Fells Acres day-care Ritual Abuse case and the Boston press

Copyright © 1997 by Hugo S. Cunningham
Individual, non-commercial reproduction allowed, provided this notice is retained.

posted 971118
modified 971130
minor modification Y10301

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Fells Acres day-care Ritual Abuse case:
Witch-bound Massachusetts needs a helping hand-- again!

The Louise Woodward au-pair trial focused international attention on the Massachusetts criminal justice system. (She was convicted of second-degree murder on 30 Oct 97, reduced on appeal to "manslaughter" 10 Nov 97.) Was justice done, or did prosecutorial zealots create a crime where none had existed? (Having missed two weeks of the trial, I plead neutrality.) Why did so many, some quite knowledgeable, assume the worst about justice in Middlesex County MA? After all, there was physical evidence in the Woodward case, even if its significance was hotly disputed.

Much of this distrust stems from the Fells Acres ritual abuse case, where three totally innocent people drew horrendous (20- and 40-year) prison terms on nothing more than the testimony of toddlers who were repeatedly and coercively interviewed until they "disclosed" mythical abuse -- a 1980s version of the "spectral evidence" used in the 1692 Salem witch trials. The prosecutor responsible has enjoyed political cover from a faction in one of our largest local newspapers, with a "tonton macoute" journalistic ethic.

A 150-word summary of the case follows. For more detail, check the web-site references in Section 1 below.

Starting in 1984, the office of Middlesex County DA Scott Harshbarger announced that Violet Amirault, her daughter Cheryl Amirault LeFave, and her son Gerald Amirault, owners of the successful 20-year-old Fells Acres day-care center in Malden MA, had suddenly converted it into a factory of child pornography and the most horrifying ritual abuse of helpless toddlers. Juries were persuaded to convict the Amiraults in 1986 (Gerald) and 1987 (Violet and Cheryl), due exclusively to the coached testimony of 3- and 4-year old children. No physical evidence or adult witness for any of the charges was ever found, despite the fact that the day-care center had always been open to a steady stream of unannounced parents and tradesmen. Starting in 1991, psychologists demonstrated how the leading questions used in cases like Fells Acres can brainwash child witnesses, but the Massachusetts legal establishment has, despite valiant efforts of some Middlesex County trial judges, refused to correct a scandal.

Table of Contents

1. Detailed history: some web-sites
2. Recent legal developments in the Fells Acres case
3. Some general background
4. Notes on the Boston media
5. Other questions
6. Once again, witch-bound Massachusetts needs outside assistance
7. Miscellaneous references
8. A final word

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(Note: the word "skeptic" is used below to mean someone "skeptical" of the prosecution, someone who believes that the Amiraults are innocent.)

1. Some web sites--

2. Recent legal developments in the Fells Acres case (1995 and later)

3. Some general background

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4. Notes on the Boston media

Return to HSC overview and index of other Fells Acres articles.

Return to Bob Chatelle's Fells Acres site.

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