Destruction of Innocence: The Friedman Case: How Coerced Testimony & Confessions Harm Children, Families & Communities for Decades after the Wrongful Convictions Occur
A White Paper of the National Center for Reason and Justice, Forthcoming
42 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2013 Last revised: 6 Jul 2013
Date Written: May 4, 2013
Between 1984 and 1995, at least 72 individuals were convicted during the national hysteria of mass child molestation and satanic ritual abuse cases. Almost all those convictions have since been overturned. This paper analyzes the present-day, on-going impact from wrongful convictions, focusing on the Friedman case, well-known as the subject of the landmark documentary film, Capturing the Friedmans. Though the US Appeals Court has ruled that Jesse Friedman was likely wrongfully convicted, the case has not yet been overturned. The impact on wrongly-imprisoned defendants is obvious, however the impact on hundreds of children has rarely been considered. Initially sure they were not sexually abused, and confident in their perceptions of reality, these children were dragged to a place of confusion, mistrust of adults, and uncertainty about themselves and the world. This paper provides new evidence and insight from extensive interviews with people police alleged were molested – and who now as adults confirm they were coerced into making false accusations. Also revealed are new witnesses who were present during alleged crimes against others, and now confirm there was no molestation. Child sexual abuse does happen, of course, and is a profound social issue; at the same time, false and hysteria-driven prosecutions robbed resources from cases of actual sex crimes, reduce the public’s faith in the legitimacy of such prosecutions, and interfered with the protection of children. The Friedman case provides a unique opportunity to heal a community still suffering from the wounds of false accusation, confusion, and deceit.
Keywords: child sex abuse hysteria, wrongful convictions, false confessions
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