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Indictment: The McMartin Trial

"Indictment" angrily theorizes that defendants in the McMartin Pre-School sex molestation case were victims of hysteria and prosecutors. Docudramas use records and dramatic license almost interchangeably, making rumor and conjecture often stronger than official records or transcripts. In July 1983, the mother of a boy at the well-regarded pre-school called Manhattan Beach police because her son's bottom was red, and he kept mentioning "Ray," a man at school. The mother later alleged trips to Palm Springs during school hours, and satanic rituals. That September, Ray Buckey, his mother, Peggy, and grandmother Virginia McMartin, were arrested, questioned, and released for lack of evidence. The McMartin problem went public when L.A. reporter Wayne Satz began inflammatory "exclusives," claiming sexual abuse and satanism.

Hysteria forced an L.A. County grand jury to arrest Buckey, his mother, grandmother, sister, and three teachers, in March, 1984. The trial lasted six years, cost $16 million, and was the first televised live in CA. Media frenzy led to national paranoia about day-care, but the state dropped all charges when the jury deadlocked.

"Indictment" blasts the media, and the entire therapy profession, represented here by Kee MacFarlane (Davidovich), an unlicensed child therapist who videotaped sessions with the children, as she waves anatomically-correct puppets in their faces confused faces, and badgers them to tell her events they initially deny. She went on TV with Satz (Blum) saying, "We might be dealing with a nationwide conspiracy of child predators." Fast-talking D.A. Danny Davis (Woods) got spat on and pummeled in the courthouse, says, "Who had the time to stop and listen to God? They were all too busy watching television."

"Indictment" is blatantly one-sided, which lessens its impact. The film would've been dramatically stronger - a cautionary tale about how modern, TV-aided witch hunts start - if the bad guys' reasons were revealed, but the Manns never explore why McMartin parents "bought" tales about beheaded giraffes and babies' blood. What made parents everywhere susceptible to fears about day-care? Can we muzzle the media, or therapists? "Indictment" also shows contempt for children. Young actors and actresses re-enact the McMartin kids' testimony - with the cumulative effect of making ALL claims of child sexual abuse bogus.
Director(s): Oliver Stone
Writer(s): Abby and Myra Mann
Cast: James Woods, Henry Thomas, Mercedes Ruehl, Mark Blum, Lolita Davidovitch
Release Date: 1995   
Keyword: McMartin sexual abuse of preschoolers
Target Age: 15+   Category: media
Documentary: no
Language: English   Reviewer's Name: Micah
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