Saturday, January 29, 2011

McMartin: Aftermath

Update: 05/12/2016*

The evidence that Ray Buckey and his colleagues at McMartin Preschool organized the rape, prostitution and pornographic exploitation of children under their care consisted of testimony by the children to Kee MacFarlane and her assistants, the examinations by Dr. Astrid Heger, the statement of a jailhouse snitch, and the results of Dr. Gary Stickel’s excavation. Videotapes of the children’s interviews conducted by CII yielded abundant evidence of manipulation on the part of interviewers. Despite the declaration of the bulk of these kids that they did not suffer any type of sexual abuse, they obviously acquiesced to the questioners’ insistence that they did. While I have little doubt that Dr. Heger actually found proof of molestation in some of the children, the figure that she arrived at (150) seems a bit high, since it is statistically significantly higher than the 25% that some clinicians estimate as the actual rate (and as mentioned earlier, other clinicians put the figure at 11%, or less than half of that). Still, her examinations do not provide us evidence that the abuse occurred at the school. George Freeman, the jailhouse snitch, later said he lied about Buckey. That leaves the “tunnels.” Two digs resulted in mutually exclusive findings. Out of the two, the first, conducted by SRS, appears more thorough and sound in its methodology, whereas the one conducted by Dr. Stickel had numerous gaps in logic, methodological flaws, and demonstrated bias.

To sum this up tersely, I do not believe that Ray Buckey nor anyone at McMartin Preschool molested kids, either in a ritualistic way or otherwise.

Critics of McMartin often bring up the $15 million cost of the trial in order to characterize it as a waste of money, brains and time. But the actual cost went far beyond that for the defense, the prosecution, and ultimately the public. Ray Buckey spent five years in jail for a crime he almost certainly did not commit. Yet Buckey realized that there were even bigger victims. As he told CBS reporters, “Those kids went through hell.”

Part of that hell might have come from the frustration of children who were not believed when they denied allegations of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). Bob Currie’s oldest child, a daughter who had attended McMartin in 1972, was referred to a therapist by CII for “symptoms consistent with a history of sexual abuse” because she refused to acquiesce to her father and interviewers' contention that someone had molested her. Perhaps, by that time, she needed therapy for reasons other than sexual abuse.

The notoriety of McMartin had larger repercussions that affected people around the world. If you aren’t old enough to remember those times (or were too buzzed to remember anything about the 1980s--which is completely forgivable), the subject of daycare came up repeatedly in everyday conversation, with many, otherwise rational, people absolutely convinced that sexual abuse systematically flourished in at least a certain percentage of day care centers. Among some of the less rational, daycare satanic ritual abuse was a logical consequence of women entering the workplace. Thus, one could detect a significant anti-feminist, anti-liberal bias in some of those who believed that McMartin was simply the tip of an international Satanic iceberg.

For most, however, the McMartin case symbolized a witch hunt mentality stemming from conservative Christian hysteria over sex, the Devil, and the changing roles of women in society. Those taking that position put McMartin in the context of a rash of similar cases that happened around the same time: the Fells-Acre Daycare Center case of Malden, MA; the case against Frances and Danny Keller, who operated a home-based daycare center near Austin, TX; and the Little Rascals Day Care Center case of Edenton, NC (not to be confused with the Little Rascals Day Care Center of Lockport, NY) among others. In all, scores of people served jail time (with some still serving time decades later) based on scant evidence and with a high probability of innocence.

While all of these cases received a fair share of publicity, the McMartin case stood out, perhaps in significant part because of its proximity to a city where image-making is the town industry. It’s length, the involvement of such celebrities as Mr. T., the daily news coverage, in effect made for seven years of reality television. Starting with the sensationalistic reportage of Wayne Satz, at the time allegedly having an affair with a psychiatric social worker named Kee MacFarlane, the story grew larger, wilder and more Hollywoodish as it captured the imagination of an increasing number of people around the world. As it did, the perception of child sexual abuse ping-ponged back and forth. The existence of vast satanic undergrounds seemed very real, at first. But by trial’s end, allegations of any child molestation became synonymous with irrationality.

After everything is said and done, one could argue that the persons most victimized by the McMartin trial were those McMartin students actually abused outside of the preschool. Because adults had identified Buckey as their assailant, the children most likely went with that, figuring that adults knew more than they did. Attention therefore drifted away from, or never focused on, people who had actually caused harm to young children. So they got away with their crimes, free to rape other kids.

And I suspect that there were children in that situation. In addition to acknowledging that child abuse will occur within a certain percentage of any population, prior treatment for Chlamydia in at least two children, and as Butterfly pointed out in an earlier comment, "scars, tears, enlarged body openings or other evidence indicating blunt force trauma consistent with the repeated sodomy and rape..." in at least thirteen kids, you can’t forget that some kid at McMartin taught the others the Naked Movie Star song. I don’t know about you, but if I heard preschool kids singing this, I would have tried to find out where it came from, if for no other reason than to allay my fear that one of my pupils had actually played the game. As far as I know, no kids were counseled about this odd little ditty, nor did the staff seem to delve into the possibility that it might have indicated something more serious.

Thus, in a way, the Buckeys and other McMartin personnel might have been guilty of the same thing as MacFarlane and Dr. Heger: nobody, it seems, really listened to these kids.

While I feel that the mainstream depiction of the McMartin Preschool trials as a witch hunt is not only justified, but correct, certain aspects of this case make me wonder if there was more to it than met the eye. That’s not to say that there is anything conspiratorial or sinister lurking in the background. There’s nothing I can prove. But some things nevertheless cross my mind when examining it.

In a previous comment on this series, our friend SJ asked, “Did they make such a bad case on purpose?” I’m not sure if he meant that as a rhetorical question. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent one. Taken non-rhetorically, one could turn it around, and ask if someone had something to gain by trumping up a case that was weak in evidence at the very start.

I’ll table discussion of that question for the time being. Instead of delving into it this instant, I’d prefer to point out a few things that strike my curiosity.

*  I received a comment that I felt should be put on the dance floor.  It reads in full:
I am the brother of one of the main accusers. I started a web site to counter the misinformation and to try to bring some closure to this issue.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

McMartin: Digging Deeper below the Surface

The resources for this article include the aforementioned paper by John Earl, W. Joseph Wyatt‘s “What Was Under the McMartin Preschool? A Review and Behavioral Analysis of the ‘Tunnels’ Find,” published in the journal Behavior and Social Issues, vol. 12 (2002), and the three-part YouTube documentary “The McMartin Preschool Case: Tunnels” by Godlesspanther.

