Judge Borenstein's decision-- Part III

12 Jun 98

Go back to table of contents.

Scroll back to Part II, "Summary of Finding and Rulings."


The Court sets forth findings of fact below in three different areas, all based on evidence submitted in support of the motion, and the reasonable inferences I draw from

[begin page 9]

that evidence. First, after a brief introduction, facts are found regarding the expert witnesses who testified at the hearing. Second, this Court finds facts regarding the newly discovered evidence which forms the basis of this motion. Finally, the last section contains findings of fact on the specific child witnesses who testified at the trial of the defendant. All of the facts this Court has found lead to my firm determination and conclusion that the defendant is entitled to a new trial.

The defendant worked as a teacher at the Fells Acre Day School ("FADS") which her mother, Violet Amirault, owned and directed and where her brother, Gerald Amirault, worked as a bus driver, cook, maintenance man, and general assistant. On September 2, 1984, a mother of one of the students made allegations of abuse against Gerald, which led to a large scale investigation. Gerald was arrested three days later and the school was closed shortly thereafter. On September 12, 1984 a meeting was held at the Malden Police Station where parents were instructed to question their children about a secret room, a magic room, and a clown, and were made aware of symptoms which might evidence sexual abuse. The defendant and her mother were later implicated in the allegations of sexual abuse, and tried together. The defendant was convicted of four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of fourteen and three counts of rape on a child under the age of sixteen.

A. The Expert Witnesses

At a hearing before this Court on February 17 and 18, 1998, the defendant

[begin page 10]

presented the testimony of, and offered exhibits through two expert witnesses, Dr. Bruck and Dr. Schetky. This Court finds these witnesses credible, believable, objective, qualified and cooperative in assisting the Court in understanding the newly -discovered evidence, the devastating impact that the suggestive interviewing, investigative procedures and other influences had on the children who testified in this case, and how the fields of mental health and law have come, since 1987, to help the Courts better understand the risks of improperly handling child sexual abuse investigations.

Dr. Bruck is one of the nation's leading experts in the area of the suggestibility of children, and for the past seven years, at least, she has conducted research in the area of the reliability of their testimony in abuse cases. She has written extensively in scholarly publications, presented papers at respected conferences, and is co-author of a leading text on the subject entitled Maggie Bruck and Stephen Ceci, Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children's Testimony, (1995). Her research focuses on factors that affect the accuracy of reports by children. Far from believing that child sexual abuse does not exist, Dr. Bruck is a highly regarded scientist who has dedicated her work toward a better understanding of those factors which contribute to the accuracy of a report and those which do not. Her work can be credited with helping to understand how to accurately determine whether sexual abuse of a child has occurred, and by whom.

Dr. Schetky, is a highly credentialed psychiatrist who specializes in forensic evaluations of children who may have been abused. Before this Court, on February 18,

[begin page 11]

1998, Dr. Schetky testified that Dr. Bruck is held in high regard among specialists in her field and that Jeopardy in the Courtroom, supra, is considered to be among the most important and useful books in the area of forensic evaluation of child sexual abuse allegations. In 1997, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, a respected organization, published practice parameters to be used by mental health professionals in the field of forensics and child sexual abuse. Included in its four page bibliography, Jeopardy in the Courtroom, supra, was one of six works starred, indicating it to be the one of the most significant works in the field.

After a thorough and intensive review of the record in this case, Dr. Bruck opined to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty the following, which this Court determines to be credible, believable and finds as facts:

(a) that the disclosure process of the children in the Amirault case raises extremely serious doubts about the reliability of their allegations;

(b) that all of the circumstances, including the interviewing procedures that surrounded and promoted the children's disclosures in Amirault have a substantial risk of producing unreliable and false reports from young preschool children, and

(c) the failure to electronically record initial interviews with the children adds to the doubts about the reliability of the children's reports and makes it impossible for investigators, or a court, to establish the reliability of the children's reports or their later testimony.

[end page 11]

Scroll ahead to Part III B, "The Newly Discovered Evidence."

Go back to table of contents.