for why they rejected the Kellers’ innocence claim except to say their decision was based on the findings of the trial judge “and this court’s independent review of the record.”.........The panic actually began in the 1980s. It was instigated and perpetuated mostly by groups of fundamentalist Christians who saw Satan in every heavy metal album, “Smurfs” episode, and Dungeons & Dragons game, along with a quack cadre of psychotherapists who were convinced they could dig up buried memories through hypnosis. What they did instead was shed some light on just how potent the power of suggestion can be. Remarkably, children were convinced to testify about horrifying — and entirely fictional — violations perpetrated on them by care workers and, in some cases, by their own parents. But it wasn’t just children. As the Kellers’ conviction shows, the panic was so overwhelming, it could convince trained medical professionals to see abuse where there was none. Some defendants were convicted of gruesome crimes such as the aforementioned dismembering of babies despite the fact that there were no corpses and no babies missing from the immediate area. Ultimately, the panic and power of suggestion was pervasive enough to dupe our entire criminal justice system, as dozens of innocent people were sent to prison for crimes for which there was no evidence other than the coerced testimony of kids, and for which those same defendants would later be exonerated.........And here’s the “expert” who sealed the Kellers’ conviction: The state presented a witness, Randy Noblitt, who claimed to be an expert on satanic cults and rituals and who testified that the complainant had described such rituals. Applicant’s brief on appeal noted that Noblitt had parlayed his testimony into a business opportunity, giving lectures and writing a book on the evils of ritual abuse, and that pointed to “a Noblitt-sponsored 1995 conference as providing an eye-opening look into his world view.” That conference included speakers who “revealed” the FBI’s cover-up of a satanic cult in Nebraska that had White House ties, the existence of more than 500 satanic cults conducting eight sacrificial murders a year in New York City, and that then-President Bill Clinton was the anti-Christ..........That the highest court in Texas still can’t bring itself to declare the couple innocent, in spite of all that we know now, shows just how difficult it can be to undo the damage caused by a moral panic and junk science in the courtroom. This didn’t just go on in Texas. It was all over the country, from conservative, law-and-order spots such as Kern County, Calif., to liberal strongholds such as Middlesex County, Mass. One of the best treatments of the panic is the movie “Witch Hunt,” which focuses on Kern County, arguable the epicenter of the panic. Here’s a trailer: The entire movie is now available online. See the end of this post."
The entire story can be found at:
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