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5.0 out of 5 stars The power of accusation
Americans tend to put great faith in their justice system but, despite the legal doctrine of the presumption of innocence, they also tend to assume that persons accused of crimes are in fact guilty. This book deals with the power of accusations, in combination with dubious expert testimony, to undermine a person's right to a fair hearing and result in the incarceration of...
Published on Sept. 24 2003 by Bert Krages

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3.0 out of 5 stars Take two grains of salt and call me in the morning
"No Crueler Tyrannies" retells the frightening prosecutions of supposed child sexual predators in the 1990s, focusing on the Fells Acre Day School case in Malden, Massachusetts. The book also skims over several other less notorious cases of horrifying child abuse. All of these cases show the alarming propensity among some prosecutors in the 1980s and 1990s to throw...
Published on Aug. 11 2003 by Jean E. Pouliot


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5.0 out of 5 stars The power of accusation, Sept. 24 2003
By 
Bert Krages (Portland, OR United States) - See all my reviews
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Americans tend to put great faith in their justice system but, despite the legal doctrine of the presumption of innocence, they also tend to assume that persons accused of crimes are in fact guilty. This book deals with the power of accusations, in combination with dubious expert testimony, to undermine a person's right to a fair hearing and result in the incarceration of innocent individuals. It focuses on some of the most public sex abuse prosecutions during the 1980's and 1990's and shows how justice was subverted by a combination of overzealous "experts," unfair limitations on the defendants' ability to present exculpatory evidence, and the vagaries of the appeals process. These cases, and particularly the Wenatchee prosecutions, are about as close as American justice has come to the Kangaroo courts of the former Soviet Union.
One of the book's strong points is its explanations of how so called experts spend weeks coercing children to accuse adults that they had been sexually abused relying on the principle that a child who denies such events occurred is necessarily repressing their memory and a child that makes the accusation is telling the truth. In such a case, no accused person can ever be cleared. Readers interested in this issue might also want to look at Whores of the Court by Margaret Hagen. It also shows how prosecutors used the experts to present testimony that what the children said was true and how judges limited cross-examination and rebuttal evidence on the grounds that it was bad for the children. The book also offers some eye-opening detail on the limits of the appeals process to correct injustices.
The book could have been better had it gone into more depth on the viewpoints of the prosecutors and their experts. It also could have benefitted from a more detailed discussion of the kinds of testimony that occurs in bona fide sexual abuse cases. However, these shortcomings do not detract significantly from the major premise that in some cases the political and social weight given to an accusation can deprive patently innocent people of their right to justice.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Take two grains of salt and call me in the morning, Aug. 11 2003
By 
Jean E. Pouliot (Newburyport, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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"No Crueler Tyrannies" retells the frightening prosecutions of supposed child sexual predators in the 1990s, focusing on the Fells Acre Day School case in Malden, Massachusetts. The book also skims over several other less notorious cases of horrifying child abuse. All of these cases show the alarming propensity among some prosecutors in the 1980s and 1990s to throw otherwise law-abiding citizens into prison, using the coached testimony of young children. Not to mention the Catch-22 judgements of so-called child experts who convinced juries that a child's denial of abuse was proof that it had taken place.
The 1980s-an era when it was more and more common for working parents to entrust their children to day care centers-were ripe for bizarre child molestation cases. The guilt and anxiety parents felt over leaving their children with "strangers" made it easy for parents to believe that their worst nightmares were coming true. When outlandish charges arose, the path of least psychic resistance for parents was to swallow them whole them than with a grain of salt.
The book is a quick read, and sketchy on details. Rabinowitz states her conclusions about testimony rather than laying it out for us to judge on our own. The accused are all ordinary, noble souls with all the cards stacked against them; the prosecutors all blinded by ambition or stupidity, desperate to placate a howling mob looking for convictions. This left me with a certain discomfort: a classic tactic for ideologues is to paint reality in black and white, shouting their conclusions without disclosing their premises or evidence. There is some of this flair to this book. I'd love to see the Amiraults do something boneheaded that feeds into the mob's preconceptions, just to show they are capable of making mistakes. This weakness aside, it's hard not to be angry and frightened that prosecutors can so skew facts (in one case, holding back audio tape of an alleged perpetrator's anxious denial of the charges) and that the rest of us can so blithely go along with them. It's one thing to see this on "The Practice," and quite another to see it in real life.
