Review by Robert Woodman
"There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice." These words, uttered by Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, in 1742, inspire the title and the theme of Dorothy Rabinowitz's latest book. Rabinowitz, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in commentary and a member of the editorial board and a culture critic for The Wall Street Journal, writes about the waves of hysteria that swept America in the 1980's and 1990's when reports of bizarre, ritualistic mass sex abuse of children by day care workers and others began surfacing in news media reports.
Rabinowitz tackles cases she wrote about in The Wall Street Journal. Her primary focus is on the terrible, blatant injustice done to the Amirault family of Malden, Massachusetts, but she also details the cases of Kelly Michaels, Grant Snowden, Dr. Patrick Griffin, John Carroll, and the mass roundup of an alleged sex ring in Wenatchee, Washington. She points out false accusations by vindictive or psychologically-disturbed persons (or, in Kelly Michaels' case, a misunderstanding blown out of proportion) combined with prosecutors' absolute refusal to accept defendants' protestations of innocence and children's denials that anything happened, combined with so-called "child experts" who see admissions of guilt in denial of criminal activity and in references to God, and combined with a media driven to tell lurid, sensational stories, resulted in the traumatization, conviction, and imprisonment of innocent people. Further, in convincing young children and their parents that the children were victims of sexual abuse, the prosecution "experts" permanently scarred their psyches.
For anyone interested in seeing justice done, for anyone who cares about the presumption of innocence and the right of due process, this book is a scathing indictment of the American legal system in its treatment of accused sex offenders. This book should be on every lawyer's desk and in every law school curriculum as testimony to prosecutorial cupidity, duplicity, and malice, rooted in the "convict at any cost" philosophy that underpins the government side of the criminal legal system.
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