Our system isn't always immune to destructive pressures, and the child-abuse prosecutions of the 1980s were one such instance. Mr. Amirault's prosecution was driven by the passions of the times--in this case, the belief that child predators lurked everywhere and that the child "victims" must be believed at all costs.
Along the way, the law was stood on its head. The rules of evidence were changed to accommodate the prosecution; the burden of proof was put on the accused. Four- and five-year-olds were coached to say what adults wanted to hear. All this was done in the name of virtue, with the result being the kind of catastrophic miscarriage of justice we saw in Mr. Amirault's case. There never was any truth to the charges brought against him. Nor was there anything that would, in saner times, have passed for evidence in an American courtroom.
One of the reasons behind the district attorney's decision last week not to oppose Mr. Amirault's release on parole was that in order to have him classified as a "sexually dangerous person" there would have had to be a virtual re-trial of the entire Amirault case. The DA had to have been deterred by the prospect of parading into a courtroom with the incredible fantasies extracted from Mr. Amirault's alleged victims--about secret rooms, magic drinks, animal butchery, assaults by a bad clown. Then-District Attorney Scott Harshbarger had offered them as "proof" of the Amiraults' guilt.
Friday, April 30, 2004
Gerald Amirault i being set free today after 18 years of being improisoned on phony charges.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 6:52 AM