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Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets by Lila Rajiva, Will Bonner

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Old McMartin Had a Crèche

The McMartin Satanic child abuse trials, which cost taxpayers more than $13 million, were the most expensive trials in U.S. history, far ahead of the O. J. Simpson trial at $8 million. The preliminary hearing took 18 months; the whole case took 7 years, 6 judges, 17 attorneys, and hundreds of witnesses, including 9 of the 11 children alleged to have been molested. One of the defendants was retried after the first jury deadlocked, but the second jury also deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. Hundreds of Manhattan Beach, California, children grew up thinking they had once been grotesquely abused. The seven adults charged—some elderly women—were bankrupted and turned into social pariahs. McMartin preschool itself was closed and razed, and the other eight schools involved were closed down forever. The pastor of the St. Cross church was the target of harassment and death threats. “He had to close his church and move to another part of the country.” Copycat trials erupted all across North America.16

What provoked the hue and cry was a police complaint on August 12, 1983, by a woman called Judy Johnson. She claimed her son had been molested by Ray Buckey of the McMartin preschool. Ms. Johnson, it turns out, had also accused her ex‐husband of child abuse, and her claims against the McMartins were—on their face, at least—delusional. She charged that people had flown through windows, killed lions, and had sexual encounters with giraffes. Buckey, she alleged, ...

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