The impact obtained by the popular hysterical fear of paedophilia on an American state justice system which adopted multiple accusations as proof of guilt.
Grant Snowdon was a Miami police officer who was accused by another policeman,a personal enemy, of child abuse. Official investigation revealed only a claim by an eleven year old girl who thought she remembered something that happened when she was four years old. And this proved insufficient to persuade a jury who found the defendant "Not Guilty".
Start Of A Crusade
Following this acquittal, Janet Reno, the chief prosecutor of Miami (1977) , and an avowed advocate for children began a crusade to protect the innocent children and discover a way of prosecuting child molesters that overcame the unreliability of child witnesses. Her approach :
—later to be christened The Miami Method, was based upon the presumption that the understanding of children is reliable.
The Test Case
Frank Fuster was chosen as the first accused to try out the new approach in court. He was a Cuban immigrant, ex-convict with a record of child molestation and manslaughter. And it was discovered that the multiple child witnesses produced by the child centre were sufficient to convince a jury, and a guilty verdict was recorded.
Grant Snowdon Revisited
This new approach was now applied Grant Snowdon, who the state prosecutor felt had evaded justice. The Snowdon's locality was scoured for children who would make allegations against the policeman, to be sent to the children's centre for processing by the sympathetic Bragas. And this process obtained three witnesses who alleged detailed sexual assault. And as corroborative evidence it was maintained that Gonorrhea and Vaginitis was diagnosed among the witnesses.
The Miami Method Works
Faced with multiple accusers, and the vague medical evidence, a jury convicted Snowdon after one hours deliberation on all 5 charges, which meant 5 life terms making him ineligible for parole until he was 83 years old.
Child Abuse Fever
Child abuse fever now raged in Miami, and one of the monsters discovered abusing the trust of the innocents was a 14 year old boy. Bobby Fijnje was the son of a retired Dutch diplomat and a voluntary worker in a church nursery. Acting on information received, the police pounced on the teenager and dragged him off for questioning. The police interrogator claimed the accused made a full confession so the prosecutor's office charged the boy as an adult, thus making a youth who was barely 14 years and 2 months liable to 7 mandatory life sentences.
The media now became full of rumour and innuendo, labelling the accused as "A Devil In The Church". And suggesting that his parents were involved in an international pornography ring and Satanic Rituals which involved the cooking and eating of a baby.
Accusers Not To Face Accused
Despite the terrible penalty faced by Fijnje the court took the unusual decision to forbid cross-examination of the young witnesses, ruling that the video of the children's evidence produced by the child psychologist Susan Keeley, was adequate for the court's purpose. Bobby was not allowed to confront his accusers, which was a clear break with tradition and a denial of justice.
To add more pressure on the accused the state prosecutor offered a milder sentence should he save the court's time by pleading guilty. A penalty less than the possible massive jail term which would destroy the life of the boy. Though after some soul searching and supported by his parents, the state's offer was rejected.
Doubt On Confession
As the trial proceeded doubt was immediately thrown upon the alleged confession.
Doubt On Child Testimony
The parents of the accused hired their own child therapists who pointed out that
Verdict Delayed Until Janet Reno In Court
After 13 weeks of trial when the jury had retired and finally reached its verdict, without explanation, the judge insisted that their decision be delivered only after the arrival of the State Attorney — Janet Reno. In response to the seven times the judge asked the jury for their verdict on each charge, the jury returned "Not Guilty".
—And Snowdon walked free on February, 1998, after 12 years in gaol.