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Day Care Owners Convicted In Satanic Sex-Cult Hysteria Ask Texas Court to Clear Their Names

Daniel and Frances Keller were in the wrong profession at the wrong time: day care owners during the 1980s, at the height of American moral panic over just who was watching the children. As more American mothers entered the workforce, Satan-worshipping sex cultists couldn't resist the babysitting opportunities, or so the story went. And so powerful was the pull of this narrative that Texas proscutors had little trouble believing—based largely on children's "recovered " (and later recanted) memories—that the Kellers served kids blood-spiked Kool-Aid while dressing as pumpkins, raiding graveyards, and taking children on day-trips to Mexico to be raped by soldiers. In 1992, a jury found the now-divorced pair guilty of child sexual assault and they were sentenced to 48 years in prison apiece.

After serving 21 years, the Kellers were finally freed in 2013, when the only physical evidence of sexual assault was found to have been a mistake on the part of an examining physician. Travis County prosecutors agreed to release the Kellers from prison and asked the courts to vacate their convictions.

"But for the Kellers, freedom isn’t enough," the Austin-American Statesman reported this weekend. "They want the courts to declare them innocent" of the heinous crimes of which they were accused: 

Innocence, however, is one concession prosecutors are unwilling to make, and exoneration will not come easy. Defense lawyer Keith Hampton spent three years carefully amassing volumes of information attacking every aspect of the convictions, filing court documents arguing that the Kellers were convicted by the combined efforts of inept therapists, gullible police, a “charlatan” posing as an expert in satanic ritual abuse and an investigation that spiraled out of control — eventually producing a suspect list of 26 ritual abusers, including an Austin police captain and many of the Kellers’ neighbors.

(...) He had mental health professionals examine the Kellers for sex-offender tendencies; none were found. He had them take two polygraphs each; all were passed. Leading psychology and criminology professors explained how improper interview techniques and subtle encouragement by therapists likely produced believable but false memories in the children who accused the Kellers of abuse.

The totality of new evidence, Hampton argues, completely undermines the case against the Kellers and leads to one inescapable conclusion: "Dan and Fran Keller are innocent," he said. "None of these allegations are true."

But in order to receive an official exoneration, the Kellers must provide an "ironclad alibi", DNA evidence, or something similar, say prosecutors. In other words, they must somehow provide concrete evidence de-linking them from non-existent crimes. Fran told the Statesman:

"It’s so hard to prove you’re innocent when there was never a crime." 

More on the Kellers' plight here. Their exoneration plea was heard by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last week. Senior District Judge Wilford Flowers, who presided over the Kellers’ 1992 trial and their subsequent appeals, will present his initial findings today. The Kellers’ lawyer and Travis County prosecutors then have nine days to prepare rebuttals, after which the Court of Criminal Appeals will issue a final decision.

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  • JW||

    In lieu of a proclamation of innocence, I would settle for the head of everyone involved on the prosecuting side, on pikes, in front of the courthouse.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Why is Richard Dreyfuss in that photo?

  • Aresen||

    How about Alfred Dreyfus?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Who wasn't played by Richard Dreyfuss. He strangely portrayed Georges Picquart instead, which I find suspicious. J'accuse!

  • WTF||

    How about Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Also and increasingly suspiciously not played by Richard Dreyfuss.

  • Poppa Kilo||

    I'm not sure about including everyone - but I do think the Kellers should be able to pick two or three apiece...

  • ||

    I'd be interested in hearing what the jury members who convicted them have to say. You'd think a jury would help protect against absurd convictions like this. But instead, it convicted. I mean, I know that prosecutors deliberately attempt to pick sheep for the jury who will just rubber stamp the prosecution, but...damn. Not one of the jury members went "wait a second, this is all pretty farfetched"?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Is he a satanist? I mean, yes, he was evil in The Goodbye Girl, but Simon's plays always include a devil-worshiper.

  • Riven||

    "I'm being judged by twelve people too dumb to get out of jury duty."

  • ||

    My god, what a horrible, yet accurate, way to put it.

    "I'd like to request a trial by combat, please."

  • Riven||

    You'd have better odds with this than with a standard jury.

    I say all this without having ever been through jury selection. Honestly, I wouldn't really mind being a juror, I think.

  • ||

    I was thinking more of choosing Gregor Clegane to fight in my stead, I figure as long as he isn't up against Oberyn Martell I'm probably pretty set.

    I had to go to jury selection once. I did what I had to to get off the jury (not only didn't I feel like losing out on a few day's worth of consulting fees, it was a civil lawsuit for a clear ambulance-chasing situation), but you could see how skewed the process was. It's probably moderately interesting for a quick trial and absolute hell if it gets stretched out.