To a number of researchers, Dr. Gary Stickel’s report validating a tunnel complex beneath the surface of McMartin Preschool seems compelling. But upon closer examination, one can see numerous flaws in its basic assumptions, methodology and execution. When compared to the dig arranged by Scientific Resource Surveys, Inc., the firm retained by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office to find evidence of tunnels, Stickel’s effort seems at best amateurish, and at worst heavily biased. Worse, the SRS came to a definite conclusion about the cavities found at the site which is actually consistent with much of what Dr. Stickel observed, despite the fact that their conclusions contradicted.

Starting with Dr. Stickel’s nine criteria for establishing the tunnels’ existence, a close reading reveals a pronounced vagueness about them. Six of them contain the words “or” or “and/or,” which has the effect of broadening the definition of ‘tunnel’ itself. For example, criterion number two states “Tunnel architecture should be linear or curvilinear (i.e. an elongated passageway leading in a definable direction(s).” Thus if you could discern any pattern of cavities, such would define ‘tunnelness,’ without having to explain why they would have curved or stayed straight. Other language lacks sufficient methodological explanation. While one can understand why compaction due to foot traffic (criterion 5) would be significant, Dr. Stickel provides us no means of determining this.

There’s also a lot of qualifying language in them that would make the criterion useless, because any possible observation would yield evidence of a tunnel. Criterion six, for example, states, “The tunnel could be open (i.e. traversable and unfilled).” Then again, it might not. So it wouldn’t matter if one found an anomaly opened or closed. Both circumstances would validate the existence of a tunnel, according to criterion six. As worded, almost anything you could observe would validate the existence of a tunnel in terms of meeting a number of these criteria.

Figure 1. W. Joseph Wyatt’s diagram of McMartin Preschool

Dr. Stickel’s report also failed to address something that the SRS excavation took seriously: specifically the history of that particular plot of land. This would clear up a lot of mystery concerning the artifacts found at the site. Mark Morris purchased the house that once occupied the plot next door to the McMartin Preschool in 1942. In the deal, he also bought the land upon which the school would occupy starting in 1966. For the most part, this was a vacant lot, although the Morris family once had a greenhouse located on the grounds, and at another point had a stable where the school would later sit. As was common on rural properties of that time (and in 1942, this was rural property), Morris would have disposed of his garbage by digging a trash pit. Once that pit filled up, he would have simply dug another adjacent to the old one. Earlier inhabitants of the property would have done the same thing. After decades of digging holes in the ground next to each other, the resultant pits could look somewhat tunnel-like. As Dr. Stickel noted on his own excavation, there were areas that had the “scars,” or marks of shovel digging. That’s certainly consistent with digging a bunch of trash pits.

Moreover, most of the items Stickel found were things that someone would find in a used trash heap--pots, plates, roofing tiles, etc.. Whereas Stickel concluded that somebody surreptitiously brought in the bottles, cans and other debris after the Buckeys’ arrest in order to (1) fill in the tunnels before anyone could detect them and (2) to make any tunnel-like features appear as trash dumps if discovered,* most people would consider that preposterous. After all, from the moments after the arrest of school personnel, parents, police and prosecutors closely watched that property in the hopes of obtaining evidence. Given the extensive nature of the tunnels as ‘described’ by the children, filling them in would require a massive undertaking in broad daylight--a project not conducive to going on unnoticed. It’s highly unlikely that anyone could just casually sneak up in the middle of the night with a few tons of earth, a busload of collectable bottles and cans, and slip it all in quietly. Seeing that the bottles dated almost exclusively from 1930s and 1940s, and the other artifacts date from an appropriate era, then it’s highly unlikely that someone artificially introduced these items during the 1980s. Thus, everything here points to a trash dump, not a tunnel.

The mailbox was one of a few artifacts that Dr. Stickel dated sometime after the preschool’s construction. He based this on the fact that the house it belonged to was demolished in the early-1970s. But he made this estimate based on the assumption that the Morrises actually used that box up until the time of their departure. Still, Dr. Stickel himself noted that its flag didn’t work properly. So it makes more sense that Morris simply didn’t want to spend time repairing it. He therefore dumped the old box (in a trash pit, no doubt) and bought a new one.

The sandwich bag dated 1982 might, at first, seem like the most difficult item to explain under the grounds of McMartin, but is in fact one of easiest. Burring rodents (e.g., moles) often take such light items as sandwich bags underground with them. The technical term for this is ‘bioturbation.’ Dr. Stickel demonstrates his cognizance of bioturbation in a couple of places in his excavation: once when he noted a piece of cellophane that he believed entered the ground because of it; and earlier when he noted that a piece of pig iron pipe could not have been subject to it. Given its commonness, bioturbation provides the best explanation for the Disney bag--assuming that a parent or someone else simply didn’t plant it there.

Trash pits also explain the animal remains. After all, cattle bones were among the items found.  Even if you believed the McMartin tunnels existed, you'd have a real tough time explaining how the Buckeys got a whole living cow down there for sacrificial purposes. More to the point, almost all of the bones featured standard butchers’ cuts: not surprising considering that people commonly eat fish, sheep, goats, beef, pork, rabbits, chicken and other fowl. Butchered dog bones might strike us as unlikely, but one would have to keep in mind that these trash pits encompass a time span between 1890 and 1960. They would therefore have been operational during the worst two depression eras of American history: the early-1890s and the 1930s. Hunger was a real issue then, and there are a number of stories about the family pet looking mighty tasty after awhile.

Animals not demonstrating standard butchers cuts included the tortoises found on the property. Their presence isn’t as easily explained, but one could speculate that they just fell into open trash pits and died. Whether that’s the case or not, we can dismiss the possibility that they were used for animal sacrifice, especially as described by the children. SRS consulted with a herpetologist who found neither evidence of torture in these animals, nor death by human hands for that matter. At the first trial, the herpetologist testified that it would have been extremely difficult for a human being to stab a tortoise to death because of the animal’s hard shell.

Other artifacts found by Stickel, specifically the stainless steel clamps on the pipes beneath the school, could have very well placed there after the schools construction after 1967, given their condition. While this sounds somewhat sinister, it’s really not. The pipes in question were located close to the western wall of classroom #4. So someone working on those pipes would have probably dug outside the building to get out them, instead of through the twenty-nine inch concrete foundation.

Speaking of foundations, the floor itself provides the best evidence against another of the major claims of tunnel advocates. The children declaring the existence of the tunnels said that they entered them through trap doors located in a number of places. Bob Currie’s son, for example, located the tunnel entrance under the sink of the office bathroom. Jackie McGauley’s daughter and another child located the tunnel entrance in the northwest corner of classroom #3, while other children affixed them at other corners of the room. Two kids put the tunnels in classroom #4, one in the northwest corner, another in the southwest corner. One kid reported a trap door at the northwest corner of classroom #1, while others said the trap doors were actually outside the building.

