Facts and Transcripts that Tell the Truth About Many
CHILD MOLESTATION CASES
psychiatrist argues for reforms in the way child sexual abuse cases are
Lee Coleman, M.D. Berkeley psychiatrist, Lee Coleman. M.D., wrote about the use
of psychiatry in the courtroom in his 1984 book The Reign of Error.
until proven guilty." It's a sacred principle of our legal system, and one
we have for the most part lived up to. Until recently, that is. In the past
few years we have abandoned this principle in cases of alleged child sexual
abuse. Particularly noteworthy in such cases is the cozy relationship between
law enforcement and psychiatry. Police and prosecutors have traditionally
thumbed their noses at psychiatry, but now these former enemies are dedicated
allies in the war on child sexual abuse. The tools of psychiatry may not be
worth much when it comes to men's realms, but they are reliable (so the
argument seems to go) when it comes to determining if a child has been molested
and finding out who did it.
the most pernicious aspect of our handling of such cases and the single most
important reason the system is doing a terrible job at getting at the
truth is the direct importation into investigations and court proceedings of
the idea that "children don't lie about sexual abuse:'
did investigators get such an idea? From the "experts In hundreds of
workshops for police, protective service workers and prosecutors, the leading
lights from psychiatry, psychology and social work are training investigators to
believe that when it comes to alleged sexual abuse, the child's statements are
at such workshops is the fact that the experts developed their ideas by studying
incest in intact families, while the major arena of false allegations is
divorce/custody battles. In the former the child may be pressured to drop a true
accusation, but in the latter the pressure may go the other way to
"remember" something that never happened. The young child may easily
be led to the point of sincerely believing in things that did not take place.
nonetheless, with the belief that under no circumstances would a child claim
to have been molested unless it were true, child protection agencies are ready
to send a child for "therapy" before any kind of thorough
investigation has been done. Even worse, those interviewing a child allegedly molested
(whether investigators or therapists) frequently manipulate the child. They do
so because they do not take very seriously the possibility of a false
allegation. Let us look at why this is happening.
"children don't lie" about sexual abuse, then it follows that a child
may be asked leading and suggestive questions about possible molestation,
urged to pretend with dolls, and rewarded for statements indicating abuse,
with no danger that a child may stray from the truth. Any denials of abuse
merely indicate that the "yukky secrets" are hard to tell and that the
abuser must have threatened the child into silence.
a result of such thinking, the "sensitive and caring" professional
pushes even harder until the child complies and offers up information about
sexual exploitation. My own study of audio and videotaped interviews with
children indicates that this is how the claptrap about "satanic
cults" and murders has surfaced in places like Jordan, Minnesota,
Bakersfield, and the McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach.
it is not true that children never "lie" about sexual abuse, it is
true that such a thing is rather unlikely. But this misses the point. When it
comes to a child's statements about sexual victimization, there are not two
possibilities lying or telling the truth but three. A child may be neither
lying nor telling the truth. A child, particularly a very young one, may say
what he or she believes is true, even though it is not the truth.
first blush, this seems a rather unlikely possibility, to say the least. A child
believes in sexual abuse, which has not taken place? I would certainly be
skeptical of such an idea if I hadn't had a chance to see how children are being
manipulated by adult interviewers, sometimes by a police officer or
protective service worker, sometimes by a mental health professional who
have been trained to believe that those who really care and are sufficiently
skilled at their work will help the child talk about sexual abuse.
what such methodology does to a case in which the child has been manipulated
before the police or child protection worker arrives. Especially when divorce
and child custody disputes are taking place, it is a tragic fact that certain
parents either deliberately create false accusations, or interpret a child's
problems as "subtle clues" to child sexual abuse. Everything from
nightmares to temper tantrums is being listed by the experts as signs that
should alert parents to the possibility of sexual abuse.
when an investigator first contacts a child, it is crucial that all
possibilities be considered. Instead, too often a judgment is reached once the
child's statements are heard, however inconsistent they may be. The
investigation effectively grinds to a halt, because "children don't lie
about sexual abuse." All that is left is for the judge to give the juvenile
court's stamp of approval. The possibility that the child may have been manipulated
by an adult with an axe to grind is not taken seriously.
the time the child has been interviewed several times. the statements may become
increasingly embellished, and any chance to help the child stick to what he
remembers is lost forever. The child now believes he has been molested, because
so many adults believe the same thing and seem so pleased with the child for
use of dolls and other play materials is a powerful technique for confounding
this problem. Consider the difficulties inherent in using play materials to get
at the truth. Children use dolls, puppets or drawings to make storiesnot to
stick to the facts. Why are such techniques nonetheless being used in
fact-finding investigations? Because our legal system has naively turned to
the child therapists, who have used play therapy for decades. But using play
techniques in therapy is one thing; using such techniques in legal
investigations is quite another. Even worse is the result when the adult
interviewer is already convinced that sexual abuse has taken place and (perhaps
unwittingly) uses play methods to coax some "evidence" from the child.
of these problems leads directly to the kinds of legal reforms needed to bring
some sense of proportion to protecting children from sexual exploitation.
all contacts with the child must be either video-or audio-taped. Taping
preserves a record not only of what the child says, but of the interviewer's
behavior. Such a record will not only spare the child repeated interviews; it
will also give county counsel, district attorneys, defense attorneys, judges,
and juries an opportunity to study whether a child's statements seem spontaneous
or the product of manipulation.
a child's competence to testify must be examined in a more thorough way than it
is at present. With few exceptions, children as young as 4 are being found competent
if they can tell the difference between the truth and a lie. But such awareness
is irrelevant if a child has been so manipulated by adults that he believes
something happened which did not happen. Judges faced with deciding whether a
child is competent to testify must focus on the issue of independent recall.
