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Out of The Mouth of Two or Three Talebearers

Everyone knows that the Buckeys are nothing more than guilty child-abusers, right?

Of course, everyone travailed through the eighteen-month preliminary hearing during which charges against five of the seven original defendants were dismissed for lack of evidence. Everyone sat in court for two and a half years carefully evaluating the testimony and credibility of all one-hundred and twenty-four witnesses. Everyone carefully weighed and evaluated the more than one thousand pieces of evidence introduced at trial. And everyone spent nine weeks with the jury carefully deliberating each of the fifty-two criminal counts against the accused.

No. The American press and public have improved upon the Biblical concept the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Led on a leash by the American press, the American public chose to take the easy road, the road of prejudice. Everyone knows the Buckeys are guilty because everyone pre-judged the Buckeys before all the evidence was in -- indeed, before any evidence was in. And why not? They were easy targets. After all, they just looked guilty!

The aftermath of the McMartin case proves an important truth which has very little to do with the Buckeys, and has everything to do with us. Instead of reacting emotionally and irrationally to issues of concern like the McMartin trial, we need to cultivate and nurture a sound Biblical approach to such issues. And the Bible has a lot to say about the way the American press and public reacted to the McMartin trial.

Believe it or not, the Bible itself teaches that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. This presumption of innocence is not an artifice of liberal twentieth century jurisprudence. It is biblical. According to biblical justice, if only one witness could testify to the guilt of the accused, the accused walked free. Biblical justice, then, contemplates the chance that a truly guilty criminal might go unpunished. Why? Better that one or more truly guilty men go unpunished than that one innocent man be punished for a crime he didn't commit. To safeguard against punishing the innocent, the Bible instructs us that the accused is innocent until proven guilty.

In order to prove that the accused is guilty, the Bible imposes a heavy burden upon prosecutors: the evidence against the accused must be confirmed by the mouth of two or three witnesses. And for good reason: you don't send someone up the river because he might have committed the alleged crime. Rather, the evidence the prosecution presents must be so compelling that there is no reasonable doubt that the accused committed the alleged crime. And to be compelling, the testimony must only come from multiple witnesses, it must also be confirmed, by the credible and consistent testimony of another source.

But even if the evidence confirms the fact that a crime was committed, the Bible also teaches that the evidence must link the accused to the crime. It is one thing to prove that children have been molested. It is quite another to prove that the accused is the one who molested them. The accused must never be punished when the evidence does not prove that he is the one who committed the alleged crime, no matter how vehement the public outcry. After all, to punish the accused to salve the public is not biblical. It is utilitarian.

To prevent innocent criminal defendants from being punished for crimes they didn't commit, biblical justice also demands that false witnesses are to be prosecuted for perjury, and if found guilty, are to be punished with the same punishment they sought to impose upon the accused. According to the Bible, perjury is not a minor annoyance. It is both a heinous sin and crime.

Aside from teaching us about due process, the Bible also teaches us that if we are to learn to think God's thoughts after Him, we need to stop jumping to conclusions and pandering to mass hysteria. How did this case arise in the first place? The first charge was planted in the mind of a two-year-old child by an alcoholic mother (now dead) who had a history of mental "illness." This same mother, apparently to bolster the credibility of her accusations, also claimed that an AWOL Marine had sodomized her dog. Thereafter, the Manhattan Beach Police Department sent a question-begging letter to over two-hundred families asking children if they ever saw Raymond Buckey leave class alone with a child or tie a child up. A few months later, over twelve hundred alleged victims answered the call, claiming to have been victimized by Raymond Buckey, his mother, grandmother, sister and three female teachers.

It's time to realize that rage and hysteria are not substitutes for evidence. We cannot spit in the face of due process without incurring tremendous costs to our own freedom in the long run.

The sad truth in this whole episode is that the Buckeys do not stand alone. In the wake of the pandemonium surrounding the McMartin case, hundreds of innocent teachers and day care workers have fallen prey to false accusations occasioned by overactive imaginations and bureaucrats out to solve another "crisis."

Indeed, it's time for the real criminals in the McMartin case to stand trial: the American press and public. Both are guilty of prejudice in the first degree. Face it: acquittal on all fifty-two counts is no fluke of justice. No legal loophole. No procedural technicality. And it certainly takes more than a city-slick defense attorney.

Far from being a failure of justice, the McMartin case is a vindication of justice, for it teaches us that criminal defendants can still receive a fair trial inside the courtroom even when those with their microphones, cameras, and television sets outside the courtroom have already pronounced their verdicts.

Maybe it's time we all learned the difference between a witness and a talebearer.


Copyright © by Covenant Community Church of Orange County 1990
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