How the ‘Witch Hunt’ Myth Undermined American Justice

July 13, 2014 Comments Off on How the ‘Witch Hunt’ Myth Undermined American Justice

How the ‘Witch Hunt’ Myth Undermined American Justice
Jason Berry  07.12.14

Innocent people persecuted by a legal system out of control? In The Witch-Hunt Narrative, Ross E. Cheit argues the media and courts have gone too far in dismissing evidence of abuse….

Accusations of ritual abuse and grisly cult behavior with Satanic overtones have been discussed at conferences on child abuse and treated in research literature since the mid-’80s. Kenneth Lanning, an FBI agent who specialized in child-abuse investigations for many years, found no evidence “of a well-organized Satanic cult” and said so in a research guide. And yet, writes Cheit, even though the FBI guide became Exhibit A for those scoffing at charges of Satanic abuse, “it actually recognized many activities described as ritual abuse and it cautions that there might be plausible explanations for children making such statements in other cases about sexual abuse.”

The absence of a well-organized cult does not mean the absence of ritualized abuse. Cheit provides several pages of numbing case studies on people who were prosecuted, sometimes with testimony from their traumatized children who finally grew old enough to unburden themselves. In Florida, a monster named Eddie Lee Sexton Sr. “ran his family like a cult, subjecting them to the kinds of rituals that…others claim is only imaginary,” Cheit reports. Sexton’s children showed authorities the burial place of an infant he had murdered. “Sexton, who told his children he was the devil, inflicted horrendous torture on his family, including sexual abuse.”

The most controversial case that Cheit explores, and the one he calls “the turning point” in the journalistic development of a witch-hunt narrative, is that of Margaret Kelly Michaels. In 1985, Michaels was arrested on the testimony of children at a New Jersey day-care center where she had worked. An attractive woman in her twenties, Michaels was convicted on 96 of 131 counts, with young children testifying. Michaels took the stand and denied the accusations.

Michaels was imprisoned while awaiting trial. An inmate she befriended would later testify that Michaels told her, “I didn’t mean to hurt those children.” The inmate had already been sentenced and made no deal with prosecutors. Cheit continues:

The jury did not hear additional evidence concerning disturbing sexual behavior in the Michaels family. The state offered evidence about her being groped by her father during an early jail visit. The incident was documented at the time and the prosecution found out about it only because a correctional official in a barbershop was heard talking about it… The judge deemed it too prejudicial to present to the jury….
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/12/how-the-witch-hunt-myth-undermined-american-justice.html

There’s no evidence of hundreds of cases of false convictions of child sexual abuse in this era, “Evidence of abuse in the Keller case has been minimized or denied”, Westminster ‘chumocracy’ has protected itself from paedophile revelations, claims Cameron’s advisor

July 12, 2014 Comments Off on There’s no evidence of hundreds of cases of false convictions of child sexual abuse in this era, “Evidence of abuse in the Keller case has been minimized or denied”, Westminster ‘chumocracy’ has protected itself from paedophile revelations, claims Cameron’s advisor

Mythical Numbers and Satanic Ritual Abuse
Ross Cheit  Professor at Brown University 07/11/2014

There’s no evidence of hundreds of cases of false convictions of child sexual abuse in this era. In my new book, The Witch-Hunt Narrative, I examine dozens of specific cases from the 1980s and early 90s that are said to be wrongful prosecutions or wrongful convictions. Aided by dozens of research assistants, I spent fifteen years doing the painstaking work of original trial court research to figure out what kind of evidence actually existed in these cases….

In many of the cases proclaimed to be witch hunts, looking closely at the record revealed substantial evidence of abuse and compelling reasons that jurors voted to convict. It’s true that I also found cases where people were charged who shouldn’t have been. Yet even in some of those cases, there was strong evidence of abuse. A crime was committed and a child was assaulted by someone who was never apprehended, but only the false accusation story lives on…..

on the day that the 3-year-old complained to her mother about Dan Keller pulling down her pants and spanking her at day-care, she later screamed while she was urinating, “It hurts, it hurts.” That prompted her mother to take the preschooler to the emergency room.

