"McMartin" was one of the first Multi-Victim Multi Offender (MVMO) child abuse cases. 2,3 It lasted for six years -- the longest US criminal trial in history. At a cost to the state of $15 million, it was also the most expensive. No convictions were obtained. The main evidence of abuse was based on what the children testimony. That involved memories of repeated, sadistic, ritual molestation. The children's testimony was supported by medical tests, which were believed at the time to be accurate. Years later, they were found to be useless. Years later, child psychologists realized that such memories can be easily implanted in children's minds as a result of the interview techniques which were used at the time. Subsequently, psychologists and police investigators have changed their methods of interrogating young children, and MVMO cases have surfaced recently in the U.S. and Canada.
The hoax adversely affected the lives of hundreds of children, who are now adults. It became the most famous MVMO case of its type. Many feminists and others still believe that the children were subjected to horrendous abuse at McMartin. Snippets from the McMartin case have been distributed around the world and incorporated into similar stories involving false memories. The nonexistent underground tunnels at McMartin are probably the most popular.
Events leading up to the trial:
The McMartin preschool was located in Manhattan Beach, CA. It was owned by Peggy McMartin Buckey and her mother, Virginia McMartin. Ms. Buckey's son, Ray, was a part-time school-aide at the school. On 1983-AUG-12, Judy Johnson complained to the police that her son had been molested by Ray at the school. Ms. Johnson was allegedly an alcoholic and had been diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia. She also claimed that her son had been molested and abused by her estranged husband. The latter claim appears to have been largely ignored by the prosecution; information about it was withheld from the defense attorneys. Although there was no physical evidence or confirmation from other children at the school, Ray was arrested on SEP-07. Because of lack of evidence, the DA decided to not prosecute.
The Chief of the Manhattan Beach Police then created a local panic by circulating a "strictly confidential" letter to about 200 parents of present or past McMartin students. The letter specified that Ray may have forced the children to engage in oral sex, fondling of genitals, buttocks or chest area and sodomy". The parents were urged to question their children, seeking confirmation. The community and surrounding area was panicked by an irresponsible media. A local TV station was first with the news; they reported that the preschool might be linked to child pornography rings and various sex industries in nearby Los Angeles.
In 2002-MAY, the Morning Call newspaper of Allentown, PA interviewed Paul Eberle. He is co-author of "The Abuse of Innocence," a book about the McMartin case. He said: "
Eberle said rallies linked to the church demanded that "Ray [Buckley] must die!" He continued:
Webmaster's opinion: [Bias alert]:
Looking back at this case from three decades after the panic, my personal opinion is that the Catholic and other religious groups did not play a major direct role in the propogation of this panic. Religious gatherings probably did play an indirect role by bringing parents together where they could share stories and spread the panic. Church teaching of the existance of Satan probably contributed to the belief among their membership that evil, abusive Satanic cults existed, were widespread, and engaged in ritual abuse of children. But we have been unable to find any evidence of direct church involvement in the case.
Hundreds of children were later interviewed by the Children's Institute International (CII). By the spring of 1984, 360 kids had been diagnosed as having been abused. Medical exams were conducted on 150 children. There was a complete lack of the type of physical evidence that is normally seen with sexually abused children. However, the doctor performed some new tests which have since been shown to be useless as a predictor of abuse. The doctor concluded that about 120 had been sexually abused.
The whole town, particularly the parents of the allegedly abused children, went ballistic. Stories of child abuse included other locations, including St. Cross Episcopal Church in Hermosa Beach, CA and 8 other Manhattan Beach schools. Teachers at the schools were said to belong to a Satanic cult and a child pornography ring. About 100 teachers "were accused of child molestation and/or Satanic rituals." 5 Children were pressured by parents; CII interviewers used leading, suggestive, and repeated questions. These are the precise techniques that almost guarantee the implantation of false memories in the minds of children.
The interviewers gave rewards to the kids for disclosing the "right" answers: These were that the children:
This topic continues in the next essay
References used in the above essay:
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