  • Idaho Bob||

    I've sat on three juries. One guilty, one hung, and one not guilty. The first case was battery (a fight), the second case was ADW against a police officer (four of us refused to convict), and the last case was multiple felonies, including kidnapping and rape. I can't speak for all juries, but the juries I sat on were people that wanted justice for both the defendant and the victims.

  • Warty||

    People like to do what they're told and they like to make authority figures happy. It takes a rare person to resist being pressured into convicting based on nothing, and prosecutors are very good at not allowing those people into a jury pool.

    So yes, they probably did think it was farfetched. And then they put that thought out of their minds almost instantaneously and did the job they were picked to do.

  • ||

    That, and also the pressure from other jury members to just convict and get the hell out of there is probably often very severe. TWELVE ANGRY MEN DAMNIT

    People like to do what they're told and they like to make authority figures happy

    Just. Like. Your. Mom.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Maybe it's some anti-Semitic photoshopping of him into the picture?

  • John||

    Juries are just members of society. I am sure they were caught up in the "oh my God they harmed a child" hysteria.

    The problem is that we have created such a cult of the child in this society, that a good number of people literally can't think rationally about a case involving a child victim. They just can't and will believe anything the government tells them.

  • Aresen||

    True, but as has been pointed out before, prosecuters aggressively select against jurors who show any sign of independent thought or assertiveness.

  • ||

    And the trial combined the cult of the child and the cult of the expert. Both of which are largely unchallenged.

  • CE||

    They were dressing as pumpkins and serving red koolaid on Halloween. What more evidence do you need?

  • Zeb||

    In addition to what everyone else said, some people of certain religious bents believe some pretty crazy stuff about the devil. And I've encountered enough people who have said that they would do evil things if it wasn't for their religious beliefs that I believe that there are plenty of people out there who think that satanists would do exactly this sort of thing. Of course there was no actual evidence that they were satanists at all, but who would admit to that?

  • Lord Humungus||

    West Memphis Three comes to mind.

  • ||

    The documentary on that is chilling.

  • John||

    I am acquainted with one of the defense attorneys in that case. Spent three weeks at a course with him. During a night out drinking, I was able to obtain his opinion of the case.

    He believed that his clients were probably guilty of the crime. They were, however, victims of proprietorial misconduct and should have never been convicted. What happened was the police knew the community and immediately had a good idea who committed the crime and they were more likely than not right about that. The problems arose when the police were too lazy to do their jobs and prove the case and instead relied on framing the people they thought were guilty of the crime.

    It was in his words the classic case of lazy and incompetent police and prosecutors framing the likely guilty parties. The victims in that case was the community of West Memphis and the families of the victims who thanks to the corruption and incompetence of their public servants were denied justice for a horrific crime.

  • Warty||

    Interesting.

  • John||

    Warty, he never would come out and say he thought they were guilty, but he left that impression pretty clearly. And when you think about it, they likely were. It is unlikely that if they hadn't committed the crime, the people who did would have gotten out of the kid raping and killing business. You don't do that just once to see what it was like. And there were no more murders like that after those guys were arrested.

    But, more likely than not is not the standard to convict. They were clearly legally innocent judging by the evidence available.

  • ||

    That's really interesting. Have you seen the documentary (there are two sequels as well)? Because it paints a far different picture; it makes a strong case for their innocence and even has a likely other suspect. Now, I know that documentaries are pretty much always biased, but wow, what a difference from what that defense attorney said.

    Regardless, I recommend the documentary for the contrast in perspective.

  • John||

    The Docs were great Epi. And I had seen them before meeting him. And like all Docs, they are apparently not the full truth. I could never get him to come out and say it and I wouldn't expect him to. But he definitely left the impression that the step father and the other suspects were not very good suspects.

    Only those guys know for sure. But I think it is a good bet they were guilty. But really, so what? That doesn't give the police the right to frame them, which they clearly did.

  • albo||

    This whole mess could have been avoided if their defense lawyers had just brought a turntable to court and played Led Zeppelin IV backwards, which if you do you can hear a voice saying "They are innocent, they are innocent."

    Backwards masking, my friend.

  • The Original Jason||

    Look, a Teathuglikkkan is calling for the death of a brave Democrat!

    /end prog

  • Trouser-Pod||

    Sweet Jesus... this guy thought Brown was a "neanderthal"? Sounds like he'd be right at home practicing in Cuba.

  • Lord Humungus||

    See the system works!

  • Swiss Servator, Winter kommt!||

    Senior District Judge Wilford Flowers, who presided over the Kellers’ 1992 trial and their subsequent appeals, will present his initial findings today.

    "I completely f'd up in my job and let this BS happen - of course they are innocent!"

    Yeah, I expect to see that in writing.

  • Raston Bot||

    Judge Flowers? That bastard!

  • ||

    “charlatan” posing as an expert in satanic ritual abuse and an investigation that spiraled out of control — eventually producing a suspect list of 26 ritual abusers, including an Austin police captain and many of the Kellers’ neighbors."