The emergency room doctor found what he believed were two physical indications of sexual abuse: “what appeared to be lacerations of the hymen” and “a tear of the posterior fourchette,” a fold of skin on the vagina. It might surprise readers to learn that a year after the 1991 added emergency room visit, the doctor “didn’t have any independent recollection” of the exam and testified entirely from the medical records.

….omits that fact in reporting that, when contacted by a newspaper in 2009, the doctor described a revelation that supposedly happened “years after” the trial. We don’t know what year. But according to Dr. Mouw, while attending a professional training seminar, he saw a slide about normal variations in hymens and realized that what he thought had been lacerations in the Keller case were probably innocuous. In 2013, Dr. Mouw filed an affidavit to this effect. Notably, the affidavit does not withdraw his finding of a vaginal tear, which had been the more certain of his original findings….

Douglas Perry, a friend of the Kellers, confessed to being at a beer-and-sex party where adults sexually abused a boy and a girl who were under the Kellers’ care. He said that, “Fran had a pen and was sticking it in and out of the little girl’s vagina.” He identified the 3-year-old girl from the trial in a videotape. Perry later recanted his confession, but he also pleaded guilty to “indecency with a child by contact.” ….

The Fuster case originated with a child spontaneously talking about being abused. That clear statement caused two families to withdraw their children from Fuster’s home daycare, which they did without informing anyone else. Months later, a spontaneous statement from a different child, started an investigation by law enforcement. An articulate 5-year-old boy was soon located, who gave several detailed statements that were later corroborated in various ways. The case was tagged by some as “satanic ritual abuse” because children made statements about Fuster wearing masks, killing a bird and playing with feces. Those allegations quietly disappeared from the witch-hunt narrative when adult testimony and photographic evidence corroborated these statements….

When the charges emerged in the home daycare case, Frank Fuster was on parole for sexually assaulting a 9-year-old two years earlier. The jury that convicted Fuster in 1985 was unaware of this prior conviction….But the fact is that Fuster admitted in his parole violation hearing on the 1984 charges that, in the course of driving the girl home, he made her sit on his lap and he touched “her chest area” and “her vagina area.”….

But what did Judy Johnson do to set off the “witch-hunt?” She saw a spot of blood on her son’s anus and called the police, who told her to take him to a doctor, which she did. She was then referred to a pediatric specialist, who reported to the Manhattan Beach Police Department that “the victim’s anus was forcibly entered several days ago.” That’s why the original defendant, Ray Buckey, was arrested….

even the defense lawyer, Danny Davis, allowed that the genital injuries on one girl were “serious and convincing.” (His main argument to the jury was that much of the time that this girl attended McMartin was outside the statute of limitations.) They don’t mention that vaginal injuries on another girl, one of the three involved in both McMartin trials, were described by a pediatrician as proving sexual abuse “to a medical certainty.”….

many jurors believed the original defendant Ray Buckey was guilty and voted to convict him. Within an hour after the first trial ended in a hung jury, seven jurors held a press conference to announce that they thought children had been sexually abused. They spoke about the difficulty in proving such claims “beyond a reasonable doubt.”….

Now, while the media publicizes sexual abuse stories about celebrities and cover-ups of abuse in the past, and repeats the mythical numbers from the witch-hunt narrative, they overlook a real number that concerns real victims — the number of children being sexually abused today. It’s a major public health problem that gets almost no attention at all.

While this type of crime is, not surprisingly, difficult to quantify, studies over many years have found that 20 percent of women and 5 to 10 percent of men report having been sexually abused as children. Just last month, a study in the American Journal of Public Health showed much higher rates of male victimization than previously thought. There’s every reason to believe that child sexual abuse is still widespread. Yet how often do the media delve into that real problem? How often do they examine the enormous gap between the number of children — judging from studies — being abused today and the number of their abusers who end up in court, much less in prison? ….
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ross-cheit/mythical-numbers-and-sata_b_5578078.html

Evidence in the Keller Case
July 10, 2014

This post elaborates on some of the evidence in the Keller case, discussed in an article that was just published on Huffington Post. The article, which is about the witch-hunt narrative writ large, argues that the evidence of abuse in the Keller case has been minimized or denied, while the “satanic” aspects of the case, which were never part of the charges, have been exaggerated.

