Massachusetts Man Freed After 21 Years With Discovery of Withheld Exculpatory Evidence

180px-prison_cellBernard Baran was 19 when he was accused of abusing children at a day care center — one of a spasm of such prosecutions in the 1980s. Baran was convicted on the testimony of the children despite the fact that videotapes showed children denying that he touched them and other referring to “prizes” promised for their confirming abuse.

In his trial, the prosecutor used an edited version of the tapes that cut out the statements of children denying that Baran, now 42, touched them. In overturning the conviction, the court cited the ineffective counsel of the defense counsel and the new evidence. There is no mention of the prosecutor who used heavily edited tapes. On the tapes, children repeated deny the allegations but are asked over and over again until they change their statements. One child demands the promised prize for saying that Baran touched him. Presumably, the prosecutor saw these tapes but proceeded to introduce highly misleading and edited versions. There should be an immediate inquiry to determine the facts of what the prosecutor and police knew in this case.

It is rare for courts or the media to confront prosecutors or police who win at any cost in cases later overturned. Baran does not know if he will sue, but he should.

For the full story, click here.

37 thoughts on “Massachusetts Man Freed After 21 Years With Discovery of Withheld Exculpatory Evidence”

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  2. “I still find it odd that the US did not enter World War II on the axis side. Fascist tendencies have been present from the beginning but in the last 10 years they have increased markedly.”

    Had it not been for General Smedley Butler, FDR and Pearl Harbor they very well might have.

  3. Buddah.

    I still find it odd that the US did not enter World War II on the axis side. Fascist tendencies have been present from the beginning but in the last 10 years they have increased markedly.

  4. With hunts and witches are not mutually exclusive, when the hue and cry is out the safest option for a witch is to be among the front ranks of the village mob with a burning torch in one hand and a pitchfork in the other yelling “burn the witch” at the top of his/her lungs.

    I suspect that most men are secretly afraid of an accusation of child abuse because they know possible unconsciously how the witch hunt works, that accusation leads inevitably to conviction or at least social humiliation and suspicion. In addition many men have the fear that they might at some time absent mindedly as it wore molest a child. The sexually attractive female form as exemplified by the anorexic models of the fashion industry is not that of an adult woman rather that of a pre-age-of-consent school girl with the careers of some super models starting at ages as early as 12.

    This explains much of the hysteria about the 80’s child abuse panics. Those doing the investigation and prosecution feel the need to deny that they are sexually interested in children and to do so before any accusation has been made, but they cannot come out and deny the not yet made accusation as that would have the opposite effect to that desired. Thus they attempt to imply an extreme hostility to those who would abuse children by implication by conducting their investigation determined to get a conviction regardless of the facts.

    In some of the cases there may have been abuse, but the questioning of the children in an abusive and browbeating manner is analogous to someone having a fossil with such a delicate pattern that he thinks others won’t be able to see it and then uses a chisel to deepen the lines of the pattern but in doing so leaves the question as to whether the pattern existed before he emphasized it unanswerable.

    I am thinking about a particular case that happened in Australia. The children whose statements started the investigation were from a family known to my parents. Because of Australia’s draconian libel laws I will not say enough to identify the case. The investigation however was a typical witch hunt with suggestive and abusive questioning of children contaminating their recollections to the extent that prosecution was impossible.

  5. “Perceiving other people’s misery can be painful. One technique to avoid the pain is to not notice the miserable conditions in the first place, another is to convince oneself that the people involved are both evil and subhuman and that their pain is both self-inflicted and deserved. In particular one must at all costs avoid the there but for the grace of God go I thought.”

    That is quite true. I’ve never been good at self deception and because of the pain of my own childhood I am highly empathic. One makes choices though and those choices come in youth and only spread in complexity as one ages. Because I was a very smart, shy child, with a vocabulary influenced by reading a lot of Sir Walter Scott, I was picked on by many of the other boys. While I would fight off attacks, it was usually through copious tears of frustration. I was therefore often called Fairy, Faggot, Sissy etc. In the terms you described many make the choice to identify with their oppressors and thus become aides to thugs and bullies. My choice, consciously made at a young age was to identify with those oppressed like me. From those years, around the age of seven my self developed mantra was “Don’t hurt little people,”
    with the corollary responsibility to protect them if I could.
    That has become the story of my life and as I became older, stronger and more capable a human being, that’s what I’ve done.