The post-9/11 environment is ripe for similar cases - this time targeting those who are perceived to be soft on homeland security. Books like Rabinowitz's, however imperfect, serve as cautionary tales of our paranoid propensity to believe the worst about each other.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A good start at a serious work..., Aug. 7 2003
By 
Jean E. Pouliot (Newburyport, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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"No Crueler Tyrannies" retells the frightening prosecutions of supposed child sexual predators in the 1990s, focusing on the Fells Acre Day School case in Malden, Massachusetts. The book also skims over several other less notorious cases of horrifying child abuse. All of these cases show the alarming propensity among some prosecutors in the 1980s and 1990s to throw otherwise law-abiding citizens into prison, using the coached testimony of young children. Not to mention the Catch-22 judgements of so-called child experts who convinced juries that a child's denial of abuse was proof that it had taken place.
The book is a quick read, and very sketchy on details. Rabinowitz is satisfied to tell us about testimony rather than laying it out for us to judge on our own. This left me with a certain discomfort: it's easy for ideologues to get their points across when they shout their conclusions without disclosing their premises or evidence. This weakness aside, it's hard not to be angry and frightened that prosecutors can so skew the facts (in one case, holding back tape of an alleged perpetrator's anxious denial of the charges) and that the rest of us can so blithely go along with them.
The 1980s-an era when it was more and more common for working parents to entrust their children to day care centers-were ripe for bizarre child molestation cases. The guilt and anxiety over leaving their children with "strangers" made it easy for parents to believe that their worst nightmares were coming true. The post-9/11 environment is ripe for similar cases - this time targeting those who are perceived to be soft on homeland security. Books like Rabinowitz's however imperfect, serve as cautionary tales of our paranoid propensity to believe the worst about each other.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely chilling, June 22 2003
By 
Michael Booker (Arnold, MO USA) - See all my reviews
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The negative reviews to this book seem to be saying that, if we ever say that someone is falsely accused of child molestation, then we're pretending that molestation doesn't exist. This is *precisely* the twisted logic that rainroaded innocent people into jail for crimes that never took place.
Rabinowitz has to claim early on in her book things that are so obvious that it hurts to read them. *Of course* child molestation is a horrific crime which merits society's strongest possible response. That does not, however, mean that every accusation is true, and that normal stadards of evidence and logic can be discarded if the charge is sufficiently evil.
The cases that Rabinowitz recounts are not just of innocent people convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Her stories are about innocent people convicted of crimes that weren't commited by *anyone*. The only child molesters in these stories are the "helping professionals" who have psychologically maimed children by brainwashing them into believing that they were sexually violated.
I give Rabinowitz credit for her determination. I have quibbles with her writing style, but her work is a powerful resource.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unhappy Endings, June 17 2003
By 
Greg Goebel (Loveland, CO USA) - See all my reviews
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* When I ran across Dorothy Rabinowitz's NO CRUELER TYRANNIES,
a history of sorts of the child sex-abuse witchhunts of the
1980s and 1990s, it caught my attention immediately. I had
seen an episode of CBS's THE 20TH CENTURY that had covered the
same subject and found it interesting, and the show had also
played up Rabinowitz as the champion of Kelly Michaels, a New
Jersey daycare worker who had been given a stiff prison
sentence on the basis of the wildest accusations.
This book traces out the case of Kelly Michaels; the Amirault
family, who ran a daycare center in Massachusetts and all
went to jail on insane charges; Grant Snowden, a Miami cop
who ended up doing 12 years because of the misfocused zeal
of the Florida state prosecutor's office; Patrick Griffin, a
New York internist who was accused by a client of abusing her
during treatment; John Carroll, a New York State marina owner
who ended up in the slammer on accusations that he had abused
his 13-year-old stepdaughter, which started when she had a
strange dream one night; and the strange case of Detective
Perez of Wenatchee, Washington, who seemed to believe that
the town was largely made up of child abusers, or at least
was inclined to press dozens of counts of child abuse
charges on anyone who crossed him.
