Monday, January 18, 2010

Martha Coakley's Shameful Record

Tomorrow, the voters of Massachusetts will decide whether Democrat Martha Coakley or Republican Scott Brown will serve out the last three years of a Senate vacancy created by the passing of Ted Kennedy. The philosophical differences of Coakley and Brown are significant, as well as the sixty seat Democratic majority that would be endangered by a Republican victory. At the last minute, President Obama has traveled to Massachusetts to lend his dubious coat tails to the Coakley campaign.

Far more weighty than the promises of a candidate is his or her past record. Promises are cheap. past performance is all that can be counted on. Martha Coakley has been the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 2007. Prior to that she was the Middlesex County District Attorney from 1999 to 2007.

There are times when people are wrongfully convicted in a court of law. During the 1980's there was a rash of cases in which day care center operators were accused and convicted of child molestation. Some of the accusations were horrific. There were bizarre allegations of ritual abuse. One such case was that of the Amirault family in Malden Massachusetts who ran the Fells Acres Day Care Center. After one child who's wet clothing was changed reported being touched in his genital area. From there, the accusations mushrooomed. Some children were interviewed as many as a dozen times. Children who denied anything having occurred ended up telling elaborate and wildly implausible stories. How implausible were the stories? Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal reports as follows.

"Gerald, it was alleged, had plunged a wide-blade butcher knife into the rectum of a 4-year-old boy, which he then had trouble removing. When a teacher in the school saw him in action with the knife, she asked him what he was doing, and then told him not to do it again, a child said. On this testimony, Gerald was convicted of a rape which had, miraculously, left no mark or other injury. Violet had tied a boy to a tree in front of the school one bright afternoon, in full view of everyone, and had assaulted him anally with a stick, and then with "a magic wand." She would be convicted of these charges. Cheryl had cut the leg off a squirrel."

How could any adult believe such allegations? Such an act as that described by the boy would have caused life threatening, if not fatal injuries. In the hysterical spirit of the mid eighties, such allegations were elicited with leading questions and presented to credulous juries. What was not known at the time was that children can be very suggestible. It has since been discovered that false memories can be implanted in a child or an adult. The Scientific American reports as follows in an article that cites several therapists who were successfully sued by patients who had suffered from false memories implanted by psychiatrists.

"In 1986 Nadean Cool, a nurse's aide in Wisconsin, sought therapy from a psychiatrist to help her cope with her reaction to a traumatic event experienced by her daughter. During therapy, the psychiatrist used hypnosis and other suggestive techniques to dig out buried memories of abuse that Cool herself had allegedly experienced. In the process, Cool became convinced that she had repressed memories of having been in a satanic cult, of eating babies, of being raped, of having sex with animals and of being forced to watch the murder of her eight-year-old friend. She came to believe that she had more than 120 personalities-children, adults, angels and even a duck-all because, Cool was told, she had experienced severe childhood sexual and physical abuse. The psychiatrist also performed exorcisms on her, one of which lasted for five hours and included the sprinkling of holy water and screams for Satan to leave Cool's body.
When Cool finally realized that false memories had been planted, she sued the psychiatrist for malpractice. In March 1997, after five weeks of trial, her case was settled out of court for $2.4 million. Nadean Cool is not the only patient to develop false memories as a result of questionable therapy. "

It is very common for the prosecution of child molestation cases to involve specially trained therapists. Sometimes it is the only way to uncover real abuse. But there must be safeguards. Nadean Cool and others who were cited in the Scientific American article did indeed suffer abuse, for which they were awarded millions in damages. But the abuse was at the hands of their psychiatrists, who used leading questions to create false memories.

In the Amirault case, hardened prosecutors and jaded parole boards turned on the sham justice that was meted out to the Amirault family. Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal reports as follows of one such judge.

"Hope arrived in 1995, when Judge Robert Barton ordered a new trial for the women. Violet, now 72, and Cheryl had been imprisoned eight years. This toughest of judges, appalled as he came to know the facts of the case, ordered the women released at once. Judge Barton—known as Black Bart for the long sentences he gave criminals—did not thereafter trouble to conceal his contempt for the prosecutors. They would, he warned, do all in their power to hold on to Gerald, a prediction to prove altogether accurate.

No less outraged, Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein presided over a widely publicized hearings into the case resulting in findings that all the children's testimony was tainted. He said that "Every trick in the book had been used to get the children to say what the investigators wanted."

Even the Massachusetts Lawyer's weekly weighed in against the miscarriage of justice in the Amirault case. When Violet Amirault was released from prison, she was old, penniless and dying of cancer. Prosecutors were clamoring for her and her daughter to be returned to prison. It was in this state of legal limbo that she passed away in 1997.

Where was Martha Coakley when all this was going on? Even as Cheryl and Violet Amirault were released from prison, Coakley continued to lobby against Gerald Amirault's release stating that in cases where women were involved in sex abuse that there was usually "a primary male offender."

In 2000, after the Massachusetts Parole Board voted 5-0 with one abstention to commute Gerald Amirault's sentence, citing a lack of evidence and"extraordinary if not bizarre allegations". Their recommendation went to the governor's desk. Martha Coakley campaigned tirelessly to keep Gerald Amirault in prison, holding press conferences with some of the by then adult accusers and working the press. It was only in 2004 that Amirault was finally paroled.

To this day, Martha Coakley will not answer questions about her actions in the Amirault case, a case that cries out for exoneration and compensation to the wrongfully accused family. Martha Coakley's campaign to keep the Amiraults in prison and under cloud of conviction should be considered when evaluating her fitness to sit in the United States Senate. The voters of Massachusetts should remember Ms. Coakley's disgraceful behavior towards the Amirault family when voting for the next Senator from Massachusetts. Whatever her promises, Martha Coakley's prior record marks her as unfit to hold public office.

The picture with this article is a painting of the Salem Witch Trials

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