In 1992, Dan and Fran Keller were sentenced to serve 48 years a piece for alleged subversive sexual and satanic acts performed on youngsters at the Austin area daycare they owned. The couple served more than 21 years in prison, but when the only physical evidence against them turned out to be a mistake, they were released from prison in 2013.
Now freed, the Kellers want their names cleared — they want to be exonerated of these crimes but Travis County prosecutors are not convinced they are innocent.
Fox News reported that the Kellers were convicted of these charges after therapists testified that they helped three children recover memories of rituals and sexual abuse at the Kellers’ preschool which they ran out of their Oak Hills home.
The youngsters accused them of dismembering babies, torturing pets, desecrating corpses, videotaping orgies and serving blood-laced Kool-Aid also as part of their heinous acts, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Despite the conviction, four law enforcement agencies never found proof of any of the allegedly perverse activity. According to the Statesman, Travis County prosecutors presented other evidence that led to the Kellers convictions for child sex crimes.
The criminal case against the Kellers fell apart all these years later, however, when the only physical evidence of sexual assault was found to be a mistake. It came from a young emergency room doctor with little experience in examining children for abuse but testified that “internal lacerations” on one child wereevidence of such abuse, according to the Statesman.
In court documents filed in 2013, a much more seasoned Dr. Michael Mouw stated what he thought were lacerations were actually normal physiology.
That prompted prosecutors in Travis County to agree that the case’s evidence was faulty and they released the two on bond, the Statesman noted.
In response, the Kellers were freed on bond last year. Additionally, Travis County prosecutors agreed to ask the court to throw out their convictions because the “doctor’s mistake denied them a fair trial in 1992.”
That request gets decided the week of December 1.
The Kellers were denied parole several times up to the point they were freed. They had divorced while in prison, yet always denied the charges, according to Fox News.
Being exonerated isn’t quite so easy to accomplish, according to the Statesman. They wrote, “To overcome a jury finding of guilt, the courts require new evidence that unquestionably establishes innocence — something like an ironclad alibi or DNA proof, said Assistant District Attorney Scott Taliaferro, who did not see that those requirements have been satisfied.”
Taliaferro pointed out that the issue of guilt or innocence is not the question in this situation. “Our responsibility is to make sure the law is properly applied, and, under the applicable standards, we are not satisfied that they have established actual innocence under the law,” he said, according to the Statesman.
The Kellers’ request for exoneration will be decided by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Senior District Judge Wilford Flowers, who presided over their 1992 trial and their appeals. Thus far, he has ruled twice that they failed to prove their innocence.
After his decision, the Kellers, their lawyer and Travis County prosecutors get nine days to prepare any rebuttals and responses. Then, on December 10, the judge’s findings and any responses are due at the court. The final say on whether the Kellers will be found innocent and exonerated will follow.
The Keller preschool trial came on the heels of, perhaps, the most famous trial over accusations of child abuse involving satanic rituals — the McMartin preschool case in California. Accusations made in 1983 were full of similar allegations of sexual abuse and satanic rituals performed at the Manhattan Beach family operated preschool. Pretrial investigation and arrests for the criminal trials took place between 1984-1990, when the charges were dropped for lack of wrongdoing.
The McMartin case was the longest and costliest criminal trial in its time. The case called into question the “dangers and difficulty of using children’s testimony. One of those difficulties was because the interviewing techniques (used on the children) had been so suggestive that they had not been able to discern what really happened,” PBS’ Frontline acknowledged.
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