    As an analogy to my resistance to watching certain films I would offer Ingmar Bergmann’s “Virgin Spring.” An all time great movie that if you’ve seen it once, you never have to see it again. Carlyle, when it comes to human misery I’ve seen it all, except walking through death camps aiding survivors. All of it is indelibly etched in my mind and it is with me always. I personally believe that what keeps me living is maintaining a hopefulness about the future and that of my progeny, to maintain that optimism in the face of the human misery I’ve seen is a delicate balance that either I walk every day, or blow my brains out.

  6. That is, of course, assuming the government or a corporation doesn’t do something stupid enough to kill everyone in the mean time.

  7. What CM said, although I think the hold of fascism will be toward the shorter end of the 100 year spectrum. Fascism is one of the most malfunctioning models available, lower than absolute monarchy but only slightly more functional than a theocracy and just as self-destructive. I give it a maximum of 15 years. 25 at the outside. Corporatists and politicians (of any flavor) who kowtow to them will start being directly harmed by and in conflict with the general populace much sooner than that.

  8. Mike.

    “As for Sean Penn’s documentary “Witch Hunt,” I personally probably wouldn’t watch it. I have seen too many things in my life in my different areas of work, that average people would call horrors.”.

    I speculate that one of the reasons that some people become extreme right-wingers is to distance themselves psychologically from the misery of which this world has so much and which so affected you as you have indicated in the above quote.

    Perceiving other people’s misery can be painful. One technique to avoid the pain is to not notice the miserable conditions in the first place, another is to convince oneself that the people involved are both evil and subhuman and that their pain is both self-inflicted and deserved. In particular one must at all costs avoid the there but for the grace of God go I thought.

  9. I have noticed that most threads on JT’s blogs get a small number of posts but that a few generate much greater numbers. Usually the threads with large numbers of posts are about contentious issues. This thread is on a contentious issue but I am surprised at the small numbers of posts.

    I speculate that some issues like this one generate so much anxiety that people hesitate to enter the discussion.

  10. Charles MacKay’s “Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” has an excellent section on the with Craze.

    the Amazon entry is

    Humans seem to have a deep psychological and social need to find scapegoats and to hunt them and punish them and this explains the witch craze, the heresy craze, the German Jewish holocaust, the anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia, the massacres of indigenous peoples in all colonial settler countries and the massacres of the descendants of freed slaves in the US.

    The motive in all these cases is righteous hate and the US in particular seems to have an excess of it. Chronic fear is another motivating factor of which the US has too much.
    When these factors are present people are unhappy until they have found a readily identifiable scapegoat group to hunt. This group must be easily differentiable from the respectable majority. In the US scapegoat groups include niggers, liberals, drug users and traffickers, terrorists and sex criminals. People enjoy the catharsis of forming a mob with pitchforks and fire brands and hunting scapegoats.

    I suspect that the US is about to enter a period of fascist rule which might be as short as 5 or as long as a hundred years. Expect the right to seize power, I do not believe they are going to tolerate the Obama administration for much longer even though Obama is as much a panderer to corporate power and the rich as George W Bush was. too many white Americans find it unacceptable that their present be half Negro

  11. Carlyle,
    As usual you provide an excellent context which clarifies the
    process via analogy. The entire Witchcraft history in Europe is
    directly related to the phenomenon of the rash of interest in child abuse in the US in the 80’s. The same phenomenon under a different guise.

  12. Mojo,
    There is a similarity with police work in the sense that you
    view people’s words with suspicion and lose trust in general. I’m luckily not the type emotionally to get depressed per se, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t feel despair at the human condition, painful empathy with those abused and have a tendency towards untoward cynicism. To keep ones thoughts positive, in the light of so much human misery, then or today, requires much effort. I work at it every day because I also feel that a positive, optimistic outlook helps in keeping a person (hopefully me)alive for longer. The other side to that is that rage at the inequities and horror of human life is ultimately unproductive and makes you part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Indignation though is a more helpful emotion and thought process, that has less wear and tear on one’s organism.

  13. Mike S. –

    I only just got back to this thread. I was a kid in the 80’s but I remember well the fear that was generated by the cases brought against the child-care workers during that time. That was probably the first I had ever heard of ‘child-abuse’.

    As far as your own experience, I can only imagine the stress of that kind of work, and it reminds me of another kid I knew at that time who’s father was a cop. He told me his father sometimes suffered from depression. It didn’t make much sense to me at the time; a tough cop afraid of nothing was the only image I could conjure, but over the years I’ve come to understand the kinds of things some people have to see and experience in their line of work, and the depression the man suffered from makes much more sense now, as does the bad moment you experienced reading the details of that case.

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