It’s certainly conceivable that more than one trap door existed inside the school itself. Someone could have possibly punched through the foundation to create a trap door. Same person could have presumably plugged the hole back up, and then hidden his or her handiwork by floor tiling. The problem with this is that the floor underneath the tiles consisted of a poured concrete slab. While it’s possible to cut a hole through cement, one couldn’t plug it up discretely. A poured concrete slab has a unique texture. Plugs are obvious because their texture, their markings, and sometimes even their color won’t match (see figure 2).

Figure 2. Example of a concrete plug

When SRS examined the site in 1985, they immediately went to the sites singled out by the children as possible locations of trap door. The company pulled the floor tiles around these sites.  Except for a small plug way to small for human passage, they otherwise found an undisturbed concrete slab. So they stopped looking for entrances in the building. While some of the children located the entrances outside of the building, the fact that there could have been none in the building diminishes the credibility of this claim.

The credibility of child witnesses would come under further scrutiny. While Dr. Roland Summit made it seem as though “Joanie” demonstrated an accurate description of the tunnels that could have only come from first-hand knowledge, Jerry Hobbs flatly contradicted this assessment. In an interview he gave to John Earl, he characterized the pre-teen as desperately trying to remember, but being massively confused:

There was also one girl who described grabbing a hold of this pipe in the tunnel and swinging and seeing these silver bands. When I asked her to create — we recreated the direction she went and everything. But she didn't remember right from left. We found where the tunnel turned where she said — because I asked her how far. She was about 11 years old — and she said, 'well far, but not too far.' I mean, you know, she was only like 4 when this happened. It was hard for her to determine, especially underground — distance. So she said she turned this way, and she pointed to the right, and we followed down there . . .[and came to] the profile of a turn. We followed that about 10 feet. We came across two stainless steel bands that were like new. They were the bands that they had described.
Dr. Summit who gave life to the Joanie story seems to have even contradicted himself on how helpful she was. In a lecture given on 27 July 1990 (the day of the verdict in the second trial), he said:

One of the children, never a witness in the case, but someone who had told her mother all kinds of hair raising stories about her victimization as a child, as this dig was proceeding, and when she saw the pipe she said, ‘Oh, that's the pipe,‘ and I'm paraphrasing. I didn't hear her say this, ‘that's the pipe that I would reach up and swing on. . . .’ Okay, that's when the dig was just as deep as the pipe and only that far….
In other words, it would seem that Dr. Summit didn’t actually hear what he claimed to later in “The Dark Tunnels of McMartin.” So this appears to be a case of an adult putting words into a child’s mouth. More important, it doesn’t demonstrate first-hand knowledge on the part of Joanie. She saw the pipe during the excavation. That doesn’t mean she saw it at any other time, although one could posit that she might have seen it if people had done work on it while she attended the school (that would also explain the presence of the new stainless steel clamps).

One of the most persuasive arguments against the tunnels’ existence came from Dr. E.D. Michael, a geologist retained by former FBI SAC Ted Gunderson. Dr. Michael concluded that a tunnel complex that extensive required massive shoring in order to keep from caving in--especially in any secret rooms, as described. The only evidence that the Stickel dig could offer that any shoring at all existed consisted of four damaged wooden posts. That wouldn’t come close to doing the trick. Worse yet, Spectrum, the company hired by the Manhattan Tunnel Project to conduct the GPR survey, reported no evidence of tunnels or rooms at a depth of between eight and ten feet.

A final nail in the coffin: even if the Buckey’s et al managed to sneak several truckloads of dirt during the year between the initial allegations by Johnson and the end of their access to the property, they still would not be able to keep the tunnel filled for very long, even if they managed to cram in dirt up to the ceiling. As SRS geophysicist Bob Beers explained:

If you have a large tunnel, big enough for a person to crawl through, no matter how much you throw dirt in it, and you're talking about trying to fill it to the brim, and compact it given one or two rainy seasons, that dirt is going to compact and you're going to end up with a little air gap between the natural soil between the top of the tunnel . . . You would visually see it.
None of this was mentioned in the Stickel report.

In Dr. Stickel’s defense, both Professor Wyatt and John Earl noted that his complete 186-page report was missing a page describing methodology. There could be a number of qualifying or explanatory statements on that page that would put his study in a far better light. But as it stands now, we have to say that what we see in his study does not give an accurate account of the McMartin grounds. When we take into account the fact that every artifact found in three excavations had a reason for being there, the absence of things that would have had to have been there but weren’t (e.g., concrete plugs, shoring), the demonstrated unreliability of eyewitnesses, and the lack of corroboration from other professionals, we have no reason to think that there were underground tunnels at McMartin.

*As Jerry Hobbs reported to Stickel, “To me this is conclusive that with the inconsistent soil area, the plastic bag dated 1982 [see next paragraph] and the old bottles, cans and debris, were put in the ground after 1982, and it was not an old dump area as it appeared.”

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

McMartin: Digging below the Surface

As confidence in the evidence aginst Ray Buckey eroded, concerned parents began to focus more on proving the existence of the tunnels. Had the problems with expert testimony and prosecutorial misconduct (specifically, the leaking of confidential information by former Deputy DA Glenn Stevens) not occurred, the tunnels’ existence wouldn’t be all that big of an issue. After all, most of the kids did not mention them. And you don’t really need tunnels to abuse small children. If the remaining evidence were strong, but you could not prove the tunnels’ existence, then there would still be proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard that the allegations against Buckey et al were true. But after a lengthy, contentious preliminary hearing, and acquittals on the bulk of the charges during the first trial, you could understand if the parents of former McMartin pupils had waning faith that conventional evidence alone would gain a conviction in the second.

Thus, proving the tunnels’ existence became paramount for those convinced of Buckey's guilt. Despite what a jury might think of the other evidence, clear, unambiguous proof of a tunnel complex below McMartin Preschool could not simply be dismissed as childish fantasy, or parental/expert/prosecution hysteria, provided that you could prove the tunnel‘s construction after the building of the school (1966) and used up until the time of Judy Johnson‘s allegations in 1983. In a case where the prosecution was down a few runs in the bottom of the ninth, establishing the tunnels as fact would have been a grand slam.

