The McMartin Preschool case was the longest criminal case to ever take place in the United States. The McMartins, and several staff members, were accused of sexually abusing children at the preschool they ran in Manhattan Beach, California. The allegations began with one child and eventually erupted to bring 321 counts of sexual abuse of 48 children against those accused after interviews with several hundred children.
This trial brought to light the dangers, and controversies, of using the testimony of children in court. Children are highly susceptible to false memories that can be implanted by a variety of people, such as parents or therapists. According to the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, a false memory is a distorted memory, or an imagining of an event that never occurred, which can be influenced by external factors, such as the belief of a person of authority. In the McMartin case, it was determined that most of the accusations made by the children were based on false memories that were possibly implanted by the therapists involved.
A situation involving false memories can easily occur in cases of criminal sexual conduct involving children, and the McMartin case makes that apparent. False memories are easily implanted by figures of authority, especially in children. It has also been found that false memories can also be implanted into animals, such as mice.
It is important for an attorney to be trained in the area of false memory testimony and realize how much these memories can hurt a defendant, especially during a criminal sexual conduct trial. The Law Offices of Shannon M. Smith, P.C. is aware of and does recognize the damaging potential of false memory testimony from a witness. Through the use of expert testimony, and by asking the proper questions of a complaining witness or witness, we can point out the common occurrence of false memory testimony, which can gravely help a defendant who has been accused of criminal sexual conduct.