Patterico's Pontifications


Was Amirault Really Innocent? I Don’t Know

Filed under: — Patterico @ 4:07 pm

A recent piece by Dorothy Rabinowitz describes some fantastic-sounding testimony from a couple of the children and says:

Other than such testimony, the prosecutors had no shred of physical or other proof that could remotely pass as evidence of abuse.

But a decision from the Massachusetts Supreme Court seems to indicate otherwise:

Dr. Jean Emans, a pediatric gynecologist, examined five of the female victims who testified in this case and made positive findings as to four of them. One child had a small hymenal bump (caused by rubbing, touching, irritation, or masturbation). Two suffered vulvitis (caused by irritation such as rubbing, nylon tights, leotards, irritating soaps, or sexual abuse). One child had a hymenal scar (extraordinarily rare in nonabused children) and a healed anal fissure; another suffered a labial adhesion (caused by rubbing, irritation, or sexual abuse).

This makes me wary of accepting Rabinowitz’s assertions at face value — Pulitzer or no Pulitzer. Maybe she’s right, but I’d have to do a lot more reading than I have to reach that conclusion.

In addition, the children apparently behaved very strangely:

The parents of the child witnesses testified about their children’s behavior while, or shortly after, attending Fells Acres. The children complained and cried about the school; they complained of stomachaches, headaches, pain in their genital areas, and bowel problems. They began bedwetting, lost their appetites, had nightmares, used baby talk, became fearful of lights, of men, and of being left alone. The children also displayed sexually explicit behavior; some began masturbating. Two of the boys tried to stick their tongues into their mothers’ mouths, and one tried to kiss his mother’s chest.

Could all of this have an innocent explanation — or an explanation borne of hysteria rather than abuse? You bet. There was a lot of bizarre testimony in the trial. Bad interviewing techniques were employed. The case occurred during a time when there were indeed bogus “witch hunt” prosecutions. I have read extensively on the prosecutions in Kern County, California, for instance — and I do believe those were a witch hunt.

The Amirault case may well have been much the same thing. I’m not saying it wasn’t. I’m just saying I haven’t read enough about it to know for sure. And I think Rabinowitz overstates matters in the quote above, which makes me suspicious of her reporting.

All I’m saying is that I don’t know what happened, and “Dorothy Rabinowitz won a Pulitzer” isn’t good enough for me.

4 Responses to “Was Amirault Really Innocent? I Don’t Know”

  1. I had the same skepticism as I read her article. It just felt too cut and dry. Verdict: I dunno.

    NukeRidingCowboy (1ba882)

  2. So a guy is prosecuted for doing impossible things (violently raping many children with no physical evidence), and you don’t know if he’s innocent?

    If I guy was prosecuted for flying children to the moon (their parents said the kids were obsessed with the moon, don’tchaknow), I don’t doubt you’d still not know. After all, he was prosecuted by a professional prosecutor.

    LJM (a33701)

  3. In these cases, like the McMartin and other cases from that era, the outrageous and incompetent behavior by police and prosecutors means that we’ll literally never know what really happened. And that’s almost as much of an injustice itself as what happened to the defendants.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  4. So a guy is prosecuted for doing impossible things (violently raping many children with no physical evidence), and you don’t know if he’s innocent?


    Did you even read this page?

    There was physical evidence. Was it conclusive? No. Did it exist? Yes.

    Were the parents prosecuted ONLY based on crazy stories? I don’t think they were.

    You have been given a cartoonish read on this case and you have ignored evidence right in front of your nose. Now, it may well be that it was still a bad case. From what I’ve heard from my commenters I’m inclined to believe it was.

    But your sort of arguments are not convincing.

    Patterico (c218bd)

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