IPT Book Reviews

Title: The Abuse of Innocence: The McMartin Preschool Trial   Positive Review
Authors: Paul and Shirley Eberly
Publisher: Prometheus Books, 1993

Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive
Buffalo, NY 14228-2197
(716) 837-2475
$24.95 (c)

This 413-page book consists of the authors' six- year coverage of the two trials involving the McMartin Preschool, the longest and most expensive ($16 million) trial in United States' history.  Names, dates. and events are covered honestly and frankly and there are photographs of the main participants along with a very short bibliography.  There is no index.

The McMartin case demonstrates the weakest side of our justice system.  There were seven original defendants but ultimately no convictions, and the Eberlys describe how the case was mismanaged by the court, the prosecution, and Children's Institute International (CII).  The authors sat through the pretrial hearings and both trials and have frequent quotes from the court record.

The book provides a distressing account of misjustice and joins the Scott County, Minnesota; Edenton, North Carolina; and Kelly Michaels cases as examples of sexual abuse hysteria that resulted in charges of bizarre sexual abuse.  It tells how the defense had to go to England to get Dr. David Paul as the expert medical witness because the pressure and intimidation by the prosecution and medical professionals made it impossible to get a qualified American doctor to testify.  It describes the many rulings by Judge Pounder that were so unfavorable to the defense that defense attorney Daniel Davis considered filing an affidavit of prejudice against him for manipulating the evidence presented to the jury.  It chronicles how the media overwhelmingly assumed that the abuse was real and the Buckeys guilty, biased reporting that had a large role in promoting the hysteria.  It contains selections from the transcripts of the tapes from CII (CII interviewed all of the children and elicited the statements about abuse) and notes how the suggestive interviews were central in the development of the allegations.

The Buckeys attempted to sue CII and the prosecutors but it was ruled that those who reported or prosecuted any person for child abuse had total immunity from civil and criminal liability, even if the report was made in malice, with full knowledge that it was false.  At the end of the book, the authors state that what bothered them most was that everybody involved in the case most certainly knew there was no credible evidence to support a belief that the Buckeys had molested children.

Readers who want to know more about the McMartin trial after reading John Earl's article in this issue should read this book.  (Also see Volume 2, No. 4, 1990 of this journal, "After the McMartin Trials: Some Reflections from the Buckeys.")

Reviewed by LeRoy Schultz, Emeritus Professor, West Virginia University.

Order this book: Hardcover

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