In a report submitted to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, Dr. Gary Stickel began by stipulating nine criteria necessary for establishing whether or not there were tunnels under McMartin:

If a tunnel(s) were present at the McMartin Preschool site, then the following test expectations should be present:

1. An opening(s) (entrance and/or exit) large enough for human passage should be present permitting access from the surface down into a tunnel feature.

2. Tunnel architecture should be linear or curvilinear (i.e. an elongated passageway leading in a definable direction(s).

3. Tunnel architecture (especially depth or height and width) should be large enough to accommodate adult human passage.

4. The walls and/or uncovered soil ceiling of the tunnel should have "signatures" of markings indicating whether the tunnel had been dug by hand and/or by a machine (e.g. a backhoe).

5. There should be a compacted dirt floor (compacted by human foot traffic) distinguishable from surrounding non-tunnel soil which should not be compacted.

6. The tunnel could be open (i.e. traversable and unfilled).

7. The tunnel may be naturally (i.e. natural processes of erosion and soil redeposition) or artificially (by human action) filled in with soil. Such fill should be distinguishable from the natural soil matrix of the site in terms of color and/or by texture, and compaction (i.e. would be less compact than the soil forming the tunnel's walls, floor and ceiling).

8. The tunnel fill may have inclusions of: (A) Natural stones and/or other natural items or: (B) Artifacts and/or ecofacts.

9. Although a tunnel of the type sought in this project may not be directly datable (e.g. in contrast to a construction date molded into the concrete of a railroad tunnel), the tunnel may be dated indirectly by the dates on artifatcs contained within it if any are present.
Figure 1. Diagram of McMartin Preschool

In subsequently summarizing the case, Dr. Stickel announced his finding that all nine criteria were met. First off, on the western wall of classroom #4, there was an entrance characterized by:

...loose, disturbed soil and the artifacts contained within it. The outside margins had an inverted bell-shaped curve profile. The tunnel signature was established both by the sharp demarcation of soil color and texture, as well as by the exclusive presence within the cavity fill of assorted historic debris such as old cans and bottles, various metal fragments and small household items. The roof at that point was provided by the bottom of the concrete foundation. Inside the foundation a roof of soil was evident.
Loose soil became an issue because a geologist earlier confirmed that the earth below the property was compacted before the school's construction. Thus, loose soil would imply fill dirt, especially if it were of a different quality or color of the compacted earth.

Moreover, a tree surgeon, Jerry Hobbs, noted that someone had cut a tree root underneath classroom #4, and in the process peeled back a little of its bark. Also, he saw among the debris a sandwich bag embossed with the Disney logo and bearing a copyright date of 1982. While Hobbs felt certain that this indicated someone had used this underground space recently, Dr. Stickel wondered if the condition of the root, as well as the bag, could have been placed there during earlier excavations by either the parents or the DA’s office. Stickel concluded that this could not have been the case because both prior digs occurred elsewhere on the grounds.

Ground penetrating radar (GPR) indicated another anomaly in the western part of classroom #3. On inspection, Dr. Stickel found a piece of pig-iron waste pipe, which he thought too large to have been carried in by burrowing rodents, and different colored soil, which he characterized as filling in a mechanically created hole (due to the markings). He also found stainless steel clamps on part of the waste pipe, the significance of which he describes as follows:

These two clamps were notable in that they appeared to be brand new, with a very shiny silver color, lacking the patina expected of objects buried long underground. That apparent disparity of age or use became more apparent as other clamps were unearthed elsewhere, all of which were considerably etched and discolored. There was no opening through the concrete floor which could have allowed for access to these clamps after the floor was poured, and there was no explanation for their like-new appearance if they had remained buried for the life of the structure.
From classroom #1 Dr. Stickel noted discolored and compacted soil indicating fill, and thus another tunnel. Hobbs explained the significance of this:

The children stated that they had entered a tunnel from the south east corner of room 1. We dug down along the east wall of room one and the bathroom. As we followed the disturbed area south, it went under the wall into the now existing bathroom, after about 6 feet it made an abrupt right turn to the east and headed for the neighboring property. The children had told two different stories about this tunnel prior to the dig. One, that they had gone through the tunnel and come up in the house next door and two, they had come up in the garage, which blocked the house from the street. At any rate the tunnel went in that direction. I went to the house next door and followed the walk between the school and the house which were only about 4 1/2" apart. I went under the house and bellied my way toward the southwest corner of the house. After going about 20' I found an area inside the west wall of the house where the floor was cut out. If I remember correctly the area of the floor that was missing was 36" by 38" or 41", you could reach up and touch the bath tub which was exposed. The plumbing in that area appeared to be quite new. I went back to the school and continued to dig. The tunnel I had been following was now headed toward the corner of the house where I had found the hole cut in the floor. I was very close to the foundation of the house, I was sure, so I poked a hole up through to the surface. The hole I punched through was about 2' beyond the west wall of the house and about 1 1/2' outside the south wall of the house. This tunnel was in direct line with the cut out opening under the house.
In other words, the anomaly observed by Dr. Stickel, and the trail and cut-out floor noted by Hobbs corresponded precisely with children’s reports that they came out either to the house next door or its garage.

After looking at several sites in the adjacent lot, Dr. Stickel turned his attention back to classroom #4, where he found “an apparent tunnel signature” towards the south. This anomalous reading began to widen until it took on more the appearance of a room, which extended south beyond the sidewalk. Tar and roofing tiles continued eastward past trench unit 1. The passageway leading to the room area had a clearance of approximately five feet, eleven inches, with the room’s ceiling six feet eight inches from the floor.

They found myriad artifacts, among them a number of cookery, and floor tiles of the same type as the school‘s. Dr. Stickel also found bone fragments from seventy-seven different animals, among them a rabbit, some dogs, tortoises, cattle and chickens. Additionally, the Stickel dig unearthed a mailbox bearing the address of a house that once sat on the lot next door, and the name of its owner, Morris. The house was torn down in 1972 (according to some sources as late as 1975), thus implying that the box found its way underground sometime after that. But of deeper significance were “intriguing remains of wood posts.” In his examination, Dr. Stickel noted a number of times where they found ceilings made of compacted “overburdened” soil. These posts could have been used to shore up, or provide support for these ceilings. According to him, the poured concrete slab that served as the building’s foundation provided additional support as a roof, especially in the secret room that runs under the school. That also means that someone had to have hollowed the tunnels after the school’s construction. Dr. Roland Summit, who visited the dig on 29 May 1990 along with a representative of the DA’s office, also wondered why the rickety McMartin building required a twenty-nine inch foundation, when, in his estimation, a four-inch foundation would have been “[building] code-sufficient.”