Is the child capable of sticking to what he can remember, or has prior
training contaminated his ability to do so?
our juvenile court procedures are in urgent need of major review. The vast
majority of child sexual abuse allegations are not prosecuted criminally but are
handled in juvenile court, where tradition dictates that judges rely heavily
on casework evaluations. It is especially here that an accused person may be
considered guilty until proven innocent. Judges, acting in good faith, assume
that the child protection system is doing a good job of unbiased investigation.
This faith is misplaced, given the biases that currently pervade our county
child protection agencies.
our child protection system will need to alter its current practices. Its
primary mistake has been placing so much trust in the experts. By now the
mistaken ideas from mental health are rooted in the very foundations of our
investigative agencies. While I don't see this reform coming soon or easily,
nothing less than a massive retraining will be necessary. Just as in other
kinds of investigations, the primary role of unbiased fact-finding must be
established, with no reliance on "examinations" from mental health
professionals. Whatever psychiatry and related disciplines are good for,
they do no good, and much harm, when it comes to getting at the truth.
psychiatry has no examinations to determine if a child has been molested, and
has no examinations to determine if the accused person is a child molester,
then our continued reliance on psychiatry will only add a new form of child
abuse, one in which we subject the very children we aim to protect to
manipulations they are powerless to resist.
- California Lawyer
research shows how the power of suggestion can lead youngsters to say things
that send innocent adults to jail
JEROME CRAMER WASHINGTON
poignant scene is played-out time and again in America's courtrooms. A small,
bewildered child sits in a witness chair, being led by an attorney through
shocking testimony. The youngster speaks haltingly of unspeakable things done to
him or her by a stranger, a baby-sitter or even a parent. Could such an
innocent soul possibly be telling anything but the truth?
legal experts, child psychiatrists and juries--have long thought that
children rarely lie about sex-abuse crimes on the witness stand. On the strength
of that assumption, many adults have been sent to jail for sexual abuse or other
charges, professing all the way that they are not guilty. But evidence is
mounting that children, particularly those who have been extensively
coached, give inaccurate testimony far more often than previously imagined.
Both research studies and courtroom experience are causing many psychiatrists
to question their views of the reliability of what comes from the mouths of
stunning piece of evidence came late last year when a California appeals court
overturned the convictions of three men and four women for molesting 10
children. The adults had maintained their innocence but were sentenced to a
combined total of 2,619 years in prison. The case fell apart, and the adults
were freed when three of the children later recanted their testimony and the
state attorney general's office criticized the way prosecutors had allegedly
manipulated the children's testimony.
research has shown how easy it is for youngsters to stray unwittingly from the
truth. Psychologists Karen Saywitz of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Gail
Goodman of the State University of New York at Buffalo interviewed 72 girls,
ages 5 and 7, about routine medical procedures they had received. Half were
given full examinations, including anal and vaginal checks, and the rest were
given just general physicals. When the first group was asked a broad question
about what I had happened, only eight mentioned the vaginal examinations, and
when the children were shown anatomically correct dolls, six pointed to the
vaginal area. But of the girls who received only a general checkup, three
claimed they had also had vaginal or anal exams. One child even reported that
"the doctor did it with a stick."
disputes are often the trigger for youngsters' unwitting lies. Suspicions can
cause parents to launch what legal scholar Douglas Besharov of Washington's
American Enterprise Institute calls "the atomic bomb of child-custody
fights, the charge of sex abuse." In these stressful situations, children
quickly discover what adults want to hear and can offer lies or distortions in
order to please an anxious parent or social worker. A study conducted by the
American Academy of Child Psychiatry found that in custody disputes involving
charges of sex abuse, as many as 36% of the allegations were later proved to be
by psychologist Alison Clarke-Stewart of the University of California at
Irvine illustrates how easily adults can sway children's perceptions. In that
study 75 five- and six-year-old children were asked to watch a man clean up a
room. During that time, he picked up and cleaned a doll. Later an interviewer
told the children she thought the man had been playing with the doll. When first
questioned, 25% of the kids said the man had played with the doll, and the
rest said he had cleaned it. The interviewer then told the children she was
certain that the man had been playing with, not cleaning, the doll. In the end,
all but two children accepted the interviewer's story as the truth.
questions by adults can cause children not just to lie but also to believe their
falsehoods. Besharov cites the case of a three-year-old who told a social worker
a story about a piece of candy being dropped into her underpants. After
interviews by various child-protection workers, the story evolved into a tale
that a candle had been inserted into the child's vagina. It took months of
further interviews to discover that the original story had been correct.
current methods for obtaining evidence in sex-abuse casesdirect questioning
and the use of dolls with sex organs-- are under fire. "Kids can be fed
ideas they quickly come to believe are true, and these dolls are highly
suggestive," says Lenore Terr, a professor of psychology at the University
of California at San Francisco. For example, some of the dolls lack hands and
have only painted eyes, yet they have highly explicit genital areas. Terr
stresses that normally inquisitive children who play with these dolls can
mistakenly be suspected of having been abused.
