Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The McMartin Daycare Case

The Rest of the Case

As the trial lumbered along for 28 months, several jurors complained that they could lose their jobs if things did not conclude shortly, so Judge Pounder struck six more witnesses from the defense's list. The possibility of a mistrial loomed as only one alternate juror of the six who began the trial remained. By this time, the legal expenses to the state were approaching $15 million.

Finally in January 1990, both sides rested their cases and it went to the jury. They hung on 13 counts, but acquitted the defendants on the rest. The unresolved counts all  centered on Ray. That meant a second trial, which began five months later. That jury also ended in deadlock, and the charges were dismissed.

Jury meets the media after the trial
Jury meets the media after the trial

In the end, 360 children were diagnosed at CII as having been abused at the McMartin preschool. It was the longest and most expensive legal proceeding in American history. Ray, with no evidence against him, remained in jail five years before he was finally released on bail. After seven years from the first accusations and endless heartache to the defendants, no one was convicted. It had cost the community almost $16 million and had cost many parents their peace of mind.

Some were not happy with the results and said they would organize and press the same charges again. A few of the children went on talk shows to claim that they had told the truth, and cases were brought against other daycare workers around the country that did end in convictions. It took a while for the stir to die down.

Now that such an event has happened, can we learn from it? Could it ever happen again? It seems that we did not learn from the Salem fiasco, where there was also no evidence and where many innocent citizens not only went to prison but twenty were executed. Human nature is what it is, and if Showalter is to be believed, we seem to be vulnerable to contagious anxieties that drive us to do things we might otherwise believe we're not capable of.

But apparently we are.


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