    So it was a witch trial.

  • Poppa Kilo||

    They probably weighed as much as a duck - which, as we know, is conclusive.

  • ||

    Possibly the funniest part of that scene( I missed it the first few times I saw the movie because I was laughing so hard) was after they sentenced the "witch" to burn and she said "It was a fair trial."

  • ||

    I'm actually pretty positive she says "it's a fair cop", but the intent is still the same.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I thought she said "it was a fait accompli" e.g., decided beforehand.

  • BakedPenguin||

    But your line is funnier.

  • Swiss Servator, Winter kommt!||

    It is a Brit comedy - they had her say "its a fair cop".

  • Andrew S.||

    I think that witch trials required more evidence than what these two were convicted on.

  • ||

    At least back then they required that someone saw someone consorting with the devil.

    Did anyone see any of these folk consorting with the devil?

    I rest my case!

  • BakedPenguin||

    In one of the best ever uses of litigation in the US, the original Salem witch trials were stopped by a Virginia gentleman who was visiting. When he was accused of being a witch, he threatened to sue all his accusers, and they backed down.

  • Zeb||

    So it was a witch trial.

    Yes, quite literally so.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    I've mentioned this before: I'm a proud alumnus of McMartin Preschool.

  • GILMORE||

    "I'm a proud alumnus of McMartin Preschool"

    Go HellSpawn!
    (team mascot)

    Because preschools should have team sports. why not? I say 'cage fighting' would be a good start, then you could move to having them play "Dog Polo".

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Hmmm, close.

    According to the investigators, all of our artwork was painted with animal blood. Which then tested negative for animal blood.

  • Poppa Kilo||

    Yeah, but witches can do that.

  • Warty||

    There was no abuse! You enjoyed it, after all.

  • ||

    Mac: OK, look at this. (holds up a picture of him as a young boy) Look at this guy, huh? I was cute. I was energetic. I was fun. I mean, what exactly was this prick looking for?

    Dennis: What are you—

    Dee: Sorry?

    Mac: If the McPoyles got blown, and Charlie got blown, then why didn’t I get blown?

    Dennis: You’re goin’ to hell, dude.

    Dee: Seriously.

  • BakedPenguin||

    One of their best eps ever. I love when Charlie comes out from speaking to the cops.

    McPoyle: How'd it go?

    Charlie puts his hands on their shoulders

    Charlie: Well, I just totally ratted you guys out.

  • ||

    You're supposed to whisper that behind his back, not actually say it to him. You ruin all the fun games.

  • SIV||

    "Naked Movie Star"

  • GILMORE||

    Look, i can't be bothered to read the story = can someone just provide me the link to the Satanic Sex-Cult and does anyone know if the fees are monthly or annual?

  • flye||

    But in order to receive an official exoneration, the Kellers must provide an "ironclad alibi"

    You are all still on the hook for 9/11.

  • Brian D||

    Well it's not as if we can just presume that they're innocent, right?

  • nuffcedmcgreevey||

    "Do you have DNA evidence that proves that you DIDN'T commit this crime? No? Well alright, then."

  • creech||

    This story must be a total fabrication. We have it, on good authority, that only black folks are subject to prosecutorial misconduct.

  • ||

    It's fascinating that this is what you got out of the story.

  • Poppa Kilo||

    Well, what else is there?

    We MUST examine EVERYTHING through the prism of race to have ANY hope of eliminating racism.

    Q.E.D.

  • R C Dean||

    I would expect most of the "yes-means-yes" crowd to roll their eyes at the notion of satanic sex abuse rings.

    It would be interesting to pull their cognitive-dissonance trigger by pointing out that, under a burden-is-on-the-defendant approach to trying rape cases, they are requiring people to prove that they didn't rape children, etc. As the article points out:

    In other words, they must somehow provide concrete evidence de-linking them from non-existent crimes. Fran told the Statesman:

    "It’s so hard to prove you’re innocent when there was never a crime."

    For extra fun, these cases typically involved the conviction of women, as well. So their quick and easy jail-the-man reflex doesn't really work super well, either.

    I wonder how they will like being on the same side as these ignorant hillbilly male redneck prosecutors?

  • John||

    I have no doubt in ten or twenty years when this current hysteria passes (and it will pass, they always do), there will be scores of innocent men released from prison after serving years for rapes they didn't commit.

    There will also be women who awaken from their slumber of victimhood to realize that they have committed an act of unspeakable evil and sent an innocent man to prison. The whole thing will result in nothing but a long trail strewn with broken and destroyed lives.

  • Restoras||

    There will also be women who awaken from their slumber of victimhood to realize that they have committed an act of unspeakable evil

    Maybe some will, but most won't.