In addition to Hobbs and Dr. Stickel, one of the former McMartin pupils, a twelve-year-old identified only as Joanie, pointed out where the tunnels were, and her description matched perfectly. As Dr. Roland Summit, who visited the dig on 29 May 1990 along with a representative of the DA’s office, wrote in a paper for the Journal of Psychology titled “The Dark Tunnels of McMartin”:

Dr. Stickel asked her,‘Can you tell us where it was that you entered the tunnels and which way you turned?’ Joanie gave a meticulous description of every step along the way. Starting from the parents’ dig in the northeast corner of classroom #3, she described being lifted down a hole, turning right, going straight past the roots that brushed your face, turning right again where you were hurried through the long tunnel. ‘I liked to stop where the pipe was and swing on it. There was a little boy who couldn’t reach the pipe, and sometimes I’d lift him up so he could touch it. But right after that you had to duck down so you wouldn’t hit your head on the cement, then you had to run again to get to the secret room.’
Dr. Stickel concluded his report, writing, “If the stories of the children were bogus fantasies, there is no excuse for the tunnels discovered under the school. If there really were tunnels, there is no excuse for the glib dismissal of any and all of the complaints of the children or their parents.”

Most people would agree that if there were tunnels under McMartin Preschool, then any glib dismissal of children or their parents would be almost unforgivable. But, as I wrote earlier, the Los Angeles DA’s office declined to introduce this evidence into the third trial, even though they could have done so. The reasoning behind that lay in the contention of many others that despite what Dr. Stickel, Hobbs, Joanie or anyone else reported, the tunnels simply did not exist.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

McMartin: Yeah, Yeah, But What Really Happened? (Skeptic’s Argument/Official Story)

In this post and the previous one, I present the best case I can for each opposing side. These do not necessarily reflect my views on the subject in whole or part, and each supposition should be evaluated critically.

No credible evidence points to the guilt of Ray Buckey or anyone else at the McMartin Preschool. The evidence offered by believers is weak, and easily debunked by verified expert witnesses. What’s worse, this case served as a benchmark of public hysteria that accused many teachers and other professionals who could easily be proven innocent.

Starting with Judy Johnson, she clearly suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, as documented by doctors at Kaiser Hospital. Furthermore, her actions are consistent with someone suffering from dementia. As pointed out in earlier comments by our friends Foam and Tinkerbell, one has to wonder why, upon receiving a diagnosis of sexual abuse, she waited six days to contact police. One possibility is that she couldn’t make up her mind on what to do during that time. Note, impaired decision-making is a symptom of schizophrenia. Then too, one has to question her dumping of young Billy at the gates of McMartin Preschool to begin with. Fortunately, Peggy Buckey was there to look after the kid, but that’s not something that most of us would count on. That action possibly shows impaired judgment and a misreading of the situation on Johnson’s part. Schizophrenia rests on the premise of cognitive dysfunction.

Most of the expert witness testimony--as chronicled above--was at best misguided, and at worst an egregious error on the part of professionals, who never bothered to question their actions, let alone their own motivations. As pointed out in the aforementioned IPT article by John Earl and elsewhere, those involved with the prosecution had agendas, some hidden, some not. In addition to McMartin prosecutor Glenn Stevens’ accusation that one of his colleagues wanted to parlay the case to his political advantage, the expert witnesses also sought to make a name for themselves. Dr. William Gordon, as noted above, testified in over 300 child abuse trials as an expert. Expert witnesses get paid for their testimony (and according to a friend of mine who was retained as one, there are other perks involved too). And you better believe that no one is going to hire an expert witness who dissents from their version of the story.

According to some, CII didn’t hire Kee MacFarlane because of her expert psychology credentials, but because of her skill in grant-writing. A case like McMartin, which gained international television exposure, could make that aspect of her job a lot easier. Indeed, CII took out a full-page ad in the Beach Reporter asking for contributions that netted $30,000 in additional funding. But MacFarlane’s visibility as a McMartin investigator afforded her the opportunity to give gut-wrenching testimony before Congress:

I believe we are dealing with no less than conspiracies in these [preschool] cases, organized operations of child predators . . . Preschools in this country in some instances have become a ruse for larger unthinkable networks of crime against children. If pornography and prostitution are involved, which is sometimes the case, those networks may have greater financial, legal, and community resources than any of the agencies trying to uncover them.
According to their tax forms, CII’s government and private funding increased from below a half-million dollars in 1982 to $1.8 million in 1983, and to $3.25 million in 1985. By trial’s end, $15 million 1980s dollars would find their way into CII’s pot.

During the preliminary hearing, Judge Aviva Bobb noted for the record her belief that both MacFarlane and Heger had an even deeper motivation to make the prosecution’s case against the McMartin staff. As reported in a Pulitzer-Prize-winning series of articles on the case by Los Angeles Times reporter David Shaw:

In 1985, during the preliminary hearing, for example, two vital prosecution witnesses--Kee MacFarlane, the social worker who conducted most of the original interviews with the McMartin children, and Dr. Astrid Heger, the pediatrician who said she found signs of molestation--refused under oath to disclose if they had been molested as children themselves. The defense said that if they had been molested, the experience might have ‘tainted’ their evaluations of the McMartin children.

Judge Aviva Bobb ordered MacFarlane and Heger to respond. When they refused, she said she would construe their refusals as an admission that they had been abused.
In this light, we might see overzealousness by MacFarlane and Heger as understandable, perhaps even heroic. Let’s face it: child abuse is a real and devastating social ill that occurs in industrialized societies. Both of them apparently had first-hand knowledge of that fact. Both professionals in fact dedicated their lives to keep this from happening to other children.

The problem is that this zeal did not address the matter before the court: specifically if the staff at McMartin raped kids, and forced them into prostitution, pornography and weird satanic rituals. Their (I presume real) experience constituted a bias that neither did or would acknowledge. Thus, they continually heard “no” as "yes." Worse, one could argue that their investigation actually constituted sexual abuse in its own right.

As to reports of Chlamydia and other signs of potential sex abuse, that also has little bearing on the matter before the court: the guilt or innocence of the Buckeys. After all, in any random population of approximately 400 children, one might expect a certain percentage of them to have actually been molested. Statistics vary widely, from 11-25% (depending on whom you’re asking), but assuming that even the lower of these numbers is inflated and the true number is less than half of that, or 5%. That would still amount to approximately twenty children. Halve that again, to 2.5%, and the figure would change to ten kids--which, when you think about it is still an alarmingly high figure.

