About Gardener, he also was involved in the Kelly Michaels case, she was convicted in 1988 of 115 counts of sexual abuse against 20 children at the Wee Care Nursery in Maplewood, NJ. She was sent to jail for 47 years but got out in 1993 on appeal. She was 23 when she was charged. Gardener wrote this in a letter to the NYTimes:
I believe we are witnessing a wave of hysteria in both categories of sex-abuse accusations. The hysteria has resulted in overreaction and often Draconian punishment for those who have abused children, punishment that can be considered beyond Constitutional safeguards against cruel and unusual punishment. And this hysteria has also resulted in lack of objectivity of assessment, resulting in "validation" of sex abuse when it has not taken place. Accordingly, the careers and marriages of innocent people have been destroyed, and some people have even been incarcerated.
Here is the way interviews were conducted on the children:
The following excerpted interview, along with our annotated comments, summarizes many of the points made in this section. The interviewer, an experienced social worker, is denoted I, and he is interviewing one child, denoted C. Occasionally a police detective (P) joins the interview.
I: We have gotten a lot of other kids to help us since I last saw you.
C: No. I don't have to.
I: Oh come on. Did we tell you she is in jail?
C: Yes. My mother already told me.
Comment: It is obvious that this interviewer was not neutral regarding the defendant's guilt, insinuating that because she is now jail he need not be afraid of he r, although it is not clear that this child was ever afraid. Also note the use of peer pressure.
I: Well, we can get out of here real quick if you just tell me what you told me last time.
Comment: There is no desire on the part of this interviewer to test an alternative hypothesis; rather he desires the child to reaffirm on tape what he said in an earlier interview through the use of a bribe.
C: I forgot.
I: No you didn't, I know you didn't.
C: I did, I did.
I: No, come on.
C: I forgot.
I: I thought we were friends last time.
C: I'm not your friend any more.
I: How come?
C: Because I hate you.
I: Is it because we are talking about stuff you don't want to talk about? What are you a monster now? Huh? ....
Comment: This interviewing borders on being coercive. There is little respect for the child's wish not to discuss this matter.
I: We talked to a few more of your buddies - we talked to everybody now. And everyone told me about the nap room, and the bathroom stuff, and the music room stuff, and the choir stuff, and the peanut butter stuff, and nothing surprises me any more.
Comment: Again, further evidence that no alternative hypothesis is being te sted. The interviewer essentially tells the child that his friends already told on th e defendant, and that he, the child, should do the same.
C: I hate you.
I: No you don't... You just don't like talking about this, but you don't hate me.
C: Yes, I do hate you.
I: We can finish this real fast if you just show me real fast what you showed me last time.
I: I will let you play my tape recorder....Come on, do you want to help us out? Do you want to help us keep her in jail, huh? ...Tell me what happened to (three other children). Tell me what happened to them. Come on.....I need your help again, buddy. Come on.
I: You told us everything once before. Do you want to undress my dolly?
I: Let's get done with this real quick so we could go to Kings to get popsicles....Did (defendant) ever tell you she could get out of jail?
Comment: The interviewer comes close to bribing the child for a disclosure, by implying that the aversive interview can be terminated as soon as the child repeats what he said earlier. Popsicles and playing with a tape recorder are offere d as rewards.
Police: She could never get out.
C: I know that.
Police: Cause I got her... She is very afraid of me. She is so scared of me.
I: She cries when she sees him (indicating the police detective) because she is so scared... What happened to (another child) with the wooden spoon? If you don't remember in words, maybe you can show me.
Comment: Note the authoritative statements of the policeman. There is no attempt to test the hypothesis that the defendant did not do what they believed she did. Instead, we see further attempts to vilify the defendant to make it more likely the chi ld will confirm their hunch about her.
C: I forgot what happened, too.
I: You remember. You told your mommy about everything, about the music room, and the nap room. And all the stuff. You want to help her stay in jail, don't you? So she doesn't bother you any more...Your mommy told me that you had a picture of yourself in your room and there was blood on your penis. Who hurt you?
C: (child names the defendant).
I: So, your penis was bleeding, oh. Your penis was bleeding. Tell me something else: was your hiney bleeding, too?
Comment: The child never says to this investigator that his penis was bleeding. The investigator provides this misleading information to the child.
I: Did (defendant) bleed, too?
I: Are you sure she didn't bleed?
C: Yes.... I saw her penis, too.
I: Show me on the (anatomical) doll....you saw that? Oh.
C: See doodied on me...She peed on us.
I: And did you have to pee on her at all?
I: You did? And who peed on her, you and who else?
C: (child names a male friend)
I: Didn't his penis bleed?
I: It did? What made it bleed? What was she doing?
C: She was bleeding.
I: She was bleeding in her penis? Did you have to put your penis in her penis? Yes or No?
C: Yeah...And I peed in her penis.
I: What was that like? What did it feel like?
C: Like a shot.
I: Did (friend) have to put his penis in her penis, too?
C: Yes, at the same time.
I: At the same time? How did you do that?
C: We chopped our penises off.
I: So, she was bleeding in her penis and you had your penis and your friend's inside her penis.
C: At the same time.
Frequently, the people charged couldnot make bail--either b/c it was set too high (like a million dollars or really high like tht ) or it was denied. One guy in the Little rascals case in NC was in jail 3 and a half years just waiting for a trial, and he had never even been in the Daycare, didn't know the kids, and had only been questioned once by police. Frontline did a series of reports on that case over a 7 year period.
NARRATOR: Betsy stayed in prison almost one full year. In the middle of 1993, Glenn Lancaster, a successful businessman in Raleigh, North Carolina, picked up a local paper. He read a story about the Little Rascals case and about the man the writer called "the forgotten defendant," Scott Privott, who had been languishing in jail for over 3 and half years awaiting trial.
GLENN LANCASTER: I'm finding myself saying, "This cannot happen in America. This cannot happen. This doesn't happen in our country," you know? I mean, we don't throw people in jail without even-- the police even interrogating them or talking to them or asking them questions.
NARRATOR: But obviously, it had happened. In the three and half years that Scott Privott had been in jail, hehad been interrogated by the police only once.
JOE CHESHIRE, Defense Attorney: Most people in the public think that a plea is kind of a-- you've bought your way out of something. You've gotten some fast talking lawyer who's gotten you out and your happy as a clam. You can't imagine the pressures that there are on you when people have accused you of a crime. You can't imagine how your life changes. When you're charged with a crime, you're raped. And sometimes you're guilty. But if you're not, it changes your life forever. Forever.