controversy is sure to escalate this spring, when the American Psychological
Association publishes a book called The Suggestibility of Children's
Recollections, in which several experts question the truthfulness of kids'
testimony. The APA will not allow outsiders an advance look, but a psychologist
involved in the project says the book shows that "there are definite limits
to our knowledge about whether children are telling the truth."
these researchers and others are finding is that truth for a child can be
blurred, especially in periods of stress, such as during a trial. To protect
children from sex crimes and adults from unfounded
accusationschild-welfare workers and prosecutors will have to take special
care when searching for the truth.
was the longest preliminary hearing in the history of California. It became the
longest and most expensive trial in the history of the United States. It caused
one journalist to write: It is the most interesting case I have ever heard
of, and the most frightening. It is bizarre and unreal so much so, in fact,
that jaded, middle-aged, veteran newsmen from major, national news media nave
left the courtroom rubbing their foreheads in disbelief after a day spent
covering the proceedings. Several of the news-people who have attended the
hearing for all these months nave complained of chronic nightmares and sleep
disturbances. So have the lawyers. So have I.
media coverage has been superficial, infrequent and not very informative. They
apparently do not understand that it may be the best story they will ever get.
It is a landmark that will affect every child abuse case in the country. It will
affect much more that that. McMartin may well be talked about three hundred
years from now."
article recently appearing in the magazine Los Angeles chronicled the
events surrounding this celebrated case. An edited version is reprinted below.
Case of Dominoes
was the moment everyone had been waiting for. Last July, principal defendant
Raymond Buckey was finally tiling the witness stand in the McMartin Preschool
child-molestation trial. Camera crews and cable lines jammed the hallway.
Lael Rubin grilled Buckey about games that were played, in the nude, the
stabbing of horses, and the raping of little girls. Yet Buckey remained calm,
speaking in an assured monotone, he denied every charge against him.
hammered away, asking about the former McMartin Preschool teacher's habit of
keeping adult erotica in his bedroom. Specifically, Rubin asked if he had ever
affixed photos of preschoolers onto the sexually explicit pictures of adults.
know I never did that," Buckey said emphatically.
do you know this?" Rubin asked.
I know what I do and what I don't do," he shot back.
what is it you don't do, Mr Buckey?" she baited.
lawyers voice loud objections, cutting off the exchange, But Buckey wouldn't be
stopped. He'd waited nearly six years to make this statement. Indignantly, he
leaned forward in his chair, glaring at Rubin.
Ms. Rubin." Buckey said. I've spent five years in jail for something I
didn't do. I know what I do and I know what I don't do. And I don't molest
the McMartin case is mentioned these days, most people are understandably
confused. It first burst on the scene in February 1984, and within a few short
months eight South Bay preschools had been closed and seven defendants charged
with allegations of everything from sodomy and oral copulation to satanic rites
and animal sacrifice. Yet today, as the longest Trial in United States history
comes to a close at a cost of $16 million - all that is left are two
defendants facing 64 counts of child molestation and one count of conspiracy.
And unless a mistrial is called over juror disqualification, Peggy McMartin
Buckey, 61, will most likely be acquitted, and her son, Ray Buckey, 30 at the
very worst appears headed toward a hung jury.
went wrong? What became of the crime of the century that six years ago shocked
answers lie partly in secrets long withheld from the public but known well by
those close to the case. Previously sealed court documents recently made
available tell part of the story. But mostly, as the facts come to light, the
answer appears to be that there was never any case at all
in the end it may alt come down to the actions of six individuals, who, for
reasons of ambition, vested interest or simply bad judgment, created their own
domino effect when no credible evidence ever existed against the defends.
the very least, it is a blueprint for preying on public fears and, as Los
Angeles District Attorney Ira Reiner charges, blowing a criminal case out of all
proportion. It may also be the story of how a case was simply invented
was 12 when her mother died of Cancer, but Judy Johnson never fully recovered
from the blow: Cheery on the outside, she hid her problems from friends until it
was to late.
March 1983, after the birth of their second son, and due to fierce squabbles
over money, Judy Johnson's husband Bernard walked out. Broke and alone, Johnson
got a job selling lamps, and she needed to find a nursery school to look after
her young son. Of all the preschools in the area, Johnson knew the McMartin
Preschool, founded by Virginia McMartin and later directed by her daughter Peggy
McMartin Buckey, to be the most desirable. In business since 1958, the school
had a proven track record, with a long history of satisfied parents.
Johnson called McMartin to inquire about enrolling her son, she was told there
was a long waiting list. So on the morning of May 12, 1983, she simply dropped
the two-and-a-half-year-old off at the front gale and drove off. None of the
teachers knew who he was - he was still preverbal, unable even to give his name,
and there were no tags on his clothes or on his lunch bag. But, reasoning that a
parent would eventually come for him, they took the child in for the day. After
speaking with Johnson later, McMartin Buckey said she "felt sorry" for
the woman and enrolled the boy that June. That decision would prove to be the
worst one of her life.
