Wednesday, December 29, 2010

McMartin: Hearing Is Believing

See previous post for sources not cited here.

The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to bring a defendant to trial. Usually, you’d expect these to take a few hours, maybe a day. The prelim of the O.J. Simpson murder case, dubbed by the press ‘The Crime of the Century,‘ took about a week.

By contrast, the preliminary hearing of the McMartin case began on 17 August 1984, and concluded on 9 January 1986.

True, the case had some complexities in that there were seven defendants, each with their own attorneys, three different prosecutors, and a parade of forensic and eyewitnesses. Still, you’d have to think that the prosecution had enough evidence to go to trial. They had the videotaped interviews with Kee MacFarlane’s 394 victims. Five of the children would also take the stand. In addition to MacFarlane’s expert testimony, there was also Dr. Astrid Heger’s examinations.

Moreover, the prosecution had received assistance from a highly respected psychiatrist, Dr. Roland Summit, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He coined the term Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CAAS) in a 1983 paper for the scholarly journal Child Abuse and Neglect. CAAS, simply put, was a five-stage process in which victims of childhood sex abuse come to deny their encounters with adults: (1) secrecy; (2) helplessness; (3) entrapment and accommodation; (4) delayed, unconvincing disclosure; and (5) retraction. In essence, he argued that the victims of sex abuse have every reason to keep it secret and to publicly deny it. (This would play a role later on when MacFarlane explained her interviewing technique with defense attorneys.)

The examinations and cross-examinations took quite some time, simply because of the volume of the evidence. There was also another matter: the decision on whether or not to allow sixteen additional child witnesses to testify on closed-circuit television.

Most important, the defense would not passively stipulate the evidence, but challenged it at every turn. In effect, the preliminary hearing took on more the tone of an actual trial, as defense attorneys began to sense that the prosecution’s evidence was nowhere as strong as first believed. They immediately noted critical methodological flaws in the examinations by MacFarlane and Dr. Heger. They also pointed out the lack of key evidence. First of all, no one could produce a single photograph or movie clip of a naked game, despite the fact that by the prosecution’s own account thousands of them were taken. And with all of the activity supposedly happening either in or via these secret underground tunnels, no one has shown that they even existed.

The tunnels became a big issue as the hearing progressed. Sometime in the last week of February 1985, CII therapist Martha Cockriel told the LA Sheriff’s office that there was a secret room in the tunnel. One kid described the room as “totally dark but could be lit with red lights….Everyone, students and teachers alike, went there.” Another former student said that he or she “…didn’t like Ray’s secret room because it was dirty….No good things happened there.” One more kid told deputies, “…devil stuff went on. They also took naked pictures and molested kids in that room.”

Determined to prove the existence of the tunnels, parents began digging around the McMartin site on March 4. A police check on license plates indicated the presence of Bob Currie (his wife’s car was parked nearby). Two weeks later, Currie led an expedition of forty-plus parents at the site. One person, digging near Ray Buckey’s room, found a tortoise shell buried two feet under the ground. (The kids said that turtles were among the animals frequently tortured and killed).

Despite the parents’ belief that the tortoise shell proved the existence of a satanic ring at McMartin, DA Ira Reiner realized that their amateur search could render real evidence meaningless. On March 20, prosecutors arranged for Scientific Resource Surveys (SRS), a reputable archeological firm, to do a proper dig. SRS found no evidence of tunnels and tortured animals. Instead, they found massive evidence of trash pits which included butchered animal bones and bottles dating from 1890-1940.

Despite the improbability of the tunnels‘ existence, and highly problematic prosecution evidence, Judge Aviva Bobb nevertheless bound all seven defendants for trial. But Reiner, who worried about the weakness of the evidence against five of the defendants, dropped the charges against all except for Peggy and Ray Buckey.

Click here to read later posts in this series.

Update 12/31/10:  Check out the New Year's Eve cyberbash over at Boxer's Place.  Party ends at 3:00am EST 1/1/11.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

McMartin: Out of Control*

Obviously, 200 parents aren’t going to shut up when receiving a letter saying, in effect, “A pervert might have raped your kid.” Never mind the explanatory and cautionary statements in that missive. The allegation rang the loudest.

From that point, the McMartin case simply flew out of anyone’s control. As the longest and most expensive legal proceeding in Los Angeles history (it dwarfs the Tate-LaBianca prosecutions), this case was marred by relentless and bizarre excess.

To start with, word of mouth prompted Manhattan Beach parents to request (some say “pressure”) the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office to investigate. Dep. DA Jean Matusinka, then in charge of investigating complaints of child abuse, referred five possible victims to the Children’s Institute International (CII), where psychiatric social worker (MSW) Kathleen (Kee) MacFarlane examined them. It’s clear that at first Matusinka simply wanted to determine whether or not these charges had merit. But the number of interview subjects mushroomed after authorities got into the habit of referring parents fearing the worse to CII. In all, MacFarlane examined over 400 children during October 1983, ultimately determining that 384 were sexually abused. The following month, medical examinations by Dr. Astrid Heppenstall Heger on 150 of these children found forensic evidence of sexual abuse in 80% (about 120) of them.

