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Obama to the Rescue of this Woman

Remember the Amirault case in Massachusetts, about the family who allegedly sexually assaulted young kids in their care, in spectacular fashion?  Dorothy Rabinowitz details Martha Coakley's role in the sordid prosecution.  This is the world inhabited by liberals.

If the current attorney general of Massachusetts [Coakely] actually believes, as no serious citizen does, the preposterous charges that caused the Amiraults to be thrown into prison--the butcher knife rape with no blood, the public tree-tying episode, the mutilated squirrel and the rest--that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley's concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo--her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.
Categories > Politics

Discussions - 9 Comments

So, what's the principle - if any - being defended here? Should we protect the right to the presumption of innocence, or should we not? Should we allow indefinite detentions based on dodgy accusations and gut feelings? I think I know the "principle" in play here. If one can attack a liberal or a Dem of any kind, and look to be a defender of innocent-until-proven-guilty, by citing an old case that practically everyone now agrees was a miscarriage of justice, then forward march.

Coakley hardly looks impressive to me (and I highly doubt I'd vote for her - the Amirault case being at least one good reason), but let's not forget that the final decision in the 2002 commutation of Gerald Amirault was in the hands of then-acting governor Jane Swift, a conservative Republican who went on to be one of Sarah Palin's biggest defenders on the '08 campaign trail.

Your laughable smear that "this is the world inhabited by liberals" (I've heard they "inhabit" all 50 states!) should be kept in mind as one revisits (conservative??) Katha Pollitt's assessment of the Amirault case, in her (conservative) Nation column:

"On October 31 Governor Jane Swift of Massachusetts pardoned five women who had been convicted and executed in the Salem witch trials in 1692. Well, better late than never--what's a few centuries one way or another? Once you're dead you have all the time in the world. It's the living for whom justice delayed is justice denied, and on that score Governor Swift is not doing so well. On February 20 she rejected the recommendation of the state parole board, known for its sternness and strictness, and refused to commute the thirty-to-forty-year sentence of Gerald Amirault, who was convicted in the 1986 Fells Acre Day School child sex abuse case and who has already served sixteen years in prison...

Governor Swift made a big show of looking seriously and long at Gerald Amirault's case, but she failed to consider the central question, that of whether he was guilty of any crime. Indeed, Swift made Gerald's refusal to admit guilt and get treatment as a dangerous sexual predator a centerpiece of her decision--but why should an innocent man have to say he's guilty to get out of jail?

Swift claims that her main consideration was whether Amirault's sentence was in line with those of others convicted of similar crimes. She cited the case of Christopher Reardon, a lay Catholic church worker who pled guilty to seventy-five criminal counts of abusing twenty-nine boys last summer and received a forty-to-fifty-year sentence. But the case against Reardon was open and shut; he took photos and videos, and even kept spreadsheets detailing his crimes. The real cases to compare with Amirault's are those of his mother and sister, who were convicted of the same crimes, although slightly fewer of them. Cheryl Amirault LeFave and Violet Amirault received sentences half as long and were released after serving half as many years as Gerald. Does Gerald's being a man have something to do with these disparate outcomes? Absolutely...

At her press conference, Governor Swift refused to discuss the case against Gerald and three times declined to respond when asked how he had failed to demonstrate good behavior in prison."

If the Amirault case had played out in a "world inhabited by conservatives" (or perhaps one should say, to avoid the original dominated by conservatives), Amirault would have been sentenced to death, with no possibility for an (expensive, taxpayer-draining, justice-delaying) appeal. He would be quietly executed and the nosy liberal media would be denied access to any and all documents relevant to the case. And Rush Limbaugh would briefly bloviate "Good riddens" into his golden microphone the morning after the execution. Just sayin'.

(Whoops, here's the Pollitt article I quoted: )

No conservative I know of (maybe I should get to know more) would accept the testimony of psychologists and psychologist-coached kids. There was the McMartin case out in southern California, too. There is a common-sense world out there; liberals inhabit a different universe.

Ah, the reliable appeal to "common-sense." It's just common sense, thus I'm right and you're wrong. Makes one believe they're correct every time. Simple and reassuring all at once.

Regarding the molestation cases, I'm thinking there might actually be a middle ground. Surely there have been cases of molestation where the child victims were too scared and/or ashamed (or they were just threatened outright) to say a word to anyone about what happened to them. In such cases, counseling (not coaching) from psychologists could be helpful. There have also been, obviously, cases where psychologists apparently saw a case of sexual abuse in every child who happened to be shy or who claimed an uneventful experience in childcare settings. I would guess that the key would be to work with psychologists who don't have some propensity to imagine (and project) the worst case scenario in every situation, and insist that the kids tell stories to match it.

But I hardly believe that your original post was primarily about the child abuse cases, as your last reply might suggest. Do you really think that the testimony of psychologists should (always?) be unacceptable? Do you, for example, object to the use of psychologists at Guantanamo (many have been employed there) or in the terror war generally?

And I repeat my question based on what you seemed to be mocking in your original post - Should we protect the right to the presumption of innocence, or should we not?

Should we protect the right to the presumption of innocence, or should we not?

Yes. But with consistency of intent. That, I think, is the central point of accusation against Coakley and others like her.

The Amirault case is most relevant to the upcoming election, but it hardly stands alone. The Duke rape case is another good example of the principle of presumption of innocence cast aside for political or ideological expediency. The Tom Delay prosecution is another.

The most notorious case of racial profiling gets at what we're talking about: The psychologists seemed to have a consensus that the DC sniper was a lonely white nerd--instead of two psychotic blacks.

It's almost a scientific certainty that evidence derived purely from social science is dubious.

I am with the conservatives who support the common-sense idea of throwing bound suspects into ponds to see whether they float or sink. (But I've forgotten what the test of innocence is, whether they float or sink. So I wonder what our Plan B should be.)

I thought your original post was about the worthlessness of psychological evidence (as demonstrated in the Amirault case), the importance of presumption of innocence (which Coakley flouted), Guantanamo suspects, and - most importantly - that Coakley is the inferior candidate. Now you've strayed off into racial profiling (presumably to show how worthless psychological expertise is).

I wanted to know if you thought psychologists added any value to the interrogation processes at Gitmo. The Pentagon apparently decided that psychological expertise was needed there and psychologists certainly were involved there:

Psychologists are often cited in the defense of torture/"enhanced interrogation techniques" employed at Gitmo.

I will ignore your "humorous" dodge about "throwing bound suspects into ponds" and presume that you have no answer to whether innocent-until-proven-guilty is a right worth applying universally.

Are you defending the Pentagon? I wouldn't.
What dodge? What humor?

So, the Amiraults should have been bound and thrown into a pond when they were suspects?


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