Dr. Mouw’s Testimony

The Keller case began the day that a mother took her daughter to the Emergency Room, after the little girl screamed “It hurts, it hurts” while urinating. The Emergency Room doctor, Dr. Michael Mouw, found two different signs of sexual abuse. Seventeen years later, the doctor told a reporter that his diagnosis was likely incorrect.

Dr. Mouw’s claim has been accepted at face value, without any apparent skepticism or scrutiny by those advancing the witch-hunt narrative. Yet, on close examination, there are two reasons to discount Dr. Mouw’s current claim. First and foremost, it is flatly contradicted by his testimony in 1992, when he said repeatedly that he had “no independent recollection” of the exam….

Second, even accepting what Dr. Mouw now says at face value, his current position, contained in this affidavit filed in 2013, contradicts only one of the two findings in his 1992 report. Dr. Mouw claims that the “lacerations” he reported seeing in two places in the girl’s vagina were probably normal hymenal variations. But his affidavit did not withdraw his finding of a “tear in the posterior fourchette.”….

A civil complaint filed by the parents of one of the children who attended the Keller’s home daycare contains the allegation that a “longtime friend and confident” of Francis Keller was told about “Daniel Keller’s abusive habit toward children” (p. 2). If this allegation is true, it provides additional support, beyond the word of the children, for the allegation against the Kellers. But this evidence was never heard in court because the defendants were ultimately successful in an appeal that argued that such causes of action should not be allowed in Texas.
http://blogs.brown.edu/rcheit/2014/07/10/keller/

Westminster ‘chumocracy’ has protected itself from paedophile revelations, claims Cameron’s advisor on child abuse

Claire Perry says politicians have ‘out of touch sense of entitlement’
Tory junior minister launched blistering attack on establishment cover up
Comes after Theresa May this week launched two probes into historic abuse

By Tom Mctague, Mail Online Deputy Political Editor  11 July 2014

David Cameron’s advisor on child abuse has lashed out at the Westminster ‘chumocracy’ that has protected itself from allegations of paedophilia.

Tory junior minister Claire Perry said Parliament was full of ‘too many people with the same interests and the same out-of-touch sense of entitlement coming together to protect their own’.

Her damning remarks come amid allegations that a paedophile network was operating in Westminster and was being protected by senior politicians….

Miss Perry added: ‘The other, and more worrying part of the problem is the way that the voices of victims were ignored for so long – children told to keep quiet, ridiculed, or threatened – with tragically the most vulnerable of all being more likely to be targeted for abuse.

‘That, to me, is the real scandal and we must do all we can to make sure that when victims speak out they are heard and action is taken.”….
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2688622/Westminster-chumocracy-protected-paedophile-revelations-claims-Cameron-s-advisor-child-abuse.html

 

Jerry Sandusky’s adopted son to detail sexual abuse in Oprah interview, Are Child Sexual Abuse Cases More Common Than We Think?, Ex-senior judge Butler-Sloss to head child sex abuse inquiry, investigation into Knowl View ‘cover-up’

July 9, 2014 Comments Off on Jerry Sandusky’s adopted son to detail sexual abuse in Oprah interview, Are Child Sexual Abuse Cases More Common Than We Think?, Ex-senior judge Butler-Sloss to head child sex abuse inquiry, investigation into Knowl View ‘cover-up’

Jerry Sandusky’s adopted son to detail sexual abuse in Oprah interview

Matthew Sandusky previously told investigators that he suffered seven
years of sexual abuse at the hands of his adopted father
On Thursday, he will speak out in his first TV interview since Jerry
Sandusky was convicted and sentenced to 30-60 years in 2012

By Lydia Warren 8 July 2014

‘At bedtime, his ritual began,’ he says in a 30-second preview clip for the show. Ahead of the show’s airing, OWN explained that Matthew would be sharing ‘a deeply personal account of the grooming, methodical control and manipulation he faced as a child’….

Sandusky, who retired in June 30, 1999 as Penn State’s defensive coordinator,  was convicted in 2012 of molesting 10 boys over 15 years, some in the football  team’s showers on campus. The 70-year-old is now serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence….

The interview comes two weeks after Pennsylvania’s attorney general released a review of the prosecution but found no evidence of political interference by  then Governor Tom Corbett.