Through the participation of CII, the case grew in scope from a specific charge of molestation against one child to the rampant, indiscriminate rape of almost 400 children. The sheer number of alleged victims, combined with the fact that some of the kids were claiming sexual abuse at the school before Ray Buckey, the accused, even worked there, indicated to parents and prosecutors that the abuse went far beyond the work of a single individual. Thus, police and prosecutors began investigating others, which ultimately led to the arrests of Ray’s mom, Peggy, his sister, Peggy Ann, his grandmother, Virginia McMartin, and three teachers: Mary Ann Jackson, Babette Spitler and Bette Raidor. Between March and May 1984, prosecutors won indictments on all seven defendants on a total of 208 charges. Prosecutor Lael Rubin later told the press that the McMartin defendants were actually guilty of 397 charges, with thirty more pending the findings of ongoing investigations.

In addition to inflating the number of charges, victims and perpetrators, other aspects began to increase the heinousness of the offenses to the point of sensationalism. Early in the investigation, one of the McMartin parents, Jackie McGauley, met with Dr. Lawrence Pazder, a psychiatrist originally from Canada. With his mistress (later his wife), Dr. Pazder co-wrote Michelle Remembers, an autobiographical account of the second Mrs. Pazder’s life as a victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). At this point, the McMartin parents began to fear that an organized group of wealthy and powerful Satanists had indoctrinated their kids and others the world over into a life down the left-hand path.

Rumors of satanic practices led to increasingly exotic descriptions of the actual crimes committed. Judy Johnson, for example, came to believe that Buckey sodomized her son while cramming the kid’s head in a toilet. Other stories began to emerge. Some said that the children made pornography. Adults forced them to play in the nude, while camera’s happily recorded the action (according to some of the kids, they even sang a special song for the occasion: “What you see is what you are./You’re a naked movie star”). The games subject to filming supposedly included numerous instances of anal and vaginal penetration. The perpetrators also allegedly forced them to witness the torture and murder of small animals (tortoises, in particular, but also chickens dogs, and whatnot). On occasion, they would sacrifice humans (in one story they tortured and finally beheaded an infant).

The settings of these atrocities varied from churches to private houses. If you’re wondering how they managed to sneak a bunch of kids out of the preschool in broad daylight, eleven kids mentioned something about a tunnel that ran beneath the school, and opened up inside another house. Inside the tunnel system was a special room, where these activities also occurred.

Bob Currie, another parent dissatisfied with the official investigation, took it upon himself to find smoking gun evidence that Buckey was involved with a satanic child molestation ring. He began by getting the address of suspected molestation sites from CII, and confirming them with his son. He then copied the license plate numbers of vehicles at these locations, and followed their drivers. His investigative technique led to even wilder charges. For starters, he claimed that some kids were flown to other cities during the day from a local airport--in air-freight cartons, no less--to sexually service wealthy industrialists, movie stars and the California Angels. Moreover, he averred that some of the McMartin parents were themselves part of the pedophile ring.

Wayne Satz, a Peabody-Award winning television journalist known for his aggressive style, publicized the accusations locally as a credible child abuse case starting in February 1984. But as the nature of the charges became more and more lurid, the story spread outside of LA. By August of that year, Currie garnered national attention with an appearance on ABC’s 20/20. As the spokesperson of the Parents Against Child Abuse (PACA), an organization of fellow McMartin parents, he became quite visible as a crusader figure.

In some respects, one could see Currie as the ringmaster of a three-ring media circus. By trial‘s end, however, one might be more tempted to see him as a clown.

*In this and the next several posts, I’ll be giving a summary of the legal proceedings as chronicled by Doug Linder’s The McMartin Preschool Trials:1987-1990, John Earl's "The Dark Truth about 'The Dark Tunnels of McMartin'" published in The Journal of the Institute for Psychological Therapies, v. 7(1995), and Alex Constantine’s Virtual Government: CIA Mind Control Operations in America. I would point out that each of these resources has an axe to grind, so to speak. Nevertheless, they mostly agree on the chronology of events.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Assailing the Tender Age: McMartin

On 12 May 1983, forty-year old Judy Johnson had about reached the breaking point. She had just undergone a painful separation from her husband that forced her out of her home and into instant poverty. Yet at the forefront of her mind was her elder son, a thirteen-year old suffering from terminal brain cancer. She’d become sort of a nuisance to local authorities in her efforts to get in-home health care for the teenager. Described as a “community outsider” and bit “eccentric” by Alex Constantine, she didn’t know her neighbors that well, nor they her. Apparently, she didn’t feel as though she could ask them for help in looking after Billy, her two-year old son.* So, at the peak of frustration, she took him to the gates of McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach California, and left him there.

