By: David Bloomberg Re: More on McMartin From THEISTWATCH: (File: MCMRTTHE.ZIP) McMARTIN P

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By: David Bloomberg Re: More on McMartin From THEISTWATCH: (File: MCMRTTHE.ZIP) McMARTIN PRE-SCHOOL 'ABUSE' CASE TO BE SUBJECT OF NEW HBO MOVIE The Costliest Legal Case in California History Established a New and Questionable Paradigm in the Mythology of Satanic and Ritual Child Abuse. But Was Real Justice Done? by Conrad F. Goeringer On Saturday, May 20, HBO television airs "Indictment," a movie based on the infamous McMartin Pre School case which captured the public imagination in the late 1980s, and fostered hysteria over reports of alleged Satanic and cult ritual child abuse. It was the longest and costliest trial in the history of the state of California. Despite $15 million, and nearly seven years of investigation and legal proceedings, no one was convicted, lives were ruined, and charges that the nation's children were being kidnapped, abused and murdered by a conspiracy of satanic cultists were popularized throughout the media. Satanic cults became the new "bete noir" of Christian fundamentalists eager to replace a decaying Soviet empire with an even more horrifying and homegrown threat. It began on August 12, 1983, with a complaint filed by a mother alleging that her two and a half-year-old son had been sodomized by Ray Buckley, an employee at the McMartin PreSchool in Manhattan Beach, California. Police began a round of questioning which spread to 20 other parents and their children who also attended McMartin, and all denied any acts of abuse. In fact, the woman who had filed the original complaint (who died in 1986) was a paranoid schizophrenic and alcoholic, something which was apparently not known at the time. There were no external signs of abuse, and no other corroborative evidence. On orders from the district attorney, however, an organization called Children's Institute International (CII) was then brought in. Using a technique called "Play therapy," interrogators from the Institute began eliciting responses from more than 300 children who had attended the pre-school. A grisly tale of ritual abuse is said to have emerged under questioning of the children, and in 1984 police arrested Buckey, his grandmother (who owned the Pre School), Buckey's sister and three female teachers. Hopefully, the HBO treatment of this case will accurately cover the ensuing events, including the public outcry and hostility over fears of ritual child abuse. One of the prosecutors in the subsequent legal circus was Robert Philibosian, now a regular commentator for a network covering the O.J. Simpson trial. When DA Ira Reiner inherited the case from Philibosian, he was shocked by the weaknesses and contradictions in the case, and after an eighteen-month preliminary hearing ended up dropping charges against everyone except Buckey. One crucial fact that emerged at the McMartin trial was the role played by "experts" who, deliberately or unwittingly, led children into imaginative and false telling of stories. "Do you actually believe children would make something like this up?", asks a protagonist in the HBO movie. We should now. Children appear to have been hammered relentlessly by investigators seeking to confirm their own biases which would support the allegations of child abuse. Some suggest that a similar form of "leading" has been taking place within the "Facilitated Communication" movement of therapists working with severely autistic people; indeed, the evidence is so overwhelming that it is therapists who are doing the communicating when they guide an autistic patient's fingers to a keyboard, belief in this technique has become tantamount to a blind faith. A once promising tool in unlocking the minds of those imprisoned by autism has been, alas, exposed as a pseudo-science, and in some cases outright fraud. The McMartin case involved claims so bizarre that they are fit material for the production of a B-grade horror genre film. Those claims also ended up being repeated and amplified in the folk lore of "Satan's Underground." They moved beyond the hysterical claims of certain fundamentalist Christian groups intent on spreading the alarm over a nationwide Satanic conspiracy, to the land of daytime TV talk shows, questionable "Documentaries," and even police department seminars (often conducted by self-proclaimed "experts" who advanced a distinct religious explanation for this phenomena). One police seminar, for instance, was told the following tale: children were dropped off by their parents at the day care facility. They were then transported by plane to a remote ceremonial location where robed figures may them lie in coffins. They were lowered into the ground and had dirt thrown on them, then sexually assaulted by a satanic high priest. They were then loaded back onto the planes, transported to the day care facility, and picked up by their parents. Variations on this theme became progressively more imaginative, and included stories of being buried alive for several hours with a dead body alongside in a coffin, being forced to kill newborn babies, drinking of blood, serial sex including vaginal, anal and oral penetration and other horrors. Despite the striking lack of corroborative evidence in many of these accounts, many people in churches, government and the media believed a number of such stories. What finally did happen in the McMartin case? In the first trial, Buckey's mother was acquitted on all 65 charges against her. Buckey was acquitted on 52, and the jury deadlocked on 13. In 1990, Buckey was again tried on nine charges, and the jury once again deadlocked. Raymond Buckey ended up spending more than 5 years in jail. The school was shut down and even razed; investigators brought in earth- moving equipment in an unsuccessful hunt for "hidden rooms" and ceremonial chambers which, they had been told, wound underneath the school in a labyrinth. On the final day of that phase of the investigation, news reports told of parents and others who still convinced of the existence of the underground torture chambers scrambled over piles of dirt and debris digging frantically and finding nothing of substance. A POSTSCRIPT ON THE MCMARTIN CASE One outcome of the McMartin debacle and subsequent cases involving claims of "ritual child abuse" has been a re- examination of techniques used in extracting information from children. It has been found that not only do children LIE, but that they often craft stories and responses which they see as pleasing the investigator or authority figure who is questioning them. There have been some cases where children and even teenagers also conspired to "frame" a parent, teacher, or some other person by concocting molestation, rape, or ritual abuse cases. The hysteria over Satanic cults has pretty much died down. It is no longer primetime special fare, and many of the self-touted "experts" on the subject have either faded into obscurity or moved into other limelights. Charges like the one that up to 50,000 persons each year were being kidnapped and sacrificed by Satanic cults have been exposed as groundless. In fact, J. Gordon Melton of the Institute for the Study of American Religion observed that the overwhelming percentage of documented, organized child abuse ritual took place in crank fundamentalist Christian cults such as the River of Life Tabernacle. Abuse in such controlled, authoritarian religious environments ranged from starvation and prayer atonement to "Bible discipline" whippings. But the lives of many people charged with such offenses are affected, often for life, and their numbers are still growing. Even if the legal system brings a kind of justice, the lawyers' fees, bankruptcies, personal disruptions, and community ostracism that so often accompanies such events linger. Hopefully, the HBO showing of "Indictment" will show us the dangers of having police and the law run amok. --30--


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