  • John||

    I didn't say all. I meant some. Yes, some of them will either be real sociopaths who knew they were lying and won't care or they will be too weak to face the truth and spend their lives avoiding it by convincing themselves they were victims. But a few will wake up and face what they have done and it won't be pleasant for them.

  • John C. Randolph||

    I would expect most of the "yes-means-yes" crowd to roll their eyes at the notion of satanic sex abuse rings.

    Why? Do witch hunters strictly limit themselves to only one kind of witch?

    -jcr

  • ||

    Wow, what barbaric times those 90s were. Good thing that we've gotten so much more enlightened since then and gave up hunting those witches in favor of hunting rape culture witches.

  • Poppa Kilo||

    The latest? Complaints about TELEPATHIC rape (which apparently occurs to the objects of your fantasies while self-pleasuring).

    1. I wish I were making that up.

    2. How do they know?

  • ||

    What the literal fuck.

  • Poppa Kilo||

    Actually, more like a virtual one...

  • Zeb||

    That's really just the standard anti-porn feminist line, isn't it? Most people of either sex who have non-pathological views on sexuality rightly laugh that shit out of the room. Women have specific sexual fantasies about people at least as much as men do as far as I can figure.

  • ||

    Thought crime. If you thought about having sex with someone, then that's rape. Can't prove that you didn't think about it? Rape!

  • JW||

    Is that 2nd hand rape?

  • Restoras||

    Isn't telepathic rape just teh male gaze? Or is it more like this movie...
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt00.....lmg_act_60

  • Zeb||

    Well, at least rape is something that actually ever happens.

  • ||

    You mean that always happens... or is it only 1 in 3 times? Oh wait, it's whatever the rape culture nuts decide.

  • Zeb||

    No, I mean actual rape.

  • ||

    Well, sorry, I can't help but being a rape apologist, I'm part of the patriarchy, it's in my genes. It's the same reason why I deny global warming, hate children, and don't want to pay my fair share.

  • Mickey Rat||

    There goes your Senatorial ambitions.

  • Aresen||

    Won't somebody think of the cute little devils?

  • Zeb||

    I can't imagine what I would be demanding if I had been locked up for 21 years for bullshit. It seems like wrongly convicted people often are remarkably calm. I feel like I'd be demanding heads roll and millions of dollars in compensation. In addition to the prosecution, I'd like some of the supposed "experts" who testified to do some time. How are they any better than some psycho who keeps innocent people locked in their basement dungeon for years?

  • ChrisO||

    Texas is amazingly crappy when it comes to compensating the wrongly imprisoned. IIRC, the legislature has to specifically apportion the money at issue for it to happen.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Especially considering they probably were not treated especially well by other prisoners during that time.

  • Roger the Shrubber||

    If they killed one of the prosecutors, could they find a jury to convict?

    Being that all relevant evidence to their motive would be excluded, the answer is yes.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Since Texas has that "he needed killing" defense, if one of these people offed their persecutors, if I were on their jury, they'd walk.

    -jcr

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    "an expert in satanic ritual abuse"

    I'm a unicorn expert.

  • Lord Humungus||

    I have a major in Witchcraft with a minor in Pixie Magic.

  • ||

    I have a major in Witchcraft with a minor in Pixie Magic

    Can you make global warming come up from the bottom of the ocean to shut up those tea fucking deniers?

  • ||

    I'm a unicorn expert

    The Obama administration has a high paying position of national importance for you.

  • flye||

    In my office I have a toy unicorn that poops rainbows. It's the spirit animal for many of my projects.

  • Andrew S.||

    Excuse me, but I'm H&R's resident unicorn expert. It should be obvious why.

  • ||

    So... If you're freed because no crime was committed for you to be convicted of, you can't have your innocence back because....

    I'm not sure I see the case for abuse this rule was set up to prevent. No crime == Automatic innocence.

    Separately, how has there not been a massive lawsuit bankrupting several private entities and a couple of counties with regard to the abuse of those children to make them "remember" things that never happened?

  • Raston Bot||

    As far as an occult summoning from the vasty deep, is there anything better than children's blood?

  • ||

    and yet even in a witch trial, the accused LEOs get to walk.

  • Seamus||

    Tell it to Grant Snowden.

  • Paul.||

    The next media craze: Satanic gang rape of children in universities!

  • Paul.||

    Oh, and I forgot: while inside an Audi that's suddenly accelerating.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    "taking children on day-trips to Mexico to be raped by soldiers"

    OK, humor me here - was there any investigation in Mexico itself? I mean, you want to track down those soldier/rapists, don't you?

  • John C. Randolph||

    But in order to receive an official exoneration, the Kellers must provide an "ironclad alibi", DNA evidence, or something similar, say prosecutors.

    Who fucking cares what the persecutors say? It's up to the judge, isn't it? The case against them is bullshit, it's been proven to be bullshit, and the judge should say so.

    -jcr

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