My friend Dan, the one I wrote about back in May who's making a documentary on Bernie Baran, just wrote this letter to Comedian and Gay-Friendly Activist Margaret Cho, in the hopes that she'll help build awareness about his case. I'm reproducing the letter here, because as a Person-Who-Loves-Gay-People, I want Bernie's voice to be heard. Every American deserves the right to a free trial. And in the tradition of the West Memphis 3 and Mumia Abu-Jamal, I want to do my part - however small - to end injustice in our own country.
From: Daniel Alexander
Date: Aug 11, 2005 12:56 PM
Subject: Bernie Baran
Dear Margaret & Margaret's People,
I'm writing to tell you about a gay man I have gotten to know while making a documentary film about him, his story, his family, and the injustice done against them.
His name is Bernie Baran. He likes to be called Bee. He's one of the most courageous and sweetest guys I have ever met. He reminds me of the guy at the Gap on Upper Market in San Francisco that can fold a sweater perfectly while simultaneously chatting you up and ringing you up, and noticing that you've lost a few pounds when you haven't. Unfortunately, Bee has not had the chance to work at the Gap, or see San Francisco.
Bernie Baran has the dubious distinction of being the first conviction from the day care panic of the 1980s where dozens of innocent day care workers across the country were wrongly convicted of child abuse. In some ways the Baran case is just like all the other day care cases: false accusations from one, crazed parent, then a panic amongst the other parents; aggressive, suggestive interviews with young children leading them to believe they were abused when they weren't; bad science introduced in the court room; constitutional rights to face your accusers overridden; parents allowed to make hearsay testimony in place of their children.
Bee's case gets worse than the others in that he was targeted because of his open homosexuality. The mother who sparked the panic in the Baran case said in a deposition that gay people shouldn't be around kids, shouldn't be allowed to have kids, shouldn't be allowed to get married, shouldn't be allowed out in public. Her son has boasted privately as recently as this year that he and his mother got away with accusing a gay guy of raping him when he didn't so they could file a civil suit for millions of dollars.
Baran's trial transcript reads like a homophobic melodrama. Think of those cases in the Deep South where African-American men were accused and convicted of rape without any evidence when the all-white juries just wanted to see black men hang. The Baran trial was much like this, with the assumption that any gay man around children must only be there to molest regardless of there being no evidence of it and plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Baran was 19 at the time of his arrest in a small town in Western Massachusetts. When he went to trial in 1984 It was still months before Doris and Rock appeared on television and AIDS became AIDS. It was still a mysterious disease during the Baran trial, and Baran was portrayed as some kind of diseased animal because he was gay and worked with children. He is still in prison today.
I recently read your blog entries about Zach and his incarceration. I also noticed you have several links to cases of injustice similar to Bee's case. I thought perhaps you might write a blog entry about Bernie Baran. (Please, pretty please: your voice goes much farther than any of the rest of us who have told Bee's story.)
Each time his story is printed (which has been rare), or each time I screen some clips from my film, a few new people come into the fold to support him in some way which he appreciates in ways we can't understand.
I've included links at the end of the email so you can read much more about him. Or you can contact me with questions; I know the case inside and out.
A ruling on overturning his conviction comes down this fall in Worcester, Massachusetts. Baran loves to hear from people on the outside who read about his story and contact him in writing to say they believe he is innocent (which he is). He especially likes to hear from gay people and people-who-love-gay-people, the luckiest people in the world. Although he is on "the inside" he was worked to keep up with the changes in gay culture. He is Queer Eye and Will & Grace literate, sneaking a portable television into his cell to watch the late night reruns hidden under the covers. He does a great Megan Mullally.
Bee is a genuinely nice guy who lives in hell but whose spirit withstands it all. In person, he's almost as funny as you.
Thanks for considering posting an entry about Bee, thanks for being a person who loves gay people, and thanks for making us laugh.
917 385 4714
Attached is an
For all the details of Bee's case, go to the Bernard Baran Defense Fund. The site and fund are managed by two Boston justice activists who have been Bee's staunch supporters – and his gay dads -- for 6 years now. The site is comprehensive.
If you prefer watching over reading, there is an 11 minute teaser from the doc about Bee posted at my site.