Witchhunt

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Bad enough being sent to prison for a crime you committed.  Imagine being sent to prison for twenty-one years for a crime that you did not commit:

The only physical evidence against the Kellers was the testimony of Dr Michael Mouw, who examined the girl in the emergency room of a local hospital after the therapy session and said he found tears in her hymen that potentially indicated that she was molested.

Mouw signed an affidavit last January in which he affirms that he now realises his inexperience led him to a conclusion that “is not scientifically or medically valid, and that I was mistaken.”

In an appeal filed on behalf of Fran Keller earlier this year, her lawyer, Keith Hampton, also argued that the state presented misleading evidence about the cemetery, relied on a false witness confession and the testimony of a “quack” satanic abuse “expert”, and that suggestive interview techniques had encouraged the children to make “fantastical false statements”.

According to police reports and trial records, the children said that Dan Keller killed his dog and made children cut it up and eat it, “baptised” kids with blood and disembowelled pets, forcing children to drink the blood.

The Kellers were also said to have decapitated and chopped up a baby, put the remains in a swimming pool and made the children jump in. In one account, the Kellers were said to have stolen a baby gorilla from a park and Frances cut off one of its fingers.

The pair, who apparently liked to wear robes, were said to have dug graves in a cemetery to hide dead animals and a passer-by who was shot and carved up with a chain saw.

The children were supposedly taken to military bases and on secret aeroplane trips, including to Mexico, where they were abused and returned to the centre in time for their parents to pick them up as normal. They said they were coerced into videotaped sex acts and drugged so they would forget what they had seen.

In court, the jury heard about the extensive attempts by Austin police to substantiate the stories – and Hampton believes that lent them credibility. Police conducted inquiries at nearby airfields, took the children to a cemetery and examined graves from a helicopter using an infrared camera that they said could detect “hot-spots” on decomposing corpses.

In a letter of support for the Kellers dated March 17 this year, James Wood, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, wrote: “There is now general agreement among reputable scholars that the Daycare Abuse Panic was a twentieth-century manifestation of ‘witchcraft fever’ of the same kind that swept Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and Western Europe in the centuries before that.”

 

Go here to read the rest.  The Travis County DA dismissed the charges against the now elderly Kellers this week, finding that they are, and always had been, “actually innocent” of the charges brought against them. 

Combine ambitious, or worse, prosecutors, a national hysteria, hysterical parents, gullible and/or mendacious cops, very young children, and “experts” mouthing idiocy like children never lie about abuse, and people can be sent away for a very long time on little or no evidence.  Suddenly we are back in 1692 with Justices solemnly receiving rubbish “spectral evidence” testimony, with alleged victims relaying what invisible demons were telling them.  A good rule of thumb is that if testimony sounds as if it is made up baloney, it usually is.  If we allow our common sense and decency to desert us, trials can become little better than more formal lynch mobs.  Too many judges and juries forgot that lesson in the eighties and nineties, and innocent people paid a dreadful price.  Something to remember in the midst of the next wave of hysteria.

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13 Comments

  1. In the case of which I have personal knowledge (one much less lurid) t was a prosecutor, parents, and a local OB GYN, compounded by a judge I wouldn’t trust either. The jury split the difference, convicting the defendant on one count (they believed the OB GYN) and acquitting on another. The sequence of events over the next 14 years (during which time he was in prison) is enough to persuade you that the parole system is humbug and should be replaced. The prosecutor in the case, in addition to insulting in open court members of the community who supported the accused, later went to work for some shizzy ‘NGO’ ‘advocating’ on behalf of the abused.
    He picked up enough vocational training in prison and his mother and father had enough good will in the community that he could find work on his release, though he lost one job when the quondam prosecutor located him and whipped up a lynch mob against one employer. (Local newspapers had in their files a bizarre mugshot that looked nothing like him and reprinted it to illustrate their articles). He moved out of state after a couple of years, and, in a surprise to everyone, found someone to marry him. He was, in the first two years after his release, episodically angry, and may still be.

  2. To the hell of being wrongfully convicted and sentenced for such a horrendous crime, and then serving 21 years for said crime you didn’t commit, add the PARTICULARIZED HELL of what happens to people in prison that are convicted of crimes harming children. We can only imagine (and we probably don’t want to) what these poor people were forced to endure.

  3. I am being called to my civic duty as a juror in 10 days. First time ever. Any advice about how to properly serve? The comment about “If is sounds like baloney, it usually us,” prompts me to fine tune my crap detector…

  4. Bring a good book to read. You will probably be waiting quite a bit before appearing on panels for the attorneys or the courts to voir dire. If your are picked for a jury listen hard to the testimony. Remember that what the lawyers say is not evidence. The Judge will instruct all of you as to the applicable law at the end of the case. If you get a criminal case remember that beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean either “any doubt” or “he probably did it.” If you serve on a jury and they take you all to lunch during trial, I hope it is some place decent. Sometimes jurors get taken to some of the most miserable greasy spoons imaginable. After a jury verdict, jurors are not required to talk about their votes to anyone.

  5. Don: thanks for the advice. I am hard of hearing but do wear hearing aids after my time flying in the military. Even with hearing aids, I often find it hard to follow conversations. Can we ask the Judge to have things repeated? I’m intrigued by going to court and I want to do a good “job” but also don’t want an important decision to rest on my hit and miss hearing…

  6. The Court would probably give you a hearing device that might help better than your hearing aid. You would definitely want to bring this to the attention of the Court when you are being questioned as part of a panel during the picking of the jury.

  7. “Hey, miserable greasy spoons often serve up some of the best chow around.”

    Those that do not also cause you to vomit it right back up. Perhaps I have simply gotten too familiar with the food inspection process over the years in my home county.

  8. ABS has been selected several times to be part of a jury pool but has yet to be chosen for a trial.

    One of the positive things about being selected for a pool is that it gives ABS a chance to tell others about nullification.

  9. Re: getting chosen for a jury. I never try to skip out or make excuses when I get my jury summons. I would LOVE to be on a jury. I think it would be a great experience, and I am a very impartial person. But I am never chosen….despite writing on the selection form PLEASE PICK ME !!! in the margins, along with various emoticons. Clearly I would make a good juror, as I hold my courtroom reading material so the title shows prominently: books like “Capital Punishment in America,” or Evan Whitten’s “Our Corrupt Legal System.” You would think attorneys would jump at the chance to have an enthusiastic, well-informed juror.

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