July 11, Johnson visited a health care clinic. According to medical reports, she
told a physician that her son's anus was "itchy." Believing the
problem was with the mother, the doctor didn't feel it was necessary to examine
August 11, Johnson's son returned to McMartin's. By that day, he had been to the
preschool a total of 14 times. The teacher supervising the afternoon play
session that day was Ray Buckey, the grandson of Virginia McMartin. Johnson's
son had never been in Ray's class.
following morning, Johnson called the Manhattan Beach police and was connected
with juvenile officer Jane Hoag. She told Hoag that her son's bottom was red and
that he had blurted out something about a man named Ray at his nursery school.
It was this call to Hoag that sparked the biggest mass-molestation case in
history, but for Johnson, it was another in a series of steps toward madness and
an early death from an alcohol-related liver disease.
wasn't long before Johnson's accusations took on a life of their own. Within six
weeks of her call to Hoag, according to previously sealed police reports,
Johnson was accusing Buckey of wearing a mask and sodomizing her son while he
stuck the boy's head in a toilet. A few months later, she claimed he had taped
her son's mouth, eyes and hands, and stuck an air tube in the boy's rectum. On
subsequent days, she said Buckey made her son ride naked on a horse and then
molested him while dressing as a cop, a fireman, a clown, and Santa Claus.
February 1984, Johnson's allegations turned increasing bizarre, in phone calls
and letters to the district attorney's office, she said that her son had been
sodomized by an AWOL marine and by three models from a health club. In one
letter she said that the family dog may have also been sodomized, as it
"had some hair missing." She wrote that McMartin teachers jabbed
"scissors into his eyes and staples in his ears, nipples, and tongue;
Ray pricked her son's right finger and put it in a goat's anus: and Peggy (Ray's
mother) killed a baby and made him drink the blood."
in 1985, shortly after her divorce was final, Johnson retreated into paranoia.
According to her brother, she met him at her front door one day with a l2-gauge
shotgun. Police dragged her to a patrol car, and she underwent a 12-day
psychiatric evaluation. Diagnosis: acute paranoid schizophrenia. Her ex-husband
was eventually given custody of the boy,
months before the trial started in 1987, Johnson died. She was 44. Police found
her lying naked and face down in her son's bedroom, her phone off the hook and
the Yellow Pages opened to "Liquor Stores." But by then the McMartin
case had no further need for the woman who had started it all. The dominoes had
already begun to fall against the defendants.
Hoag went to work as a detective in the Manhattan Beach Police Department when
she was 22, She was assigned to the sex abuse and juvenile beats and had the
reputation in the community of being brusque and zealous in the pursuit of her
cases, Hoag once told a reporter that it was not unusual for her to work 15
hours a day, though she was married with two young children.
entirely on a telephone call from Johnson she became obsessed with the alleged
guilt of one man. Nothing could sway her - not an extraordinary lack of
evidence, not the few other suspects she subsequently interviewed. Nor could she
consider another possibility: that there had been no crime. On August 12. 1983,
Hoag had listened to Johnson's complaint about a McMartin teacher named Ray. She
told Johnson to have her son examined at a health clinic. A doctor there noted
redness around the boy's anus, but was unable to determine the cause.
unsatisfied with the results, Hoag sent Johnson to UCLA Medical Center five days
later. Two doctors, one an intern, determined that the boy's condition was
"consistent" with being sodomized. Later, the intern confided
"she didn't know anything about sexual abuse," a former LAPD detective
said. The other physician confirmed her evaluation in testimony, but her ability
to recall details was challenged when she maintained the boy had been
circumcised, though, according to his father, he had not.
visited Johnson's home three times in August to interview the boy. When she
couldnt get him to talk, she concluded "he didn't understand the concept
of the word "name." (In fact, according to court reports, the boy
never spoke at all to Hoag.) Then, hoping to get the boy to identify Buckey
visually, she showed him class photos that included Buckey, but the boy was
unable to identify him.
searches of the Buckey homes, officers seized attendance records, a Polaroid
camera, rope, yarn, and class photos. They were looking for a video camera and
child pornography photos, but came away empty-handed. They also seized a rubber
duck from Peggy McMartin Buckey's beachside home, Virginia McMartin's diaries,
and even Peggy Ann Buckey's USC graduation gown, which prosecutor Rubin would
later claim was a satanic robe.
of the parents told Mrs. Buckey that Officer Hoag had called her repeatedly and
said, Your child has been named as a victim. And if you really love your
child you'll ask him these questions . . . Others gave similar accounts of the
1984 Haag won the "Officer of the Year" award for her work on the
and vivacious, Kee MacFarlane had been a program administrator with the National
Center on Child Abuse and Neglect for several years. In LA, she joined the staff
of Children's Institute International (CIl), an agency that cared for abused and
MacFarlane interviewed the first McMartin preschooler on November 1. She used undressed, anatomically detailed dolls in a playtime setting to elicit responses. By mid-1984. nearly 400 children had been interviewed: or those, MacFarlane and other CII social workers filed reports indicating their suspicions that 369 had been molested. Of those, many attended the preschool long before Buckey even began working there, some, in fact, while he was still in high school.
not commonly known is that with the exception of one child, all of the former
preschoolers denied being molested at the school until after they were
interviewed at CII. "The case was made at Cll, not at the preschool,"
said Buckeys attorney. That child who made a claim was dropped from the case
because her allegations were considered too bizarre.
to be the foundation of the prosecution's case, MacFarlane's interviews would
actually wind up being a boon for the defense because of the nature of her
questions. The following exchanges were taken from official transcripts of the
video-taped interviews. In the interview, the boy a witness in the McMartin
trial is holding an alligator puppet, and the two are discussing a game
Naked Movie Star that investigators alleged Ray Buckey played with the
"Well, I didn't really hear it [Naked Movie Star) a whole lot. I just heard
someone yell it from out in the"
"Maybe, Mr. Alligator, you peeked in the window one day and saw them
playing it, and maybe you could remember and help us."