This is a tidy, neat, angry little book, but it is also
a little hard to swallow. The topic matter is so
sensationalistic that the appeal of the story is
inescapably the same as that of tabloid journalism. It's
something of a guilty pleasure to read all this sordid
stuff, and hard to believe it all as well.
That leads to the other aspect of this book: it comes
across as sort of a ghastly black comedy. The cases
raised against the accused were almost beyond belief,
and the fact that juries actually convicted them was
even harder to believe.
"Expert witnesses" claimed that if children said "NO"
when they were asked if they had been abused, it was a
sign they had and that they had to be (sometimes
relentlessly) pushed and prodded until they said "YES".
Of course, once they had said "YES", then it was obviously
the indisputable truth. Of course, child behavior such as
bed-wetting, fussiness over certain foods, and sulky
periods were obvious signs of abuse.
In the Griffin trial, the judge refused to allow the
defense to ask the plaintiff any question that might
distress her in the least. The judge, a woman, felt that
this would set a bad example for other women
coming forward to report abuse. For this reason, the
defense was not allowed to question the plaintiff about
the fact that she had been pressing bigtime civil
suits on people for years, demanding huge damages over
minor pretexts.
The Wenatchee case was particularly bizarre, in that the
city social-worker organization backed up Detective
Perez, and particularly helped target Mormons,
Pentacostals, and other less-enlightened creatures who
were obviously into deviant practices. (I might have
my annoyances with religious conservatives on occasions
but never to the extent of wanted them hunted down and
thrown in a cage!)
Like I said, I am not sure how much of this I can believe,
and I'd certainly like to see someone provide a rebuttal
and see if it holds any water.
Still, that said, NO CRUELER TYRANNIES does carry some
weight. It comes as a shock, a useful one, to realize that
the law is just as subject to the influence of incompetence
as any other human activity, and that accusations played up in
the newspapers should be taken with a grain of salt.
This does also lead to the discouraging realization that the
notion of "innocent until proven guilty" is not natural to
people, and in fact many people don't understand that it is,
at least in principle, the law of the land. The silver lining
is that, in spite of the pressures against it, "innocent until
proven guilty" was actually established and survived, as a
fundamental legal principle. Sense seems to outweigh
stupidity over the long run for the simple reason that stupidity
doesn't work.
* I have to add a personal note ... as a middle-aged bachelor,
stories like this and a certain amount of sense have led to a
policy of treating children kindly while carefully leaving them
alone in order to eliminate even the *possibility* of being
accused of misconduct.
Single people my age and older understand this perfectly.
Others do not. I once had a colleague try a little too hard to
recruit me into his church. He seemed nice enough at first,
but the harder he pushed the more he sawed away at the branch
on which he was sitting. His final appeal was to tell me:
"You can play with our KIDS!" He didn't notice the faint
look of shock and horror on my face, or realize that he had
just sawed completely through the branch and had lost,
permanently, any credibility he ever had.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sad but true, April 30 2003
By 
Samuel washburn (Andover, MA United States) - See all my reviews
I just finished reading the sections of the book about The Amiraults. It's just heartbreaking. Thank you so much documenting forever the The Cruel tryannies that the Massachusetts "Elite Therapeutocracy" impose on people like the Amiraults who can't defend themselves.
