Why were the suspects in the satanic abuse cases convicted?


Why did the justice system fail so spectacularly here? I have seen a documentary where the accused are made to appear totally innocent, and the claims made by the children and supposedly coached from them so outlandish they should never have been unchallenged in court(abuse occuring in flying airplanes during the time the children were in daycare, thousands of corpses buried and never found, genitals cut off and reattached etc).

I’m open to info here on what if any is missing from the usual coverage.

I think the case that blew the lid off this scandal was the McMartin preschool trial. The police took seriously accusations from a mentally ill mother, and before a serious investigation had been done sent out this letter to the other parents:

The checks and balances that exist in a legal system are only as good as the people applying them. In this case, the investigative and prosecuting agencies and the judiciary all seem to have failed…spectacularly. Child abuse is a crime which tends to raise great emotion and there is a rush to judgement, the public want answers and the system wishes to give it to them.

Well I’m no expert, but presumably because a jury thought they had been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Except that they didn’t *“After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990. When the trial ended in 1990 it had been the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history.”

Accusations of Satanic abuse was big in the 80s for some stupid reason and the McMartin case ended up being the dumbest result of that and the outcome probably helped put a stop to the notion of widespread Satanic abuse.

In that particular case, yes. But it wasn’t the first.

The McMartin case is the only one I’ve ever heard anything about. What cases resulted in convictions?

The West Memphis 3 came in at the tail end of the Satanic Panic era back in 1994. The prosecution brought in Dale W. Griffis as their expert on occult crimes.

Quite a few, actually. Google for Wee Care, Little Rascals, Wenatchee, WA, and anything Kee MacFarlane was involved in as a witness. Kee never met a child that wasn’t abused, and even if he/she said she wasn’t, by the time the interview was over, Kee had convinced him/her that he/she was.

That explains a lot, BTW. If you have a society ready to believe, all you have to do is feed and prod it a little and the fearmongers will take over.

Related topics: recovered memories, Satan worship


McMartin was a combination of several events coming together:

  1. Was the fundie wet-dream of satanic cults running behind closed doors, with massive influence, a huge crime-spree, and secret caves. Even those who were not fundies were hearing stories told of the massive satanic organizations.

  2. We were just starting to acknowledge that children were being molested and that the previous few decades of dealing with the cases had left the molesters able to grope with impunity - weak punishments, a tendency to think the kids were just making up stories. The turnaround was very fast and there was still some whiplash.

  3. Forensic scientists and doctors who really had no idea what they were looking for but wanted to be pioneers in this new field of prosecution pretty much just fooled themselves into thinking they were finding evidence.

  4. The letter, shown above. This is just asking for mass-hysteria. This was repeated a few times.

  5. ‘Recovered memories’, although not much of a part of McMartin case, certainly contributed to the atmosphere that lead people to believe in the Satanic groups.

  6. Media panic: drop some chicken bones and grafitti a Pentagram on a wall down by the river in the 80’s (and early 90’s) and watch the media frenzy over “Satanic Cults in your fair city!!!”

In the Wenatchee case alone,

It’s important to note that there was only one “witness”:

Although it’s not all grim,

To the OP: Grude, you might find a video interesting, Capturing the Friedmans, readily available on Netflix, at video stores, etc. It documents the prosecution and conviction of a family caught up in the panic of the time, and what sets it apart is the family frequently videotaped their personal lives as the situation was unfolding. This video made it possible to observe things from another point of view than is usually seen.

It could be argued that Arnold Friedman was not totally innocent, as he may have obtained some porn magazines slightly more risque than {gasp} Playboy, :rolleyes: but it becomes obvious that whatever he may have been guilty of, it was far less than what he was so doggedly accused of and pursued for, to his imprisonment and death.

Missed the edit window.

And thanks to being tried by public opinion, no matter how much someone protests their innocence, the world is willing to believe the worst rumors about the person no matter what defense they offer.:rolleyes:

And I do actually know someone who was thoroughly convinced their kid was abused [this was now when they were 17ish years old] and no matter how they protested that they had never had the particular phys ed teacher, never met that teacher and was never alone with any phys ed teacher in every year of school they could remember was pretty much forcibly dragged to several kid shrinks and finally to one prosecutor until she went to a judge in the hallway of the courthouse and begged to him to make everybody leave her alone. Annie’s mum has serious problems - she gets panic attacks if she is alone in a huge room with a <scary voice> man <end scary voice> I have seen her drag Annie across the street if there is a couple of guys walking in their direction. Annie effectively ran away from home to college and hasn’t been back since. I still get calls from her mom asking if I have heard from her, and am I sure she isn’t pregnant from rape:smack::frowning:


Well, I would definitely argue that child pornography is a bit more risqué than Playboy, although your eye-rolling suggests that you don’t think it’s that big a deal? That’s how the guy first came to notice. Also, I never heard that it was controversial that he had molested children – he’s acknowledged that (and I’m not talking about his guilty plea here) – just that the specific charges may have been false.

Oddly enough – and speaking of whiplash – there were people who frequently attended the McMartin trial wearing buttons that said “Believe the Children.” They did not think that kids were capable of making up stories, even after it was shown that the kids were encouraged by a “therapist” to fantasize and some events could not possibly have happened.

Perhaps I should have tied the eye-roll to the Playboy reference a little better. BTW – the magazines were obtained thru a police sting; it’s possible that Friedman never would have obtained them if the police hadn’t enticed him first. At the trial, his collection of magazines that were put into evidence as baaaad included Playboys, so the prosecution certainly had a negative opinion of them and put them in the same class as child pornography.

If you are talking about Arnold Friedman, his guilty plea only came after his wife forced him to do that in the mistaken belief that he could spare his son, Jesse. And Jesse filed 3 court petitions claiming coercion in his guilty plea and asking for them to be overturned (he didn’t get it). Arnold died in prison.

It appears (and this is a matter of opinion) that Arnold was guilty of ordering one or more magazines from Sweden that most people would think a little improper. Nothing else was ever proved. But the police, prosecutors and others made a giant leap into unproven territory, accusing him of molesting the kids he taught for computer class, none of whom corroborated. To some minds, they were the same unforgivable offenses; all they had to do to convict for one was to accuse the other.

And it worked.

And Gerald Amirault spent 20 years in prison.

At the time it was not well understood how recovered memories could be induced, so juries tended to believe the supposed testimony of children to respected authority figures. IIRC those who first started challenging the accuracy or recovered memories were accused of supporting child molesters.

In some case I think that religious people saw denial of Satanic cults as denial of Satan and thus Christianity. Not the biggest factor, but certainly one.