"Well, no, I haven't seen anyone playing Naked Movie Star, I've only heard
"What good are you? You must be dumb."
of the litany of accusations coming out of CII seemed absurd, at least on the
surface: children digging up dead bodies at a cemetery with pickaxes larger than
they were: children jumping out of airplanes over Palos Verdes: horses beaten to
death with bats and machetes: children molested in car washes and grocery
stores. During this time, according to a defense investigator, MacFarlane urged
parents to drive around town with their children to pinpoint possible
perpetrators. The result was pandemonium. Soon children were pointing out
community leaders, gas-station attendants, and store clerks. Hoag kept busy
interviewing some of these
candidates, but not one person, other than the McMartin teachers remained
former 20-year juvenile-division investigator, said of the CII process: "It
was certainly different from how we would have handled It. It sure seemed
stupid. When we interview kids suspected of being abused, we try to get the
truth from them and not put words in their mouths."
the end, seven McMartin teachers were indicted on more than 200 counts of child
molestation. The defendants included Ray Buckey, his mother, grandmother, and
sister, plus former McMartin teachers Beny Raidor, Babette Spitler, and Mary Ann
Philibosian was appointed District Attorney for Los Angeles county when the
former DA became Attorney General in January 1983.
September of that year, Philibosian shifted into gear as a politician. He faced
an election in 1984 and needed a strategy. The one he adopted became one of the
most critical developments in further cementing the McMartin case.
early September, Philibosian commissioned a public-opinion poll. When asked
which issue concerned the citizens the most, child abuse rated number one.
George Young, Philibosian's campaign manager, called the poll "a shopping
expedition" for something the district attorney could take advantage
six weeks of the poll, Philibosian's office was in control of the McMartin case.
Despite an ongoing investigation by Manhattan Beach police, however, no credible
evidence had been discovered. In spite of that fact, Philibosian was able to
obtain a grand jury indictment of all seven of the defendants.
Philibosian's efforts to address the public's alarm over child abuse, he lost
the election in December 1984. Within eight months of taking office, the new DA
dismissed the charges against five of the McMartin defendants, saying the
evidence was "incredibly weak."
responded: "Why was Reiner [the new DA] to come along with no felony
prosecution experience and prune this case? This was not a rose bush to prune
away the bad experiences of children. All of the defendants should have stood
reporter Wayne Satz was described by his former college roommate as "a kind
of guy who wanted to get ahead." Satz's bold, sensational stories prompted
one KABC news employee to confide that "he seemed more interested in making
news than reporting it." Some media sources joked that Satz was on his way
to the Geraldo Revera School of Journalism.
an FBI document, Kee MacFarlane Stated she told KABC reporter Satz, that he
would have an exclusive on the McMartin story in February, a period that
coincided with the important ratings-sweep week. On February 2. 1984. Satz
brought the McMartin story to the world. His report told of dozens of
"alleged" acts of oral copulation and sodomy with "little"
Satz covered himself by using the qualifiers "alleged" and
"reportedly," his newscasts, one reporter said, "set the tone
that these people were monsters." In June 1984 Los Angeles Times television
critic Rosenberg noted: "It was like calling Hiroshima an alleged
bombing." And the Satz style helped to stir up hysteria and establish in
the public's mind that the defendants were guilty. In one segment, while he
reported on the alleged mutilation of rabbits, live bunnies were used as an
on-camera backdrop to illustrate the charge.
of the coverage for the next two years carried the same frenzied slant.
Reporters were swept away by the horrifying charges, reinforcing what most of
the public already believed about the defendants. Chris Woodyard, who covered
the case early on for the Herald Examiner said: "There was very much a mob
psychology operating in those days." An April 1984 People story
carried the incriminating headline: "The McMartins: The 'Model Family' Down
the Block that Ran California's Nightmare Nursery." It wasn't until three
years after the case broke that the press calmed down and reporters "began
to think for themselves." Woodyard said.
ultimately won two Golden Mike awards for his reporting on the McMArtin case,
though he was later criticized for entering into a romantic relationship with
MacFarlane, his primary source.
