A Texas couple caught up in the so-called Satanic Panic era were finally exonerated after being jailed for 21 years.
Austin daycare operators Fran and Dan Keller were convicted of child abuse in 1991 for the alleged sexual assault of a three-year-old girl. During the investigation, the initial accusation of a spanking evidently morphed into lurid accusations of Satanic ritual abuse, including human sacrifice, from the girl and several other children.
Investigators apparently accepted all these allegations at face value without finding any evidence. A lawyer for the couple also argued in his appeal that the state may have used “suggestive interview techniques…” that “encouraged the children to make ‘fantastical false statements,'” the Guardian noted.
The Kellers were nonetheless each sentenced to 48 years in prison reportedly in part because an examination from an inexperienced emergency room doctor about damage to the three-year-old’s vaginal area that could have indicated molestation. The doctor’s testimony was apparently the only physical evidence of wrongdoing in the case.
The physician subsequently testified that his original diagnosis was incorrect, The Intercept reported.
During a hearing in the summer of 2013, he unequivocally stated that there was no doubt that the child’s genitalia was normal and that he’d gotten it wrong when he examined her in 1991. He said that he tried to reach out to the Austin Police Department after he realized his error but was rebuffed by the detective, who was “convinced they were guilty.”
The Kellers were released in December 2013 for lack of evidence, and about a week ago, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore, who took office in January, officially dropped all charges and exonerated them, something her predecessor was unwilling to do.
Parenthetically, the liberal Travis County DA’s office has a history of bringing politically motivated indictments against Republicans. You may recall that former DA Rosemary Lehmberg charged then-Gov. Rick Perry with abuse of power in 2014. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals subsequently threw out all charges against Perry. (RELATED: Read more about false prosecutions at PoliceState.News.)
Fran, 67, and Dan, 75, who have been financially struggling since their release four years ago, are now each eligible for a $1.7 million payment from the state for the time they were incarcerated, although no amount of cash can ever bring back all the time that was stolen from them and their family as a result of the hysteria. Friends have also set up a GoFundMe page for them.
This modern-day witch hunt, as some have called it, was a failure by authorities in Austin, the capital city of Texas, The Intercept added.
Still, the outcome should not be considered a victory for the criminal justice system. With a few notable exceptions, the law enforcement officials in Austin — police and prosecutors, as well as the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals — failed the residents of the city and more importantly the Kellers by accepting the shocking allegations on their face and abdicating their duty to seek the truth of the matter.