The first significant defense witness in the McMartin Pre-School molestation trial, a psychologist highly critical of the interview methods used with the alleged child victims, took the stand late Tuesday, but his testimony was cut short by prosecution objections.
In a special hearing earlier in the day with the jury excused, psychologist Michael Maloney told the judge that his review of interviews conducted at Children’s Institute International had led him to conclude that the interviews are “definitely invalid” and that “they (the children) were so contaminated by the process itself that, no matter what they said, at the end you’d have a hard time saying where it (their accounts) came from.”
Maloney said he watched and analyzed the videotaped interviews and read the transcripts, word by word, asking himself, “Are these children saying things I cannot account for by their being told?” But he cautioned that, based on the tapes alone, “I can’t answer the final question--whether these kids were molested or not.”
The defense’s primary argument is that inept interviewers used suggestive questions and pressure to lead children to say--and sometimes believe--that they had been molested by teachers at the Manhattan Beach nursery school. Prosecutors relied heavily on the interviews in deciding to file charges.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Pounders said he would allow Maloney to testify because Pounders views the videotapes as “one of the central issues, if not the central issue,” of the case.
In late afternoon testimony before the jury, however, Maloney had scarcely recited his credentials before the prosecutors objected to the showing of large charts and excerpts rearranged by subject from the videotapes of the nine children who eventually testified. Pounders halted the proceeding for the day and will take up the matter this morning.
Maloney, a clinical psychologist who is an associate professor of psychiatry at the USC School of Medicine and director of a Pasadena clinic, said he has evaluated “hundreds” of children in which sexual abuse was an issue.
He is the 33rd defense witness to testify in the trial of Raymond Buckey, 30, and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 62, who are charged with a total of 65 counts of molestation and conspiracy.
So far, the defense has called several former teachers from the school, including two former defendants, neighbors and friends. Employees of a grocery store and a car wash, where children said they were taken for illicit purposes, also testified, as well as principals associated with a church and a farm where prosecutors believe that children watched animal sacrifices and satanic rituals.
All witnesses have denied knowledge of any molestations.