Rubin had the reputation in the DA's office of being a "tough and
tenacious" prosecutor. Once she became lead prosecutor on the McMartin case
in March 1984, Rubin, along with two co-prosecutors, became acquainted with
Johnson and her increasingly bizarre allegations. Stevens, one of the co-prosecutors,
said he received increasingly strange telephone calls from Johnson. And then
there was her hand-scrawled letter to the DA accusing various men of sodomizing
her son and the McMartin teachers of jabbing scissors into his eyes and staples
in his ears, nipples, and tongue.
child pornography surfaced as the official motive, igniting a massive, national
and international hunt by Interpol and FBI agents to track down pictures of the
McMartin children. None were ever found. A Huntington Beach archaeological
research team was hired to make a painstaking search for alleged underground
secret rooms and tunnels where the children claimed they'd been molested. The
researchers tore up the preschool floor and used an electronic scanning device
to try to locate the secret passages. Investigators dug up the vacant lot next
door to the school and analyzed the found pieces of chicken bones to determine
if they had been tortured.
results? "You can boil everything down to zero," Stevens says. Still
Rubin remained steadfast in her determination to prosecute the Buckeys. Just
because they didn't find any (child pornography) doesn't mean it doesn't
exist," Rubin told a reporter.
was as if this case was Lael's star vehicle," Stevens says, "And she
wasn't going to let the facts get in her way,"
the time Stevens openly expressed his doubts about the guilt of the defendants,
hysteria had risen to a witch-hunt pitch in the South Bay. Seven other
preschools closed down under the weight of suspicion. At least one parent openly
vowed to kill the defendants if they were released from jail. Residents turned
into vigilantes. One spray painted "Ray will die" on a wall of the
preschool. Later, the preschool was set on fire.
the words child abuse came up, all of a sudden there was a presumption of
guilt," notes public defender Hall. "And rather than the
investigations taking into account evidence that pointed to the innocence of a
suspect, the investigations were bent on building cases."
after Reiner, Rubin's boss, dismissed all charges against five of the women,
Rubin insisted that hundreds of children had been molested at the preschool.
"I believe in this case; I believe all of the crimes occurred. And that's
what I intend to argue to a jury," she told Mike Wallace on Sixty Minutes.
we go to press, the trial has lost all six jurors and is feared headed toward a
mistrial if one more juror drops out The prosecution and defense have rested
their cases and are moving into final arguments, which are expected to last a
month. Judge William Pounders says he hopes to get the case to the jury for
deliberation by December 1. - by Mary A. Fischer, August 1989
October 22, 1989
abuse. Those two words carry heavy images: Physically and emotionally scarred
children, ruined marriages, ruined lives.
another image, too - that of the accused adult. Many of the accused are guilty,
some are not. It's for the latter group that organizers have formed a national
nonprofit group called VOCAL: Victims Of Child Abuse Laws, a resource for those
who believe they are falsely accused of assaulting children.
personal experience prompted Susan Gabriel, a technical writer at TRW, to
organize a VOCAL chapter here. Shortly after she married her second husband a
few years ago, he was accused of sexually molesting one of her two daughters.
just wiped me out totally, it was devastating," Gabriel says. "It was
a very long, hard struggle and I was extremely frustrated with the system and
the way it was working."
case went through the Department of Social Services and the courts, and Clark:
Gabriel was found not guilty at trial. Related civil charges were dismissed and
his name was removed from the registry of suspected abusers.
her experience, Gabriel decided, "I wanted to do whatever I could to help
other people suffering the same thing."
founded and is chairman of VOCAL Southern Colorado, Inc., an organization that
provides information about case procedures for families of those accused of
abuse and their attorneys, operates a hotline and works with professionals in
the child protection system. The local membership varies, but has been as high
is also editor of the national organization's publication, VOCAL PerSpective.
lot of people think we're out there to protect abusers", and they like to
call us 'the other side,'" Gabriel says. "We're not the other side.
The other side is those people out there who abuse kids.
of abuse cases in some cases by such extremes as falsifying records
exists, Gabriel says, and it can jeopardize cases of real abuse.
does, of course have a life away from VOCAL.
a third-generation Colorado native, raised in Loveland in a traditional
household "It was stable, but very boring," Gabriel says. "I
just dreamed of being able to get out, maybe go to New York or to France."
didn't make it to New York or France, but she did put her lifelong love of
writing to work.
Started at TRW as an assembler, working her way to technician and finally
landing a writing job in the technical publications department.
is close to completing a bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of
Colorado at Colorado Springs, and she is in interested in following that with a
Ph.D. in law and psychology. She's not bored.
think one of the reasons I used to get bored was because I felt there were very
strict boundaries on what I could or couldn't do," Gabriel says, noting
that the boundaries were often her own. "I was always too afraid of
failure. It was like a little box around me that said I could go this far but no
I broke free of it I started really enjoying life."
what the '90s will be, Gabriel believes: "Getting a chance to really find
out who you are, maybe breaking out of rigid definition to explore all the
different things you want to try and finding out what you have to offer society,
the good things you can do,"
Dr. Lee Coleman
begrudgingly, more and more people are beginning to recognize that the wild
charges against the staff of the McMartin pre-school are without foundation.
Even more important, the cause of this tragedy is also being acknowledged in
some circles. Others, however, despite being in a position to see how the hoax
developed, refuse to face up to the truth.
what the children have said is not true, why would they say these things? The
answer is both simple and terrible. They were trained. Trained by the
experts our law enforcement agencies trustingly allowed to
"evaluate the children.
influential among those defending the way in which the children were interviewed
is psychiatrist Roland Summit. Recently, Summit has written that the McMartin
children were in fact 'the victims of sexual abuse, that social worker Kee
MacFarlane and the children's Institute International used proper, up-to-the-minute
techniques to interview the children, and that the crumbling of the prosecution
merely points to weaknesses in the criminal justice system.