The woman who ran the school, Peggy Buckey, took care of the kid, even though she had no clue who he was or why he was there until Johnson returned that afternoon to pick him up. Because of Johnson’s circumstances, Buckey took pity on her, and arranged to take on her kid starting in June.

Later that summer, Matthew suffered from pain in the rectal region, and itched all over. Johnson took him to the doctor several times during June and July, but the pediatrician couldn’t determine what might have caused those symptoms. Johnson worried that it might be vaginitis because she had just undergone a bout with it herself, and the boy had been sleeping with her as of late because of his frequent nightmares.

On 12 August 1983, when shopping for groceries, the two-year-old started crying again. Changing his diaper, she saw blood. At the suggestion of others, instead of taking him to his usual pediatrician, she took him instead to one working at the Children’s Institute International (CII), an organization dedicated to detecting and preventing child abuse. There, a young intern examined Billy and concluded that someone had sodomized him.

Johnson went to Manhattan Beach police six days later asking them to investigate possible sexual abuse against her son. Detective Jane Hoag interviewed Billy, who apparently demonstrated knowledge of sadomasochistic paraphernalia. During a subsequent interview conducted 20 August 1983, when asked about how he knew so much about tawdry things, the lad simply said “Ray.”**

Billy indeed knew someone named Ray: specifically Ray Buckey, the 25-year-old son of Peggy Buckey, and grandson of the school’s owner, Virginia McMartin--despite the fact that the child could not identify him in a photograph lineup. Det. Hoag consequently opened an investigation against Ray. She searched Buckey’s bedroom and found such incriminating items as a rubber duck, a graduation gown, and a few pin-up photos cut from a recent issue of Playboy. Based upon this evidence, and Billy’s statement, Det. Hoag arrested Buckey on September 7. But the Los Angeles District Attorney’s officer told her that she needed more and better evidence before they could prosecute.***

Det. Hoag’s superior, Manhattan Beach Chief of Police Harry Kuhlmeyer, decided to find that evidence at any cost. He mailed the following letter to 200 parents of current and former McMartin students:

September 8, 1983

Dear Parent:

This Department is conducting a criminal investigation involving child molestation (288 P.C.) Ray Buckey, an employee of Virginia McMartin's Pre-School, was arrested September 7, 1983 by this Department.

The following procedure is obviously an unpleasant one, but to protect the rights of your children as well as the rights of the accused, this inquiry is necessary for a complete investigation.

Records indicate that your child has been or is currently a student at the pre-school. We are asking your assistance in this continuing investigation. Please question your child to see if he or she has been a witness to any crime or if he or she has been a victim. Our investigation indicates that possible criminal acts include: oral sex, fondling of genitals, buttock or chest area, and sodomy, possibly committed under the pretense of ‘taking the child's temperature.’ Also photos may have been taken of children without their clothing. Any information from your child regarding having ever observed Ray Buckey to leave a classroom alone with a child during any nap period, or if they have ever observed Ray Buckey tie up a child, is important.

Please complete the enclosed information form and return it to this Department in the enclosed stamped return envelope as soon as possible. We will contact you if circumstances dictate same.

We ask you to please keep this investigation strictly confidential because of the nature of the charges and the highly emotional effect it could have on our community. Please do not discuss this investigation with anyone outside your immediate family. Do not contact or discuss the investigation with Raymond Buckey, any member of the accused defendant's family, or employees connected with the McMartin Pre-School.


Your prompt attention to this matter and reply no later than September 16, 1983 will be appreciated.

Chief of Police

You’ll note how Chief Kuhlmeyer and Captain Wehner cautioned parents to keep their investigation “strictly confidential because of the highly emotional effect it could have on our community.”

Gee. If you got that letter, would you keep it a secret?

*Douglas Linder, who has written extensively about the case, gives the Johnson boy’s name as Billy. Other sources say Matthew. Perhaps the child’s name is William Matthew or Matthew William, or one or both names are pseudonyms. Whatever the case, I’ll refer to him as Billy, here.

**I have to point out here that what exactly led to the connection between Billy Johnson and Ray Buckey has always been, and remains to this day a subject of controversy. This is the most cited version of this story that I can find. I should point out that some have averred that Judy planted the notion of sexual abuse by Buckey after her son told her that Ray had taken his temperature. In this narrative, Judy assumed that Buckey used a rectal thermometer.

***Manhattan Beach, CA is located in Los Angeles County.

Click here to see later posts in this series.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Road Ahead

When I started this blog, I had several objectives in mind. The first was to discuss a number of topics I had studied for quite some time--a data dump, if you will. The second was to form a community off of which to bounce ideas, no matter how far-fetched. The most important, however, was to clarify issues of conspiracy.