Thus, one should have expected sexual abuse in a certain percentage of those children, with maybe one or two contracting an STD. Yet nothing ties that abuse to McMartin Preschool in general, or to Ray Buckey specifically. More likely, friends or family members committed these assaults. But to single out someone like the Buckey’s offers the perfect scapegoat. After all, it’s more comforting to think that the enemy is some 'creep' from the outside rather than a cherished friend or family member.

The only remaining argument the believers can therefore offer is that of the tunnels. Despite the work and findings of Dr. Stickel, there’s no evidence that they ever existed.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

McMartin: Yeah, Yeah, But What Really Happened? (Believer‘s argument)

In this post and the next I will present the best case I can for each opposing side. These do not necessarily reflect my views on the subject in whole or part, and each supposition should be evaluated critically.

Defenders of the Ritual Satanic Abuse occurring at McMartin Preschool snidely, cynically and unfairly characterized the main witnesses who provided a bulk of the information about the case. Time and again credible physical evidence was never taken into account by the prosecutor’s office, and thus curtly dismissed by the press, which had abandoned any notion of objectivity by jumping on the “witch hunt” bandwagon.

Judy Johnson was arguably the most tragic of the McMartin victims. The defense, the press, prosecutor Glenn Stevens and subsequently her portrayal by Roberta Bassin in the 1995 HBO docudrama Indictment depicted her as a psychotic alcoholic obsessed with her son’s rectum and genitalia. Yet, before McMartin she had no history of either mental illness or alcohol abuse.

Note, Johnson made no accusation of child abuse when she first observed her son’s condition, and assumed that it was anything but that. Far from being obsessed with the subject, she was simply looking out for her kid, and did what any responsible parent would do: she took him to the doctor. As the symptom’s persisted, she took him to another doctor who told her that her son was sexually abused. Her allegations of abuse became increasingly weird only because the crimes were extraordinarily brutal and incredible. As she found out more about them, she reported these to authorities.

She then found herself the target of harassment. In separate instances of what one could call “street theatre,” a number of strangers would insult and ultimately threaten her. Eventually, people close to her began to turn on her, including her ex-husband. She finally came to the point where she had good reason not to trust anyone, which is why she kept guns for protection, and drank booze for liquid courage. While one could certainly argue that these actions did not make her look very good when taken out of context, if looking at them in the light of her circumstances and the pressure she had endured since the separation from her husband, they become more understandable. Thus, we have to question whether or not Johnson suffered from any form of schizophrenia.

Then too, even if one steadfastly refused to believe Judy Johnson, the complaints of sexual abuse came not just from her but from hundreds of other parents. Certainly, they could not all be paranoid schizophrenics or alcoholics or gun owners even. The attack on Johnson’s credibility therefore represents a preemptive attack on all the McMartin parents, who, by association, must have at least some of the negative attributes associated with Johnson. After all, they’re engaged in the same action, and they believed that the same things occurred.

Dr. Astrid Heger and Kee MacFarlane were skewered on the stand for the methodology of their investigations. While one could characterize their interviewing techniques as aggressive, one has to keep in mind that they were dealing with subjects who had multiple reasons for not answering truthfully. As predicted by Dr. Roland Summit’s Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome, these children could have felt that no one would believe them, for their experience did not sound realistic, bordering on the fantasy that people often associate with childhood. The children could have also been threatened. Thus the technique had to be aggressive in some cases to establish (1) that they were a superior authority, who superseded the authority of their McMartin teachers and who could thus protect them; and (2) that said authority would believe their stories whereas no one would otherwise.

That’s not to say that the aggressive questioning shown by defense on videotape was evident in all of the cases. Eleven of the children volunteered information about the tunnels with little prodding by CII personnel to incorporate this into an orthodox account of the remaining 300+ children under evaluation. And even those who refused to stipulate the “naked movie star” game, nevertheless said that they knew of the song that accompanied it (see transcripts in this earlier post). One would therefore have legitimate reason to suspect that the children heard it there, and that it represented a mindset that was at least condone by McMartin teachers. As far as we know, none of the students were counseled to stop singing it, or disciplined for having sung it.

Also, one had to keep in mind that both Dr. Heger and MacFarlane were highly regarded professionals who continued their efforts on behalf of children’s safety and health until the present day. To suggest that they were amateurs who didn’t know what they are doing is disingenuous. They had the necessary credentials to make the observations they did, as did the CII pediatrician who examined the Johnson child in August 1983.

We thus have to question if they were both that far off the mark, especially Dr. Heger. There was evidence of sexual abuse, as explained by Alex Constantine:

They haven’t put aside as anomalous accident the first exhibit in the case, a physician’s report that one of the children suffered “blunt force trauma” of sexual areas....The parents were left to ponder why some of the toddlers in the care of the McMartins had chlamydia, a sexually-transmitted infection….
Any sexually transmitted disease in a child would offer powerful and compelling evidence of abuse. While she did not document specific evidence from direct observation, Dr. Heger indeed would not have to directly see instances of Chlamydia to know that the child had sex with someone. She would simply have to know they were treated for it. As a number of females are asymptomatic, there might not have been anything to examine, anyway. Likewise, other evidence of sexual abuse might not be evident in subsequent examination.

Most important, Dr. Gary Stickel’s dig at the McMartin grounds found not one, but two tunnels, and possibly a third. Since the parents could prove the existence of those tunnels, their dismissal by authorities hinted of cover-up, thus implying an organization of individuals whose powerful reach extended into the District Attorney’s office.

This pretty much sums up the case of those who believe in the guilt of Ray Buckey and his colleges at McMartin. But as the old saw says, there are at least two sides to every story.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

McMartin: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try to Try Again

The circus-like atmosphere of the first McMartin trial spilled over to the second, but only outside the courtroom. Before it began, a demonstration of approximately 500 people marched around Manhattan Beach carrying signs reading, “We believe the children.” According to Doug Linder, polls indicated that 87% of Americans thought Ray Buckey was guilty. By comparison, only 56% of Americans thought that O.J. Simpson was guilty at the conclusion of his trial.

Inside the courtroom, things went more smoothly than they did the previous trial. Judge Stanley Weinberg replaced Judge William Pounders on the bench, while a new prosecution team consisting of Joe Martinez and Pamela Ferrero tried Buckey on only eight counts.

Meanwhile, the parents stepped up their efforts to find new evidence to present at trial. They felt that if they could find the tunnels, they could prove Buckey’s guilt. Ted Gunderson, then living with McMartin mom Jackie McGauley, felt that he could help. Indeed, as the former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Gunderson had more investigative experience than most (if not all) of his counterparts on the Manhattan Beach Police force and the LA DA’s office.

