Date of Alleged Crime: 1983
In 1983, a mentally unbalanced woman named Judy Johnson
enrolled her two-year-old son, Matthew, in the McMartin Preschool. She
became obsessed with Matthew's rectal problems and began thinking they were
a result of sexual abuse. Soon Judy was making accusations against Ray
Buckey, 28, the only male who worked at the school and who was the grandson
of Virginia McMartin, 79, the school's founder. Matthew denied abuse
at first, but soon Judy was making more accusations against Ray based on
what Matthew allegedly said.
The police obtained a list of all children who ever attended the school and
began questioning parents. They asked them to question their children.
The police later encouraged parents to bring their children to abuse
counselors who encouraged children using anatomically correct dolls to
change from their alleged natural state of denial to giving details of
Reports of abuse snowballed and soon the entire staff of the preschool was
indicted and arrested, including Ray Buckey, his mother Peggy, his sister
Peggy Ann, his grandmother Virginia, and 3 female teachers. They were
charged with 208 counts of child abuse and except for Virginia McMartin, all
were denied bail. The original accuser soon disintegrated. Her
husband left her, she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and she
died of alcoholism.
At a preliminary hearing lasting 19 months, the prosecution claimed to have
solid evidence of abuse—hundreds of photographs of the anuses and vaginas of
the children, but no one could quite see what the expert medical interpreter
did. Even the three medical doctors for the prosecution could not
agree on what they saw. Many children told wild tales that could not
possibly be true. The prosecutors even began to break ranks.
Prosecutor Glenn Stevens resigned, claiming that they were putting seven
innocent people through an ordeal and he wanted no further part in it.
Another member of the original team, Christine Johnson, also asked to be
removed. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, charges were
dropped against all defendants for lack of evidence except for Ray and his
mother, Peggy Buckey.
To get a change of venue, the defense attorneys commissioned an opinion
survey. An astounding 97.5 percent of the people in the area believed
the defendants were guilty, one of the highest figures of prejudice ever
recorded in a poll. Nevertheless, the change of venue motion was
Jury selection for the trial began in April 1987, almost 4 years after the
initial accusation. In testifying about abuse, using photographs, a
so-called medical expert pointed out suspect “white tissue,” which turned
out to be reflections of light on the photographs. A child abuse
investigator could name no credentials or training she had but was only a
grant writer. The trial lasted 28 months even though the judge began
striking defense witnesses at the end because only one alternate juror
remained, raising the possibility of a mistrial.
In Jan 1990, the jury hung on 13 counts (all against Ray) but acquitted both
Ray and Peggy of the remaining charges. Five months later, another
trial began against Ray, but the jury in it became deadlocked as well and
charges were dismissed. After 7 years the McMartin case was the
longest and most expensive legal proceeding in American history. It
had cost the community almost $16 million, and resulted in no convictions.
Victims of the State,
Suburban Los Angeles Cases,
Child Abuse Cases,
Favorite Case Stories