argued that there was both reason and precedent for the methods used in the
initial interviews with children'. MacFarlane practiced the state of the
art...highly evolved, intensely specific and largely unknown outside the
fledgling specialty of child abuse diagnosis. This new art form, Summit
continued, was an amalgam of several roles...the knowledge of a child
development specialist to understand and translate toddler language, a therapist
to guide and interpret interactive play," a police interrogator to develop
evidentiary confirmation and a child-abuse specialist, to recognize, the
distinctive and pathetic patterns of sexual victimization. " We evidently
need such artists to assist police investigators because their specialist
understanding is both unexpected and counter-intuitive."
doesn't tell us whether he has viewed any of the videotaped interviews done by
MacFarlane and her protgs; but either way, his defense of the techniques
used is itself indefensible. I don't know which is worse - -defending interviews
which he has studied and which so clearly show that the children were trained;
by the interviewers to believe they were molested, or defending interviews which
he has not studied.
the children, and, their parents, were horribly victimized by the
interviewsis a conclusion which is inescapable. So far, I have watched the interviews of thirteen children.
In some Kee MacFarlane is the interviewer. In others, those she has
taught faithfully practice the new "art Summit, so highly praises. - In
each and every session, have seen, so far, an outrageous pattern emerges, one in
which the children are systematically manipulated and indoctrinated until they
finally give the interviewer what he or she wants, some yukky secrets.
us look at a few examples.
A five-year-old girl is introduced to hand puppets which can "speak for the
tells the girl that "we can pretend. She goes on to tell the girl, I
think that something happened to you at school with Mr. Ray (Buckey) that you
don't want to talk about. No," the child responds.
think it's true, MacFarlane answers, "I, talked to lots of your friends.
All of them are telling me the things that Mr. Ray did"
the child still has no "secrets" to tell, MacFarlane is not deterred.
She tells the child, "He told you not to talk, didn't he...But: all the
kids are telling...You could just show me with the dolls. You don't even have to
if it were true that the other children had in fact told of these things, rather
than been manipulated into saying them, is this the way to find out if a
particular child has been victimized or witnessed others being victimized?
A four year old girl is asked by MacFarlane, Do you like Ray?- She
responds, No, he's bad." What did he do? MacFarlane asks. The girl
responds, My mom said he tied up kids. Instead of helping the child
understand the difference between what her mother or anyone else may have told
her, and what she could actually remember from her own experiences at school,
MacFarlane proceeds to ask the child to demonstrate, with dolls and rope, how
the children were tied!
surprisingly, the child complied. After all, children regularly use dolls to
tell stories. By the time the session was over, the child was tying dolls to
legs of chairs with the rope, and using handcuffs which were also handy. At one
point in this "fact-finding" process, 'the child said that after Mr.
Ray tied kids, her mother came and tied up kids too! When MacFarlane asked if
this was just a story, the child agreed that she was just pretending.
with these profound insights into the operations of the McMartin school,
MacFarlane and her colleagues then proceeded to tell subsequent children that
they knew kids were being tied up at the school. Other children had said so.
An eight year old boy is interviewed by Kee MacFarlane. It has been several
years since this boy attended the school, so his memory will need an extra bit
of jogging. He is told that a lot of other kids have told about the secrets. The
ones who tell are a big help in figuring things out." He is told that
some of the teachers did yukky things. When he asks which teachers, he is
told" that the puppets know and they can tell the secret machine"
(microphone). When the child, even with the puppets, fails to come forth with a
secret, the puppet on his hand is asked by the puppet on MacFarlane's hand,
"Are you dumb or smart? The boy's puppet responds, "I'm smart.
boy is nudged further by being told t hat because the youngest children are some
times unable to talk, we're talking to the older kids, cause they're the
smartest. They can help. We can figure out these games, if you're smart."
The boy responds, once again, Im smart.
says, It was a long time ago, you might not remember... We can pretend."
'Now the boy says, "I remember, but the best: he can do is talk about
beating up puppets. MacFarlane, via the bird puppet on her hand, tells the
child, "Bird says some of them are naked games." The child asks why
they played naked games.
responds, It was a special school where they play naked games.
MacFarlane doing the telling, the boy will obviously need even more
encouragement. She tells him, "He had a meeting of the mommies and daddies
of the kids. They said how proud they were that their children had told (the
secrets). But some parents said their kids didn't tell any secrets, so we said
sorry". Your parents talked to the other parents, so they know the
secrets and your parents said, We don't know if Bill [pseudonym] has a good
this the boy immediately blurts out, "Well, I have a good enough
memory," "To which MacFarlane responded, "Oh, great. Was that
you, Mr. Monkey? o.k. Lets figure out a naked game. - - Later we can tell the
mommies and daddies. Oh, they will be so happy.
this, the child began to talk about games he supposedly remembered."
But, alas, none of the teachers were naked in the games he described. That would
I thought that was a naked game."
"Did somebody take their clothes off?"
: "When I was there no one was naked."
Farlane: .. We want to make sure you're not scared to tell."
"I'm not scared.
Some of the kids were told they might be killed. It was a trick. Alt right Mr.
Alligator, are you going to be stupid, or are you smart and can tell. Some think
"I'll be smart."
"Mr. Monkey (the puppet the child had used earlier) is chicken. He can't
remember the naked games, but you know the naked movie star game, or is your
memory too bad?"
I haven' t seen the naked movie star game."
"You must be dumb."
