The Mcmartin Pre-School Case Essay, Research Paper
In doing research on this topic, I began to realize just how complicated this case actually is. The McMartin Preschool case, when first glanced at, just seems to be about parents suing a school for allegedly molesting their children. This case went on for years and to this day it has not been proven whether or not any of the hundreds of children who attended McMartin Preschool were molested by the couple who ran it, Charles and Peggy Buckey, or any of the other seven accused defendants. Along with unconvincing testimonies from some of the children who attended the school, there was a serious lack of physical evidence of abuse or of any underground tunnels, as some of the children claimed were beneath the school. These are just some of the factors that led to this being the longest-running and most expensive trial in American history.
This case began in the early 1980 s when Judy Johnson, along with many other parents, dropped her two-year-old boy off at the McMartin Preschool. She first became suspicious when her son came home one day from school bleeding. Although she was the first parent to speak out against the alleged molestation at the McMartin Preschool, her case was not taken vary seriously by the jurors. She was portrayed as a woman with severe emotional problems and many reporters even called her crazy . It s true that she did have a lot to handle considering she was raising two kids alone, one of which was a thirteen-year-old boy suffering from brain cancer. She dealt with money problems and her husband abandoning her by turning to alcohol. This was a fatal choice; it seems, since it ended up killing her. She was basically a joke, according to the press. She was blamed for igniting this fire of witch-hunt-like hysteria. However, the press fed off and ridiculed the children s testimonies much more than Judy s.
It was an interesting concept to have the children testify in the first place, considering they were so young. They testified on videotape for the trial so that they would not have to face those accused of molestation in person. It was believed that the ideas of being molested were being planted in the children s heads by the psychologists who interviewed and evaluated them. This definitely hurt the credibility of the kids cases. The press did a great job of following this trial and making it seem as absurd as the McMartin defense team claimed it was. These defense attorneys actually fed their skeptic theories to the press and even took out ads promoting their witch hunt analogy. This had a huge impact not only on this case, but all future cases where preschool age children were asked to testify. Since those days, people are highly unlikely to believe the testimonies of such young witnesses and would definitely be suspicious of the adults asking them the questions. Jurors were actually finding the children s descriptions similar sounding to other documented cases of abuse and it became labeled ritual abuse . It also did not help that a lot of the kids talked about being taken into underground tunnels that led to secret rooms and such. When first being investigated no such tunnels were discovered, although, they did not even break the surface to try and uncover anything underground. That investigation from 1985 was not thorough in the least and the parents of the kids demanded more. I 1990, after the property had been sold, a private investigation began. What made the situation especially unpleasant for the parents was the constant media bashing they had to endure. The press was relentless in their attempts at making the parents look ignorant and gullible. A reporter by the name of Debbie Nathan has been a long time skeptic of ritual abuse , and in 1990 wrote an article for the Village Voice making fun of the tunnel obligations. She was just one of the many that published their negative thoughts on the case, including The Los Angeles Times. When evidence of actual tunnels emerged, The LA Times just ran a paragraph stating that fact, but did not apologize or admit any wrongdoing whatsoever. Many believe that instances such as those just mentioned, along with many other widely publicized articles, were all a part of a big government cover-up to conceal information about a mind control operation.
There are so many unanswered questions throughout this case. Even when looking back at the beginning of it, it seems it was doomed to fail. The only evidence the prosecutors could provide for the jurors was ill received, to say the least. Apparently five of the jurors believed that none of the children had been molested, while the other seven believed that some of the kids were molested, but it was questionable as to where this took place and who was responsible. Why was the media, specifically the press, so quick to get involved and form such a strong case against the kid s testimonies? Why was the first dig in 1985 to try and find the tunnels done so poorly? It s been suspected that the District Attorney was deliberately trying to conceal evidence about the tunnels. Most of the children who mentioned them in their testimonies pinpointed a specific spot where they were, but that area was not investigated until later on. When the parents led the investigation and began looking where the kids stated the tunnels were, they of course found the entrances to these underground tunnels. This case could be called tragic in some ways. If these kids actually were molested, as evidence, such as the tunnels, would prove they will never receive any kind of justice or compensation and neither will their parents. There was not even one conviction to emerge from this trial. This case was high-profile enough to be constantly speculated about in the media and even be turned into a tv movie on HBO, but it does not seem it received the kind of attention it needed. It needed support rather that ridicule, and the people involved on the prosecution end of it deserved more for their suffering also. This case proves how powerful the media can be if it wants to stick its nose in and distort, and possibly conceal, the facts of a trial.
It not only affected the public s opinion of the trial itself and the people involved, it made a lasting impression on the court system and all future trials involving child abuse.