The report, however, did reveal three years of ‘inexplicable delays’ to
prosecute the former Penn State football coach on child abuse charges.
The pedophile’s home was not searched and the report notes that it took a full year, from March 2009 until March 2010, for the office to recommend charging Sandusky when ‘Victim 1’ came forward….
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2685127/Jerry-Sanduskys-adopted-son-sexual-abuse-Oprah-interview.html

The Leonard Lopate Show
Are Child Sexual Abuse Cases More Common Than We Think?
Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Court documents reveal surprising leniency in trials of child molestors, claims Cheit

In the early 1990s, a new narrative emerged that child sex abuse cases were part of a “moral panic” that produced a witch hunt, and the children who testified were not reliable and easily swayed by prosecutors. But Ross Cheit reveals that the issue had not been blown out of proportion at all. His book The Witch Hunt Narrative, shows that child sex abuse convictions were regular occurrences and that the crime occurred far more frequently than many believed.
http://www.wnyc.org/story/behind-narrative-child-sex-abuse-convictions/

Ex-senior judge Butler-Sloss to head child sex abuse inquiry 8 July 2014

Retired senior judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss has been named as the chairwoman of a wide-ranging review into historical child sex abuse. The inquiry will examine how state institutions handled their duty of care to protect children from paedophiles…..

It comes after Mark Sedwill, the Home Office’s top civil servant, answered MPs’ questions about historical child abuse allegations. He was asked by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee how his department lost or destroyed 114 files that could have shed light on alleged abuse. Mark Sedwill: “I am concerned about all material that we can’t find” Mr Sedwill told the committee the files, which relate to the 1980s and 1990s, were discovered missing after an expert investigator was drafted in to look into the Home Office’s handling of paedophile allegations in February last year.

He said the investigator discovered they were missing after he trawled a database of 750,000 files using search terms including “child abuse”, “paedophilia” and “PIE”, an anagram for the Paedophile Information Exchange….

Lady Butler-Sloss’s broader, independent inquiry, will look at how seriously public bodies and other important institutions have taken their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.

The probe aims to address public concern over failings exposed by recent child sex abuse cases involving celebrities such as Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris…. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-28203914

Police announce wider investigation into Knowl View ‘cover-up’  7 July 2014

Police have said there will be a wider investigation into an alleged cover-up  of sexual abuse claims at a school linked to the late MP Cyril Smith. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has been looking at claims of abuse at Knowl View residential school for boys in Rochdale from the 1970s….

The Crown Prosecution Service has also released letters detailing why Cyril Smith was not prosecuted in 1998 and 1999, however much of the detail was released in 2012. On both occasions the files were passed to prosecutors but no charges were brought. Seven men have alleged they were abused by the former Rochdale MP at a residential school in Greater Manchester, police have said. Greater Manchester Police has said the men claimed they were abused by Smith at Knowl View in Rochdale in the 1970s and 1980s. Smith’s family said he had always denied the abuse claims. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-manchester-28203463

Horrific truths of treatment emerge from Catholic mother and baby homes, Norwich child abuse inquiry police charge woman with rapes, The Witch-Hunt Narrative By Ross E. Cheit

June 15, 2014 Comments Off on Horrific truths of treatment emerge from Catholic mother and baby homes, Norwich child abuse inquiry police charge woman with rapes, The Witch-Hunt Narrative By Ross E. Cheit

Horrific truths of treatment emerge from Catholic mother and baby homes
Niall O’Dowd June 14,2014

There are some undeniable facts about the unmarried mother’s homes in Ireland from the time they were established in the 1920s until they were closed sometime in the 1960s.

Children died needlessly by the thousands in them. Many, possibly 800 in Galway, were buried without coffins, thrown in the earth, some in a septic tank….

Here is what happened there.  A conscientious health official, Dr .James Deeny, visited, and here are his exact words written in 1951:

“Shortly afterwards, when in Cork, I went to Bessborough. It was a beautiful institution, built on to a lovely old house just before the war, and seemed to be well-run and spotlessly clean. I marched up and down and around about and could not make out what was wrong; at last I took a notion and stripped all the babies and, unusually for a Chief Medical Adviser, examined them.