"I don't remember."
or later, most children will buckle under this kind of onslaught, as they did in
the McMartin case. This, I submit, is child (and parent) abuse.
techniques used on the McMartin children point dramatically to one conclusion:
MacFarlane and her trainees had decided, before the very first interview, that
children were molested at the McMartin
preschool. However they now try to rationalize their interview techniques, their
behavior with the children looks like an attempt to squeeze from the children
"evidence" of what the interviewers were sure must have taken place.
defends this by writing, If a child suspected of being abused is unable to
volunteer information, it must be elicited with warm reassurance and specific,
potentially leading questions" This seems to assume that a molestation has
taken place, despite the fact that the interview is supposed to discover whether
molestation has occurred. Tragically, this assumption of sexual abuse is
precisely the attitude that Summit, MacFarlane and other leading lights in child
sexual abuse have promoted, through countless workshops for police, protective
service workers, mental health professionals, and district attorneys. It is this
belief that if an allegation is raised, regardless of the circumstances, it must
true because "children don't lie about sexual abuse," which explain
the irresponsible investigations in the McMartin case, and the hundreds of other
false allegations throughout the country.
raises other serious question. Where does the claim that "children dont
lie about sexual abuse come from? Are there only two choices, that the child
is either lying or telling the truth, or does this ignore the possibility that a
child may be manipulated into an accusation, and with sufficient training,
eventually come to sincerely believe in things which never took place? With the
answers to these questions comes the recognition that in defending Kee
MacFarlane and the children's Institute International, Summit is defending
himself and the other leaders of the fledgling specialty" of child
a highly influential article, Summit has written, it has become a maxim among
sexual abuse intervention counselors and investigators that children never
fabricate the kinds of 'explicit sexual manipulations they divulge in complaints
and interrogation." Unaided by adults with axes to grind, this is probably
true most of the time. But the evidence is now overwhelming that children may be
coaxed, prodded, and indoctrinated -until they tell not only of sexual abuse,
which never took place, but about virtually any fantasy imaginable.
for example the child repeatedly interviewed as part of the string of cases in
Bakersfield, case based on the same irresponsible interview techniques used on
the McMartin children. Eventually the child told how a mother and father had
sexually abused and then murdered their two-year-old son. I am happy to report
that the "murdered" child is alive and well. Another child, subjected
to the same indoctrination techniques, added the district attorney and the child
protection worker to the long list of child molesters.
Minnesota Attorney General investigated the sex abuse hoax in Scott county,
where children told of sex rings and murders, and accused their own parents of
these heinous acts. A major conclusion of the investigation was that
"prolonged interrogation of children may result in confusion between fact
Summit to ignore such evidence, and the obvious implications for the McMartin
interviews, is irresponsible. It seems that rather than face up to the nightmare
which the "experts" have promoted by their highly aggressive and
manipulative techniques, they are determined to confuse the issues by claiming
that (quoting Summit) "if there is a danger out, there...we must look to
sources apart from the criminal justice system to show us the danger... Rather
than discredit MacFarlane, the criminal justice system needs to better
understand, the problem of child sexual abuse: and make accommodations to the
sources of evidence."
means more puppets, more "anatomically correct dolls," more testimony
from three, four or five year olds who have been so bad manipulated by
interviewers that they no longer can differentiate what they remember from what
has been suggested to them by overzealous adults.
we learned of yet one more perversion being foisted on us by the
"experts": Some of the leading authorities in child sexual abuse have
been given hundreds of thousands of federal and state dollars to study the
impact of sexual abuse, on the Mc Martin children! Among the investigators
receiving, these funds, are the very persons, who indoctrinated the children in
to believing they were molested.
has, however, made one worthwhile recommendation. He urged that the videotapes
of interviews be carefully studied no matter what happens in the criminal case.
This is precisely what needs to happen. The hundreds of hours of videotaped
interviews, are indeed the key to understanding how the children could come to
sincerely believe things that never happened. These tapes must not be allowed to
gather dust merely because the district attorney's office finally gathered the
courage to admit that it was a terrible mistake to trust MacFarlane and the
childrens Institute International.
these tapes are a key, not only to understanding the McMartin hoax, but the
thousands of smaller; but otherwise similar debacles unfolding throughout the
country. If, as I have seen from own viewing of the McMartin tapes and listening
to nearly two hundred hours of audio and video tapes in other case, the best
and the brightest have created the current mess in investigations of alleged
child sexual abuse, then some basic lessons emerge:
we have once again made a terrible mistake by turning to mental health
professionals for advice in delicate and difficult issues of law and social
policy. Mental health professionals are no more qualified to investigate whether
a child has been sexually molested than to determine if a murderer knew right
from wrong, or predict if a prisoner is safe for release.
police and child protection workers throughout the country will need to be
retrained. The ideas and methods of Summit, MacFarlane, and their closest
colleagues, which now pervade child sexual abuse investigations, will need to be
exposed and discarded in favor of careful and responsible investigations, which
do not turn to "experts" for insights, which we mistakenly assume they
can provide. We will do far better without them. I join hands with Dr. Summit in
calling for the most thoroughgoing study of the McMartin tapes, by the widest
possible audience. Let transcriptions (with names and identifying data removed,
of course) go forth, across the land. Once the public sees these tapes, experts
will not be needed to tell us where the "secrets" came from, and who
is to blame.