Saturday, January 04, 2014

Innocence Isn't Enough by G. John Armstrong

Innocence Isn't Enough: A Journey Into the Nightmare of False Accusation, G. John Armstrong. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2005. e-book, 301 pps.

He was a teacher somewhere on the West Coast. He was dedicated and happy in his work. But all of that changed in 1989. Elizabeth Loftus' ground-breaking work on how memory actually works was still being cursed by some gung-ho therapists and patients who believed in the truth of "recovered memories." [Some still curse her work and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in turn]. 

He was indicted on five charges of sexual assaults which involved three students. Yes, 'repressed memories' figured significantly in the case. The dedicated teacher supposedly had a torrid affair with one student at his home several times a week. He supposedly operated as a perpetrator would, identifying the weak and shy students and culling them from the herd for his deviant purposes. The public who read about the case or heard about the case automatically assumed guilt. The justice system also did. Investigators wanted to believe those that came forward instead of investigating the evidence as objectively as possible. He was threatened with a long prison term. Life began to suck badly.

There was a protracted Board of Education arbitration hearing with a three-member panel. That sort of hearing does not take place everyday over the course of a week or so. His took place over the course of a year and a half. It wasn't done yet when he told his lawyer that he'd had enough. The schedule was random and unpredictable. His life was being dictated by the Board in accordance with when he was to show up or not show up. He withdrew from the hearing and felt that he had gotten part of his life back.

In late 1990, sometime after the aborted hearing process, the author and his elderly parents learned via a radio news broadcast that he was facing criminal charges. The prosecutor did not contact the author's attorney before his press release. Everything is supposed to go through the attorney first but this was not done. Instead, the media got the story and ran with it. Finally, he received copies of his indictment and of some transcripts of investigations which were carried out. [These are reproduced word-for-word in the book].

In November of 1992, after two prosecutors quit, the teacher's lawyer (now from Legal Aid) succeeded in getting the case thrown out on constitutional grounds. The case had kept changing as witnesses kept changing or embellishing their stories, as more 'memories' were recovered, as the prosecution kept adding witnesses last minute.

The other side appealed. In May of 1993, three appellate court judges threw the case out forever. The man was finally free to get on with his life and a new career. In spite of his innocence, he would never teach again.

sapphoq reviews says: False accusations do happen for a variety of reasons. A vic might mix up the benign actions of one person with those of someone who actually did victimize him or her. G. John Armstrong maintains in his book that some people just like to cause other people pain.

Innocence Isn't Enough was very persuasive and believable. The author was the true victim of an over-zealous system. In reading the court documents and transcripts, I was able to detect the major contradictions in the testimonies of the three accusers and their allies. 

A sad story. I wish G. John Armstrong the best in his future endeavors. Highly recommended.

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