“Every baby had some purulent infection of the skin and all had green diarrhea, carefully covered up. There was obviously a staphylococcus infection about.

“Without any legal authority I closed the place down and sacked the matron, a nun, and also got rid of the medical officer.

“The deaths had been going on for years. They had done nothing.”

One year later under a new regime, less than one percent of babies perished from a high of over 60 percent….

It was all a part of the punishment ritual for the poor unloved unmarried mothers who suffered horrifically. Even if their children survived they were ripped away from them and sent abroad for adoption.

They were made to cut grass with scissors, forced to endure child birth without any painkilling drugs, denied stitches when wounds were opened – all testified to by local nurses and doctors who seemed helpless to stop the horrific suffering….
http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Horrific-truths-of-treatment-emerge-from-Catholic-mother-and-baby-homes.html

Norwich child abuse inquiry police charge woman with rapes 14 June 2014
A woman has appeared in court accused of raping and abusing children.

Marie Black, 33, of Atkinson Close in Norwich, was charged with 24 offences on Friday night and appeared before the city’s magistrates.

The charges relate to five victims under the age of 13 and are alleged to have happened between 2004 and 2010.

She faces five counts of child cruelty, four rapes and related offences. She was released on bail and is due before Norwich Crown Court on 27 June.

Ms Black is the ninth person to be charged in connection with the child abuse investigation.

Eight men and women were charged in connection with the case in February 2014. They are all on conditional bail to appear at Norwich Crown Court at a future date….
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-norfolk-27850220

The Witch-Hunt Narrative By Ross E. Cheit
Based on a comprehensive examination of primary sources, The Witch-Hunt Narrative challenges the conventional wisdom about these cases. Ross Cheit uses trial transcripts and related court documents to demonstrate that many of the cases at the core of the witch-hunt narrative involved compelling evidence of abuse. He focuses on three major cases while also surveying dozens more, including some that involved injustice to the defendants. He finds that in many cases the conventional wisdom is significantly overdrawn.

Cheit’s years of research also revealed a history of minimizing and denying abuse, and a surprisingly lenient response to many child molesters. Those trends continue into the present, where there are pockets of overreaction to sexual abuse in a sea of under-reaction….

This powerful book shows how a narrative based on empirically thin evidence became a theory with real social force, and how that theory stood at odds with the grim reality of sexual abuse. The Witch-Hunt Narrative is a magisterial account of the social dynamics that led to the denial of widespread human tragedy.
http://blogs.brown.edu/rcheit/sample-page-2/
http://blogs.brown.edu/rcheit/

Mexico finds 370 abandoned immigrant children, The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children

March 30, 2014 Comments Off on Mexico finds 370 abandoned immigrant children, The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children

Mexico finds 370 abandoned immigrant children
MEXICO CITY Sat Mar 29, 2014

(Reuters) – In one week, 370 immigrant children, most of them from Central America, were found abandoned in Mexico, after traffickers promised to take them to the United States but left them to their own devices after being paid thousands of dollars, authorities said.

Almost half of them, 163 children under the age of 18, were found traveling alone, Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) said in a statement.

Each month, thousands of immigrants, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, attempt to emigrate to the United States, crossing several borders in the process, despite the threat from drug gangs that kidnap, murder and rape women.

The children told federal migration agents that their ‘guides’ abandoned them after accepting $3,000 to $5,000 in payments, INM said….

In the week the children were found, a total of 1,895 immigrants from various countries were detected in Mexico from countries as far away as Somalia, Japan and Syria, among others.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/29/us-mexico-immigration-idUSBREA2S0KE20140329
Panel Discussion: The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 – 4:00pm – 5:30pm Discussion: The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology and the Sexual Abuse of Children

A discussion with Brown professor Ross Cheit, author of The Witch Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children. Cheit’s book, released this month by Oxford University Press, examines a series of high-profile child sex abuse cases in the 1980s empirically challenges the view that these cases were hoaxes. The book shows how a narrative based on empirically thin evidence became a theory with real social force, and how that theory stood at odds with the reality of child sexual abuse
http://www.brown.edu/academics/taubman-center/events/panel-discussion-witch-hunt-narrative-politics-psychology-and-sexual-abuse-children

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