The parellels between this episode and the Salem Witchcraft hysteria are sickening considering how we should have learned from that experience: Child Witnesses; zero corroborating physical evidence, financial gain for the accusers at the expense of the accused. Sadly the one parellel that does not exist is that within several years the Salem accusers and prosecuters admitted they were wrong and asked the forgiveness of those they had accused and ruined. Harsbarger, O'Reilly and the others have yet to do that and persist in torturing what's left of the Amiraults everytime they attempt to make the world recognize their innocence. I guess Harshbarger's Harvard experience must have inbued him with the same elite arrogance that Cotton Mather (Witchcraft judges' advisor) must have picked up there 350 years ago! Mather ended up being spit upon on the streets of Boston and reviled by history once the Salem hysteria subsided. Harshbarger and the others deserve a worse fate. People should know better by now!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The horror of our modern day Salem witch trials, April 23 2003
The very hint of being a child molester can destroy the life of even the most virtuous among us. Dorothy Rabinowitz has witnessed first hand the persecution and imprisonment of those who were almost certainly wrongly convicted of this vile crime. Perhaps not since the Salem witch trials has such a miscarriage of justice occurred within the United States. These unfortunate victims have been arrested, tried, and convicted, on evidence so weak that it defies common sense. A Saturday Night Live and Monty Python comedy skit could easily be created out of these court cases. A cynic is indeed tempted to burst out laughing at the utter madness of it all. Isn't our system of justice premised upon the concept that one's guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? If so, how does a rational adult take seriously a child's claim that a knife had been jammed into her rectum when there wasn't even the slightest bit of physical evidence to support the charge? Pseudo educated psychologists were able to present junk science theories to juries that should have never been allowed into the courtroom. Heck, in most cases, the initial suspicions concerning the suspects should have been dismissed by the police after no more than a few hours investigative work. The accused were, however, intractably caught in a Catch 22 predicament. "The rule of thumb guiding child interviewers in these cases was a simple one," declares Rabinowitz, "if children said they had been molested, they were telling the truth; those who denied they had been abused were not telling the truth and were described as 'not ready to disclose...'" The suspects were obviously doomed the very first moment when their nightmare began.
The author strongly suggests that the citizens of Massachusetts should feel a particular sense of shame. The prosecutors and governors of this once formally great State have thoroughly disgraced themselves. Gerald Amirault currently remains in prison due to their treachery and cowardliness. Rabinowitz astutely asserts that there is no crueler tyranny than to be unfairly jailed by the government which is suppose to protect your rights. This book will enrage those possessing even the slightest bit of moral decency. It should then prompt you to advocate for Mr. Amirault's freedom---and make sure that no other American citizen again spends time incarcerated for a crime they never committed. Lastly, we should demand our universities explain why such shabbily trained mental health processionals obtained credentials from their institutions.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Another backlash book, May 5 2003
By A Customer
A far "Crueler Tyranny" is the victimization of a child by a trusted adult (priest, rabbi, teacher, coach, scout leader), and the subsequent revictimization by a society that abhors child abuse in the abstract, but tolerates it in reality.
This is just another backlash book from an author who never met an accused child molester who she thinks wasn't railroaded into jail. While the jury and the prosecutors found the evidence compelling enough to convict, Rabinowitz states that one of the reasons she believes in "Tooky's" innocence is that his fellow inmates think he's innocent - that they really know who's guilty and who isn't. Someone needs to rebut this book, and challenge her in open debate, because of the harm that this backlash is doing, especially to discourage victims from coming forward.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable -- and that's not a compliment, April 25 2003
By A Customer
Reading these recycled articles you'll frequently find yourself thinking, "Unbelievable -- incredible!" And that should be a tip-off. Rabinowitz is a superb writer but she makes her living working for the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, which is quite consciously a propaganda machine with no respect for intellectual honesty or even simple consistency. Rabinowitz is the very person who wrote the article accusing the President of the United States of committing rape on the basis of evidence much, much weaker than the evidence mustered by the prosecution in any one of the cases described here. The difference, needless to say, is that Rabinowitz didn't like the President. Her prejudices, rather than any respect for the truth, is the driving force behind this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written but too brief., April 28 2003
By A Customer
I have the greatest respect for Dorothy Rabinowitz and the work she did reporting on these stories; I credit her as much as anyone with the Amirault women being freed from jail. However, since I had read the articles she originally wrote about these cases, I found very little new in this book. I would have liked to have learned much more about the parents of the 'abused' children, the prosecutors bringing these cases, and particularly about the 'expert' witnesses who brain-washed the supposed child victims into making the accusations.
I believe this is an important book, a permanent record of truly heinous prosecutorial misconduct. It could have been more, however, and I hope that the rest of this story will eventually be told.
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No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times
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