Gunderson allegedly arranged a consultation with Dr. Rainer Berger, Chair of the Interdisciplinary Program of UCLA’s Archeology Department.* Dr. Berger recommended that they ask archeologist Dr. Gary Stickel to head one last dig at the McMartin site, and adjacent areas. McMartin parents, with the help of donations, ponied up $53,000 for the project. After thirty-odd days of digging (mostly in May 1990), with consultation from some of the older children, other experts, and with the help of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) he came to the following opinion:

The project unearthed not one but two tunnel complexes as well as previously unrecognized structural features which defied logical explanation. Both tunnel complexes conformed to locations and functional descriptions established by children's reports. One had been described as providing undetected access to an adjacent building on the east. The other provided outside access under the west wall of the building and contained within it an enlarged, cavernous artifact corresponding to children's descriptions of a ‘secret room’.
Dr. Stickel not only found tunnels, but also artifacts (specifically, stainless steel bands) that would date the tunnel’s construction sometime after 1966. Moreover, he found a plastic bag bearing a Disney logo and a 1982 copyright date on it (others would also find a Burger King wrapper originating from about that time inside one of the holes). That would seem to indicate that someone had used the tunnels up until the accusation.

I won’t go into the viability of these tunnels right this instant. But I will say that the prosecution declined to use them in evidence. Thus, they never became a factor in the second trial.

On 27 July 1990, a fresh set of jurors were just as deadlocked as the previous twelve. They leaned toward Buckey on six of the counts, against him on one, and were split down the middle on the last.

DA Ira Rainer decided against prosecuting Buckey again, thus ending all litigation in the McMartin case once and for all.

*Many sources, including Gunderson himself, said that he arranged this final attempt to find tunnels. According to Jackie McCauley, however, Gunderson had little to do with the Stickel dig specifically, and the McMartin case in general. Moreover, she says that she was the one who arranged the excavation.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

McMartin: “No” Doesn’t Mean No?

During five grueling weeks of examination and cross-examination, Kee MacFarlane tried valiantly to defend her use of aggressive interviewing techniques which included play with dolls and puppets. Since some of these were videotaped, defense attorneys could easily show how she refused to take no for an answer when children repeatedly told her that they were not abused. She would insult them and cajole them when they didn’t give the response she wanted, and praise them when they did. Moreover, she asked them numerous leading and suggestive questions, indicating that other children had told them something that they should corroborate:

MacFarlane [playing with a monkey doll/puppet]: Mr. Monkey is a little bit chicken, and he can't remember any of the naked games, but we think that you can, 'cause we know a naked games that you were around for, 'cause the other kids told us, and it's called Naked Movie Star. Do you remember that game, Mr. Alligator, or is your memory too bad?

[eight-year-old] Boy [playing with an alligator doll/puppet]: Um, I don't remember that game.

MacFarlane: Oh, Mr. Alligator.

Boy: Umm, well, it's umm, a little song that me and [a friend] heard of.

MacFarlane: Oh.

Boy: Well, I heard out loud someone singing, "Naked Movie Star, Naked Movie Star."

MacFarlane: You know that, Mr. Alligator? That means you're smart, 'cause that's the same song the other kids knew and that's how we really know you're smarter than you look. So you better not play dumb, Mr. Alligator.

Boy: Well, I didn't really hear a whole lot. I just heard someone yell it from out in the--someone yelled it.

MacFarlane: Maybe. Mr. Alligator, you peeked in the window one day and saw them playing it, and maybe you could remember and help us.

Boy: Well, no, I haven't seen anyone playing Naked Movie Star. I've only heard the song.

MacFarlane: What good are you? You must be dumb.
Dr. Astrid Heger’s use of the dolls and puppets yielded more or less the same thing:

Dr. Heger: Maybe you could show me with this, with this doll [puts hand on two dolls, one naked, one dressed] how the kids danced for the Naked Movie Star.

Girl: They didn't really dance. It was just, like, a song.

Dr. Heger: Well, what did they do when they sang the song?

Girl: [Nods her head]

Heger: I heard that, I heard from several different kids that they took their clothes off. I think that [first classmate] told me that, I know that [second classmate] told me that, I know that [third classmate] told me. [Fourth classmate] and [fifth classmate] all told me that. That's kind of a hard secret, it's kind of a yucky secret to talk of-but, maybe, we could see if we could find--

Girl: Not that I remember.

Dr. Heger: This is my favorite puppet right here. [Picks up a bird puppet] You wanna be this puppet? Ok? Then I get to be the Detective Dog…We're gonna just figure it all out. Ok, when that tricky part about touching the kids was going on, could you take a pointer in our mouth and point on the , on the doll over here, on either one of these dolls, where, where the kids were touched? Could you do that?

Girl: I don't know.

Dr. Heger: I know that the kids were touched. Let's see if we can figure that out.

Girl: I don’t' know.

Dr. Heger: You don’t' know where they were touched?

Girl: Uh-uh. [Shakes her head]

Dr. Heger: Well, some of the kids told me that they were touched sometimes. They said that it was, it kinda, sometimes it kinda hurt. And some [of] the times, it felt pretty good. Do you remember that touching game that went on?

Girl: No.

Dr. Heger: Ok. Let me see if we can try something else and -

Girl; Wheeee! [Spins the puppet above her head.]

Dr. Heger: Come on, bird, get down here and help us out here.

Girl: No.

Dr. Heger: Bird is having a hard time talking. I don't wanna hear any more no's. No no, Detective dog we're gonna figure this out.
It’s probably as clear to you as it is to me that that little girl would have rather been just about anywhere else at that moment. It’s probably just as clear that MacFarlane and Dr. Heger are basing this interview technique on Dr. Roland’s Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CAAS) hypothesis. All three, in their assistance to the prosecution, operated on the presumption that abused children are in a state of denial, possibly because no one believed them earlier, possibly because they are ashamed at what happened, or because they might have taken seriously the perpetrators’ threats of violence to them and their family should they squeal. While one might expect some reluctance on the behalf of victims of sexual abuse (at any age) to acknowledge the reality or extent of the crimes against them, one would also have to wonder at what point “no” really means no. But as you can see, Dr. Heger, for one, wouldn’t accept “any more no’s.”

Another prosecution expert witness, Dr. William Gordon, testified that after reviewing over 300 photographs of the McMartin children he came to the opinion that they had been molested. He pointed out instances of white coloring which he claimed represented scar tissue. The defense could prove, however, that these discolorations actually resulted from light reflecting from the camera itself. Not content to leave it at that, defense lawyers then got Dr. Gordon to admit that he was neither a pediatrician nor a diagnostician, and that he had participated in over 300 pedophilia cases by then. This led the jury to dismiss Dr. Gordon as a quack obsessed with child abuse.

