Judge Francis Fecteau’s 79-page opinion is a devastating summary of everything wrong with these prosecutions – the coaching of the children, putting words in their mouths, refusal to hear their denials that any abuse took place, the careful editing of videotapes to keep the jury from seeing such denials, the misinterpretation of ordinary childhood problems as signs of sexual abuse, the blaming of family problems on day care workers, the suppression of exculpatory evidence by prosecutors. “Judge Fecteau, whether he meant to or not, has aimed a dagger at the heart of all of these phony prosecutions,” says Harvey Silverglate, Baran’s co-counsel (for the full text of Fecteau’s opinion, go here).This is great news:
Baran's supporters view the judge's ruling as a strong step toward acquittal. Several convictions for mass child abuse from the 1980s have been overturned, including those involving workers at the Little Rascals day care center in Edenton, N.C. In another case involving the McMartin Preschool near Los Angeles, charges were dropped by prosecutors after juries deadlocked on criminal charges.Here's hoping Baran finds some vindication.
A year after Baran's case, three members of the Amirault family, who ran the Fells Acres daycare in Malden, were convicted of abusing children. Gerald "Tooky" Amirault was paroled in 2004 after serving 18 years in prison. His sister and mother were convicted during a separate trial and were released from prison in 1995. All three denied they ever abused children.
"I'm convinced that all of the high-profile day care cases of the '80s were absolute hogwash," Bob Chatelle, a Baran supporter who has helped attract attention to Baran's case, has said. Chatelle helped raise about $280,000 for Baran's new defense with a Web site, http://www.freebaran.org.
"The Baran case was railroaded through in a couple of months and was then forgotten about," Chatelle said. "No one was lifting a finger to do anything."