Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Sanhedria Murchevet Witchhunt - a defense for what has happened

One of the important figures in the Sanhedria Murchevet sex abuse scandal is Dr. Joy Silberg - a therapist in Baltimore who is viewed as a major expert on child abuse. I have exchanged a number of emails with her and she is working on a public statement concerning this matter. What is important to know is her view that while there might not be satanic abuse rings in Jerusalem - there is significant abuse and that there is a kernal of truth to the allegations of abuse.

In particular she suggested that I read Ross Cheit's book "The Witch-Hunt Narrative" which provides a detailed, scholarly and controversial - revisionist view of the sex abuse hysteria in America. 

This I assume will be the basis of the defense for the three charged with promoting a campaign against what they claimed is satanic sex abuse rings linked to the Church. I just purchased the book - it is very heavy reading. In the meantime here is a review of the book. Here is a rebuttal 

Cheit isn't denying that innocent people went to jail - his thesis is that not all the cases were a result of witch-hunt hysteria but that there were many cases of genuine abuse and that because of the present mistaken belief that it was largely charges brought during hysteria - the pendulumn has swung the other way and children are not automatically believed as they once were.

Cheit is not a psychologist but is a  professor of political science and public policy at Brown University

How the ‘Witch Hunt’ Myth Undermined American Justice

Innocent people persecuted by a legal system out of control? In The Witch-Hunt Narrative, Ross E. Cheit argues the media and courts have gone too far in dismissing evidence of abuse.

In 1996, Philip Jenkins, then a history professor at Pennsylvania State University, argued in Pedophiles and Priests that the earlier coverage of clergy abuse was a “putative” crisis, one “constructed” by the media and church critics.

In 2002, a Boston Globe investigation of such cases ignited a chain reaction in many newsrooms about a deeply rooted culture of churchmen concealing abusers that the Vatican ignored. The “putative crisis” resembled a construction of its author. Jenkins had written entirely from secondary literature—no interviews or excavation of legal documents. He has since become a $400-an-hour expert witness for the church in lawsuits filed by abuse victims, according to his own testimony.

Jenkins drew a parallel between the Salem witch trials and the 1984 acquittal of two defendants in a Minnesota day-care-center case in which charges against 23 other people were also dropped after a botched investigation. But the lead defendant was convicted, and spent years in prison, as Ross E. Cheit notes in The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children. This 508-page book examines media coverage of prosecutions of abuse at day-care centers in the 1980s and ’90s.

A professor of political science and public policy at Brown University, Cheit has 68 pages of footnotes, with an array of legal citations; though the narrative is sometimes plodding, and at times redundant, Cheit mounts a rigorous argument that the witch-hunt—innocent people persecuted by a legal system out of control—is a concocted myth.

Cheit is no stranger to litigation, having sued the San Francisco Boys Choir in 1994 for “rampant sexual abuse of boys, including me,” he writes, “fighting successfully to keep from having the entire matter sealed and insisting on a public apology to settle the suit.” He writes, too, that he does volunteer work with sex offenders in a Rhode Island prison.

Cheit’s careful, probing approach is counter-cultural to an age when information moves at amazing speed with fewer guarantees of accuracy than in newsrooms of yesteryear. Legal proceedings are about process; so is The Witch-Hunt Narrative. Cheit wants us to make sense of the forest and the trees.

The case that spawned the media notion of a witch hunt was the McMartin Preschool, where allegations in 1983 fell within the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles District Attorney. As initial evaluations of children were underway, parents contacted a TV reporter. “The DA’s office was caught unprepared when the media spotlight hit them on Feb. 2, 1984,” writes Cheit, “suggest[ing] there was widespread sexual abuse at the McMartin Preschool and the government was dragging its feet.”

Cheit explores the difficulty child-care specialists faced in determining what happened; videotaped screenings morphed into forensic interviews, and became something they were never intended to be: evidence in court. A “runaway train” grand jury indicted seven people including Virginia McMartin, the wheelchair-bound grandmother for whom the school was named. Much of the suspicion centered on her grandson, Ray Buckey, who spent five years in jail during the longest and perhaps most costly preliminary proceeding of a criminal case in California history. Charges against five people were dropped. Buckey and his sister stood trial.

McMartin became its own media narrative. 60 Minutes did an exposé of the legal malfunctions, all but exonerating the defendants; Los Angeles Times media critic David Shaw won a Pulitzer for attacking his own paper’s coverage. Cheit’s painstaking account of the chaotic pretrial saga ends with a jury acquittal of Buckey and his sister on a host of charges. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on 12 charges against Buckey. He was retried, again acquitted, though not unanimously.

“The McMartin case began as a morality play about the failure to protect children,” he writes. “It ended as a morality play about the failure to protect civil liberties…[and] the complete negation of the evidence of abuse.” That critical distinction is a leitmotif through the book. Society craves black-and-white narratives where good triumphs, criminals go down. It is much harder to accept the gray area of resolutions—as in the O.J.Simpson case, when a man widely assumed to be guilty was acquitted in a circus-like courtroom.

Cheit criticizes journalist Debbie Nathan for her phrase “junior McMartins” in describing “a nationwide rash of similar cases.” Nathan published a 1995 book with defense attorney Michael Snedeker, Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of an American Witch Hunt. Cheit concedes that charges in some cases should not have been filed, but debunks a key source of Nathan’s reporting: a list of 36 cases cited in a 1988 Memphis Commercial Appeal series called “Justice Abused: A 1980s Witch-Hunt.”

“What kind of witch-hunt or ‘justice denied’ results in no charges whatsoever?” he writes. “Sixteen of the cases never got to the stage of a trial; charges were dropped in some cases and they were never brought in others. One-third of the cases resulted in a conviction, seemingly undercutting the claim of ‘justice abused.’ “ [...]

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