The defense also got their own expert witness, Dr. David Paul, to review Dr. Heger’s examinations. Dr. Paul contradicted Dr. Heger saying that he saw no evidence of molestation from her records in virtually all the cases. As for MacFarlane, live and on videotape, she pretty much impeached herself.

Prosecutors produced another witness, a former cell-mate of Ray Buckey named George Freeman. Freeman testified that Buckey told him that he repeatedly raped little kids at McMartin Preschool, and had buried incriminating photographs of the trysts in South Dakota (how Buckey ever got there was never explained). He also claimed that Buckey bragged about having sex with his sister and shipping porn to Denmark.

Normally, I don’t find jailhouse snitches very compelling. After all, they’re trying curry favor with the DA’s office, and are liable to say anything. Freeman was no exception. Authorities caught him trying to flee the country. A veteran jailbird, he later confessed to perjuring himself in tons of cases, including McMartin.

In short, the prosecution’s evidence was weak to begin with, and suffered from the loss of testimony by Bynum and Johnson. Their case left the jury rather unimpressed. On 13 January 1990, they found not guilty on fifty-two of the sixty-five charges (including all of those against Peggy Buckey), while they hung on the remaining thirteen. Out of those thirteen charges, the jury favored Ray Buckey on twelve, and sided against him on one. As foreperson Luis Chang explained, “The interview tapes were too biased; too leading. That’s the main crux of it.”

D.A. Ira Reiner decided that he would retry Ray Buckey on those remaining charges. While that meant Ray could still wind up in prison after all was said in done, the acquittal on the bulk of the charges afforded him the opportunity to be released on bail after five years in jail.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

McMartin: Trial by Error

See the post “McMartin: Out of Control” for sources not cited here.

Between the end of the preliminary hearing on January 1986 and opening statements on 14 July 1987, the prosecution for the McMartin case had to overcome a number of obstacles.

For starters, they had to deal with the increasingly bizarre information given to them by the initial accuser, Judy Johnson. In police interviews given over the course of 15 and 16 February 1984, she related the proceedings of a ceremony that sounds more or less like a “black mass,” with corrupted recitations of The Lord’s Prayer, communion, and satanic hymns played by Virginia McMartin on the piano. At this mass, a goat levitated until thrown down the stairs by Ray Buckey, who then stuck his finger into the beast’s rectum after pricking his finger to draw blood. They decapitated a child approximately the age of Johnson’s son, and forced the children to drink it’s blood. Helping out were teachers Peggy Buckey, Babette Spitler and Bette Raidor, along with some unidentified men wearing suits and ties. Johnson specifically cited Raidor as the person who put Billy into a coffin, and buried him.

A week later, Johnson made more claims. According to the prosecutor’s notes:

Billy feels that he left LAX in an airplane and flew to Palm Springs area. Described the airplane as one like used by federal express only it had windows. Billy went to armory located behind Judy (?) residence. Ray drove there in his VW bus. Billy went with Peggy who drove a red and white VW bus, at the armory there were some people there wearing army uniforms. The goat man was there. After going to the armory, Billy was taken to Sand Dune Park, at the armory it was a ritual type atmosphere. When Billy was taken to a church, Judy believes it was the Church of Religious Science [address]. At the church Peggy drilled a child under the arms (arm pits.) Atmosphere was that of magic acts. (Ray flew through the air.)
Judy Johnson’s psychological condition has always been a subject of controversy. Still, certain actions were documented by police. During the first week of March 1985, her brother and father, both fearing that her mental health might be deteriorating, paid her a visit. She ordered them, at gunpoint, to leave. By this time, Johnson had become increasingly suspicious of just about everyone, thus she kept a twelve-gauge shot gun and a twenty-caliber rifle in her home. Her brother and father immediately arranged for her commitment, and she wound up at the Kaiser Hospital of Harbor City, CA. Twelve days later, doctors there diagnosed her as paranoid schizophrenic.

Eventually released, Johnson withdrew with her sons, all the while self-medicating with booze--despite her allergies to alcohol. She drank herself to death on 19 December 1986, about eight months before the trial began.

Another blow to the prosecution came in January 1987. Screenwriters Abby and Myra Mann, while researching for a film on the McMartin case, spoke to Dep. DA Glenn Stevens, one of the prosecutors. During the interview, Stevens admitted his belief that the children were “embellishing and embellishing” their stories. Moreover, he told the dramatists that the prosecution was withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense, specifically the aforementioned February interviews with Judy Johnson, which certainly gave the appearance that she wasn’t all there (in fact, Stevens called her “a banana boat”). Moreover, he characterized lead prosecutor Lael Rubin as a liar, and accused fellow prosecutor Robert Philibosian of seeking publicity so that he could run for higher office.

Defense attorneys Danny Davis and Dean Gits moved for a dismissal based on Stevens’ revelations, but Judge William Pounders denied the motion. The trial would therefore go on as planned.

During the trial, the prosecution called a Paul Bynum to the stand. Bynum was a private investigator originally retained by defense attorney Davis. But after finding a tortoise shell on the McMartin property back in 1984, he began to suspect that the stories of child abuse were true. Thus, as a prosecution witness, Bynum took the stand on 10 December 1987. But the house of one juror had been broken into that morning, so Judge Pounders called for a recess to allow the juror a chance to go home and take care of business.

Bynum simply planned to testify the following morning. Unfortunately for him, a .38 caliber bullet had other intentions. His wife found him dead four hours before his scheduled testimony. Police determined that he had committed suicide. Those close to Bynum objected to that finding. As one friend, former Manson prosecutor Stephen Kay, said, “Paul was kind of a worrier….but there was no hint of suicide. He was very upbeat about his wife and new daughter, both of whom he adored.”

Bynum’s death took away what might have been the only credible prosecution witness, despite the fact that there was very little pertinent information he could offer, save for finding a turtle shell. Still, Rubin could have asked him about an item allegedly found on Peggy Buckey’s desk: his notes from a case that he handled as a Hermosa Beach Police Detective. Granted, there are ten thousand ways to Sunday to explain how those notes could have gotten there. But it could have possibly established a link between the Buckeys and nefarious outside sources, some of whom could have had an interest in exploiting children for any number of reasons. Whatever Bynum could have said on the stand was rendered moot by his death.

The rest of the trial didn’t go so well. Although the prosecution started out with 135 charges, that got whittled down to sixty-five due to lack of evidence for the other seventy. But what hurt the prosecution the most were the very experts who should have been their strongest witnesses.

Click here to read earlier posts in this series.

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