As presented in mainstream media, the term ‘conspiracy’ almost always precedes the term ‘theory.’ As I have stated before, the term ‘conspiracy theory’ is a misnomer. Very few conspiracy researchers work from a theoretical approach (and those that do tend to be academics). Instead they operate out of a speculative one, attempting to fill in gaps of knowledge that in many cases are deliberately withheld, mostly because of classification and confidentiality reasons. In its strictest sense, theory is not synonymous with hypothesis, but rather its antithesis. Hypotheses attempt to predict or describe a situation not yet in evidence. Theory, on the other hand, connects the dots between known and stipulated phenomena. Sometimes the connections are meaningless; nevertheless, they exist. And this is what a true theorist does.

In the process of misstating the nature of conspiracy theory, dominant discourse on controversial subjects tends to confuse a lot of issues. One of the main sources of the confusion is the straw-man argument: a trumped-up (and often scurrilous) debate about a peripheral issue that fails to address the main concerns of conspiracy researchers. You can find a good example of this on our friend Judyth Vary Baker’s blog, Oswald Framed. In a post dated 6 November 2009, Judy discusses a study in which Professor Hany Farid (Computer Science, Dartmouth) disputes the claim that the shadows of the famous Backyard Photo do not match, thus implying that Oswald was the actual subject, and more importantly linking him to the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle cited by the Warren Commission as the murder weapon.

Figure 1. The infamous Backyard Photo

Farid argued that the distinctive shape of Oswald’s nose made it appear that the shadows didn’t match, when in fact they did. Through most of the blog post, Baker thoroughly engages Farid’s claim to reestablish that they do. She rightfully points out that lost in his discussion are the obvious crop marks that are visible without a magnifying glass (and glaringly obvious with one). Moreover, the arm holding the rifle features characteristics that Oswald’s never had, most notably the slight bump near the right wrist.

While we can see Professor Farid’s assertion as the construction of a straw-man argument, on the one hand, we have to also take issue with some arguments undertaken by conspiracy researchers themselves. As The X-Spot has given me an opportunity to correspond with a number of fellow researchers--from the unknowns like myself to the more prominent--I’ve come to realize that more often than not you’ll find that these are people who are doing the best they can to put together a coherent narrative out of disparate and often conflicting facts. At the same time, you can often find an undisciplined approach to gathering data and weighing evidence which further muddles the issues, and leads to inaccuracy. As voiced by the character Janet in the sequel to The Golden Ganesh:

’The problem with conspiracy theory,’ she began, ‘is that it oversimplifies very complex social interactions. It lures people into a false belief that they know how the world works, and gives them an excuse as to why they find their lives in disarray….

Moreover, conspiracy theories tend to lack agency. Nothing’s attributable to specific individuals, but rather a faceless, nameless, ‘they’. And that ‘they’ could be anybody the conspiracy theorist doesn’t like: Jews, whites, blacks, Republicans, Democrats, Communists, Russians, Muslims, Freemasons, Illuminati and so forth.

'And then, there’s the obvious. A lot of conspiracy theory comes from people who sound as though they’re suffering from profound paranoia.’
While it doesn’t always help, the academic theorist is trained to take his or her own personality, feelings, beliefs, experiences and biases into account when examining a subject. Each of these things can act as a filter, through which certain data never register, while some factors weigh more heavily on a conclusion than they should. If you don’t put yourself into the equation, you run the risk of letting prejudice be your guide.

If, on the off chance you can keep your biases in check, then you still have to bear in mind your own emotions. As everyone knows, emotional reasoning (at least in and of itself) often leads to error. That’s the main reason I have written very little about 9/11. I have a lot of memories tied up in the Twin Towers. I used to work there. And I still have very strong emotions about what happened on that day and during the following weeks. My feelings aren’t as virulent or as disruptive as they were on 12 September 2001, of course. So I figure that one day I’ll be in a position to research and write about that particular chapter in history some day--just not right now.

On the other hand, there are two topics on which I have strong emotions that will probably never change. Yet I feel that I must write about them, because they are essential components of conspiracy culture, and I’ve put them off long enough. The first is the inherent racism (in particular the anti-Semitism) in some strains of conspiracy research. But I think I’ll table that for the time being, and instead forge ahead of with the second subject.

A word of warning: this next series of posts will actually exist as a series of series, each exploring a very dark, and very ugly matter. It will certainly inflame your emotions. For many of you, it will be a major turnoff, especially since I will probably spend a good deal of time talking about it. Nevertheless, I welcome your insights, for I know that some of you have explored some facets of this topic on your own and thus have probably developed some rather firm opinions about it. As always, my first goal will be to clarify the conspiracy issues. If things get cloudy, I have every faith that you’ll let me know.

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