Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Justice For Just Us or Justice For All.

Finished reading No Crueler Tyrannies. Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times by Pulitzer Prize Winner, Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal. (You can read an excerpt on-line). I sit here so filled with anger that I don’t know how to get this post rolling, except to say that you ought to read this book. It’s especially important that people in this area read it because there is a chapter on Jack Carroll of Troy, who is now serving time for a sex crime he never committed.

What’s even scarier is that Jack, and everyone else portrayed in this book, were convicted of crimes that never even happened.

In all of these cases, what is compelling is the lack of physical evidence of sexual abuse in each case. One minister was supposed to have had sex with numerous children on the church floor every Sunday during worship service while the whole congregation watched. Yet an intensive examination of the church carpet showed no evidence on sexual activity of any kind.

The book covers the sex abuse cases of the Amirault family who ran the Fells Acre Day School in Malden, Massachusetts; the Kelly Michaels case, the case of Grant Snowden, a top notch cop in South Miami, Florida; the Wenatchee, Washington case in which forty citizens were arrested on sex abuse charges in just the first few months of the investigation (one woman alone was charged with 3,200 counts of child rape--an extremely busy woman to say the least), the case of Dr. Patrick Griffin, and, of course, Jack Carroll of Troy.

The professional reviews on amazon.com give Rabinowitz high praise for the book. Some of the amateurs are not so kind, although overall they gave the book 3.5 stars out of 5. The biggest complaint was the slimness of the book and the slenderness of the evidence presented by Rabinowitz.

But these reviewers are approaching the book in the wrong way. Rabinowitz’s book is meant to be a primer on false accusation, not an exhaustive treatise. Each case deserves a book of its own; some need more than one book to tell the story. Rabinowitz is trying to show us the witch hunt like atmosphere of these trials, which peaked in the 1980s and 1990s, but which has not completely died out.

It would have been impossible in such a book for Rabinowitz to have gone into the detail that all readers might want. But here is what makes Rabinowitz’s work important. In it she brings us face to face with well over one hundred people who were falsely accused of sex abuse in a variety of cases in different parts of the country. In each case, even though there was no evidence, prosecutors and social workers followed a similar plan to deny justice to the accused. In most cases the accused were found guilty, but in the end, except for Jack Carroll and Gerald Amirault, they all had their sentences overturned. And there is still a lot of hope for Jack.

Trials of large numbers of people for crimes that they did not commit are not new to America--this mass hysteria, beginning with the Salem Witch Trials, pokes its ugly head up with every new generation of Americans, seemingly oblivious of history.

We are not done with the sex abuse hysteria, but we are already into a new hysteria. As one amazon.com reviewer said, “The post-9/11 environment is ripe for similar cases - this time targeting those who are perceived to be soft on homeland security. Books like Rabinowitz's, however imperfect, serve as cautionary tales of our paranoid propensity to believe the worst about each other.”

The sad thing is that while people were being prosecuted for sex crimes that never happened, real sex crimes were taking place, and going undetected because the police, social workers, prosecuting attorneys and Child Protective workers were using all of their resources to prosecute innocent people.

I have been promising to write on this topic for a long time. Now that I have begun, I will be posting frequently on it because I have a lot I to say. I have waited a long time to say what I want to say. It took me awhile to find the right forum and this blog seems to be it.

If you are one of those people who are skeptical about false accusations and innocent people going to prison, I hope you will keep an open mind and continue to read these posts. I was like you once. I wanted to castrate everyone accused of sex crimes before they even had a trial. (Even now I believe that sex offenders who murder should receive the death penalty). Then one day Child Protective Services of Montgomery County showed up at my door and investigated me for alleged neglect. (Neglect differs from abuse and is a nebulous allegation which includes emotional neglect, truancy and a host of other things which I will discuss in a future post).

I was a law abiding, hard working, well respected citizen who thought this could never happen to me, but it did.

It can happen to you too.

2 Comments:

  • Bravo! You say things that need to be said, and I do hope you will keep posting about these issues.

    I know people who have been falsely accused and hounded, especially by DSS, and their lives have been nearly ruined. They have no way of proving their innocence, and most don't have enough money or leisure to fight.

    By Anonymous NumberWise, at 4:48 PM  

  • Our lawyer talked us into an ACOD (Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal)on the Petition of Neglect, not telling us that this was a plea bargain. If I had known, I would not have agreed to it. He charged us $3500 for which he did little, and we got little in return.

    By Blogger Dan Weaver, at 10:18 AM  

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