Monday, December 1, 2014

Really--the nerve of some people!

~~by Shelly Stow

The headline says it all: "Freed Texas day care owners still want exoneration."

I mean, they spent only 20 plus years in prison for a crime that never happened, but they are free now. Isn't that enough?

They--Fran and Dan Keller--ran a day-care facility in the 1980s. They were charged with "child abuse involving satanic rituals." Sound familiar? And yes, this one came complete with "recovered memories" also. "... therapists testified that they helped three children recover memories of satanic rituals and sexual abuse at an Austin preschool the Kellers operated."

But they weren't convicted solely on the testimony of the therapists, goodness me, no. There was physical evidence too. "During their trial, the only physical evidence came from an emergency room doctor who testified that internal lacerations on one child were evidence of abuse."

And that was enough for a jury of their peers to find them guilty of the charges and sentence them to 48 years in prison, of which they served 21. They maintained their innocence for every day of those 21 years, but hey, doesn't everybody who goes to prison say they are innocent?

In 2013, Dr. Michael Mouw, the emergency room doctor whose testimony was instrumental in the guilty verdict, said, according to official court records, that "...what he thought were lacerations were actually normal physiology." Based on that, the Travis County prosecutors agreed that "...the case's evidence was faulty..." and the Kellers were released on bond a year ago.

And now they have the audacity to ask that their convictions be thrown out.

Well of course the Travis County Prosecutors' Office isn't about to do that. You just can't go around proclaiming people innocent once they have been found guilty in a court of law, especially not on a charge of sexually molesting children, not without "... new evidence that unquestionably establishes innocence — something like an ironclad alibi or DNA proof."

What a shame that the burden of proof hadn't been that high in order to find them guilty.

They have lost 21 years of their lives in prison for something they did not do, something that never happened. They were divorced in prison, so they have lost more than the years. There will be those--probably many--who will continue to believe they were guilty--the "Where there's smoke, there's fire" principle.

I pray I am wrong, but I do not believe they will win this. They have been told they must prove their innocence. How do you prove that you are innocent of doing something that didn't happen? This will be decided by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, a group of judges who "typically takes a skeptical view toward overturning jury verdicts. The court will be guided by the recommendations of Senior District Judge Wilford Flowers, who presided over the Kellers' 1992 trial and their recent appeals — and who has already twice ruled that they had failed to prove their innocence."

I am not a jurist nor an attorney; I have in the past described myself as someone who can't read legalese without my eyes rolling back in my head, but it seems to me, in my simple, ignorant, non-legal mind, that the state of Texas failed in 1992 to meet its burden of proof in finding them guilty.

Shouldn't that be enough for an exoneration?

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