On Friday, April 30, Gerald Amirault walked out of prison, having served 18 years for his conviction on a fabricated sex abuse case that, in the words of Dorothy Rabinowitz, was "built out of thin air, political ambition and the relentless coercion of four- and five-year-olds, pressed to make charges against the accused." As the WSJ said on Friday;
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.
Rabinowitz has chronicled the Amirault case for the Wall Street Journal and the nation since 1995, winning the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in the process. I remembered the McMartin case in California, but had little recall of the details of the Amirault case, if I ever knew them. So I read the whole series of Rabinowitz articles today, most of them for the first time, and felt compelled to include links to them in this post for others who might not access them elsewhere.
Start with "A Darkness in Massachusetts", the first in Rabinowitz' series, and you'll be hooked. Just as it's hard to comprehend that it has been only 40 years since this country legally mandated civil rights for people of all races, so is it difficult to imagine that less than 20 years ago, the Amirault family could have been convicted in a cultured, sophisticated East Coast city, by a combination of community hysteria, junk psychology, and a blindly zealous child services agency establishment. Worse yet, the travesty was perpetuated by prosecutorial teams and judges too invested in the outrage to admit their errors, even to this day.
The story of what has happened to the Amirault family is heartbreaking...and chilling. Rabinowitz' reporting is riveting. My recommendation is to "read it all".
In another Rabinowitz essay of justice miscarried, a doctor's life is ruined by a phony accusation of sexual abuse. A Doctor's Story
Links to these and other articles on the Amirault case can be found here.Posted by dan at May 2, 2004 4:16 PM