Archive for the ‘Shanley’ Category

Terrific Article on the Father Paul Shanley Case

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

The Nation has just published a terrific article on the Father Paul Shanley case, by our good friend, JoAnn Wypijewski.

I urge you all to read it and pass it on:

-Bob Chatelle

Massachusetts SJC to Review Shanley Case

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

This morning I learned that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has granted a direct review of the Paul Shanley case. Here is a copy of the petition.

To learn more about the Shanley case, read my previous post, which is my account of the trial, and visit this link.

It will be interesting to see whether the SJC confronts or ducks the issue of whether repressed-memory testimony can be considered reliable in Massachusetts.

-Bob Chatelle

A Review of the Shanley Trial

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

Four years ago, my parnter Jim D’Entremont and I attended the trial of Father Paul Shanley. At the time, I sent a few reports to my old FOJ mailing list. I would like to repost those reports here:

My Comments on the Shanley Trial

After the jury went out, but before the guilty verdict came in, I sent the following message to the people on my mailing list:

Dear Friend of Justice,
What needed to be made crystal clear to the Shanley jury — as well as to the media and the public — was that “repressed memory” (more accurately “traumatic amnesia” or “dissociative amnesia”), if it exists, is something radically different than the kind of forgetting, forgetting about, and remembering that all of us are very familiar with from our own experiences.
We all forget, or forget about experiences, often for years, and often we recall them when we encounter an appropriate trigger. We can and do forget or forget about unpleasant experiences, even very unpleasant experiences. (My own pet theory is that we are especially prone to forget about experiences in which we behaved in ways we are not proud of, or experiences that deeply embarrassed us. Events, in other words, that cause what is called cognitive dissonance. But I don’t know the literature well enough to know if research has been done in this area.)
The theory of traumatic amnesia is that — at least for some significant number of people — very disturbing, traumatic events (especially repeated traumatic events) are somehow banished from consciousness in order to protect the individual. As Dr. Chu testified at the Shanley trial, these memories are locked up behind what he called a “dissociative wall” and are not accessible until something happens to break the wall. Only when the wall is broken will the memories come flooding back.
The memory wars are about a number of issues. Is there any reliable and credible evidence that traumatic amnesia even exists? If it does exist, how common is it? If it exists and the “dissociative wall” is broken, are the “recovered memories” reliable? (These are not the only issues, but these are a few of them.)
The memory wars are being fought within the clinical, not the scientific, communities. Scientists, as a rule, are extremely skeptical about “traumatic amnesia” because the evidence to support it simply doesn’t exist. Evidence that has been advanced to support the theory, on examination, has thus far turned out to be too flawed to be of scientific use.
I was hesitant to write the preceding short paragraphs, because most of the world’s leading experts on memory happen to be members of this list. I expect to receive some corrections from them. (In my defense, I didn’t consult any sources, I just wrote those paragraphs off the top of my head.)
Paul Busa — Paul Shanley’s accuser — claims to have been repeatedly raped on a near weekly basis by Paul Shanley over a period of six years. Busa only discovered this three years ago, however, because he claims to have suffered traumatic amnesia. There is no evidence other than his recovered memories to corroborate his accusations. Although Busa claimed that Shanley regularly removed  Busa from class in order to rape him, Rooney could produce not a single witness who ever saw this happen. Not one teacher. Not one student.
Since the only evidence against Shanley was Paul Busa’s uncorroborated recovered memories, it was critical that the jury know (1) what traumatic amnesia is supposed to be and (2) what the evidence is that it even exists and (3) whether memories “recovered” after years of being locked away by traumatic amnesia are reliable.
Had Dr. Elizabeth Loftus been given 10 to 15 minutes to make a short presentation, she would have made all of this extremely clear. Only a handful of people in the world know this material as well as she does.
Unfortunately, that is not how courtrooms work. Loftus could only present information in response to questions. Dr. Loftus was first at the mercy of a defense attorney who didn’t seem to know the questions he should ask,  and then at the mercy of a ruthless and underhanded prosecutor who was only interested in distorting Loftus’ work so that it would seem to prove the very opposite of what it in fact does prove. Finally, Loftus was again at the mercy of a defense attorney who did not give her the opportunity to undo Rooney’s dirty work in redirect examination.
While I retain some hope, I do not expect to see justice done in this very important case.
-Bob Chatelle

