One of the subjects we’ve monitored over the years at IWF is the how lives have been ruined by false–and often bizarre–charges of the abuse of children.
Writer Rael Jean Issacs has explored the subject, and her work is available on our website.
The Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the subject. She has written in particular about the tragedy of the Amirault family which was convicted on child abuse, including improbable ritual abuse in clown suits, on the testimony of children.
Now the New York Times magazine has told another part of the story–the story of the children whose lives were damaged because prosecutors led them to tell lies.
Maggie Jones’s piece on the ordeal of Ed Sampley of Bakersfield, California, who always knew he had lied on the stand is a must read. It shows how children can be coached and how profoundly they can be affected by telling what they know is a lie to please tough prosecutors.
“They told [Ed] hat other boys said Mr. Stoll [the innocent man who was accused] did something sexual to Eddie and that Eddie had seen Mr. Stoll do bad things to other kids, too. ’I kept telling them no, that nothing happened,’ Sampley remembers. ’I didn’t understand what they were talking about.’ [Prosecutors] Murillo and Ericsson described sex acts that embarrassed the 8-year-old boy, and he started crying. ’I kept telling them, “No, no,” but it wasn’t working,’ he now says. After what ’seemed like forever,’ Ericsson and Murillo told him they’d be back to talk to him again. At the Sampleys’ front door, they told Karen that her son denied being molested, but that they suspected otherwise. ’I asked what information they could give me,’ Karen says. ’They told me that it might be a child-porn ring that was linked to the East Coast, or a satanic cult or a molestation ring. They weren’t sure yet.’”
Young Stampley would lie on the stand and be haunted by it for the rest of his life, until he and several others banded together to rectify the miscarriage of justice–but only after the John Stoll had spent 15 years in prison for something he did not do.