After Shanley’s conviction, I sent this follow-up message:

Dear Friend of Justice,
I had thought that my many posts on the subject had made clear my position on the Shanley case. But I still get many emails asking me questions that I thought I’d already answered. So I thought I’d send one email to try to summarize my views, beliefs, and concerns.
1. I believe without a shred of doubt that Paul Shanley is innocent. The only evidence presented against him at trial was the uncorroborated recovered memories of a very disturbed young man who had received $500,000 from the Archdiocese in a settlement of a suit against the church that never went to trial.
2. There is no reliable and credible evidence that the kind of traumatic amnesia claimed by Paul Busa exists. It follows that Paul Busa did not tell the truth. I don’t know whether he was strictly lying, because he may well believe all of this nonsense by now. There are a number of ways his “memories” could have been created. But since there’s no reason to believe that these “memories” are true, this is not a matter that much concerns me. The validation of traumatic amnesia by a jury is a serious matter that may well have disastrous consequences. While it is proper for juries to decide credibility, it is not and should not be the province of a jury to make decisions about the reliability of evidence.
3. There is no evidence that Paul Shanley is or ever was a pedophile. The only accusations that Paul Shanley ever sexually misbehaved with children came from Paul Busa and his three co-suers. People do not suddenly become pedophiles.
4. Paul Shanley lost no civil suit against Busa. Busa and his chums were smart enough to realize that there is no profit in suing someone without money. They were no dummies. They sued the church. And the church settled.
5. An alarming number of people have expressed the opinion that while Paul Shanley was innocent of the crimes for which he stood trial, nevertheless it was right that he was convicted because he did “other bad things.” First of all, I don’t even know whether this is true. I suspect (but don’t know) that Paul Shanley had sexual relationships with young men and teenagers. And let’s assume that this is true for the sake of argument. I further don’t know whether some of them might have been under the age of consent in Massachusetts, which is 16. If  these young men and teenagers were being counseled by Shanley, this is a most serious breach of professional ethics for someone who was acting as a social worker.  Regardless of the age of the young men involved. But a breach of ethics is not the same as a crime.
6. People should be convicted or acquitted of the charges before them. People should never be convicted because jurors believe that the defendant may have “done other bad things.” That is not due process. That is not justice.
7. Due process, like freedom of speech and the other rights protected by the U.S. Constitution, belongs to all equally or it belongs to none of us. Paul Shanley and the killers of Matthew Shepard should have had the right to due process. Nazis should have the right to free speech. As Barney Frank once said in a speech that I attended (and I don’t claim to quote precisely), “If you believe in a right you must support that right even when it is exercised in a way that you find most obnoxious.”
8. If you believe that the Constitution protects the rights of “good” people, but not “bad” people, then you don’t understand the founding principles of this nation. People sometimes ask me about my politics. I would describe myself as an ultra-reactionary. I would like to see this nation return to the principles it was founded upon over 200 years ago. But if that ever happens, I certainly won’t live to see it.
-Bob Chatelle

I sent this email after attending the sentencing hearing:

Dear Friend of Justice,

I was anticipating this morning’s Shanley hearing with so much dread, that I
got next to no sleep last night. (Ditto for Jim.) It was, if anything, even
worse than I had imagined.

As you probably heard by now, Shanley was sentenced to 12-15 years. He is
74. But even if he were 24, I wouldn’t expect him to live terribly long in a
Massachusetts prison. Were he to actually survive this sentence, the
Middlesex DA’s office could incarcerate him from one-day-to-life as a
“sexually dangerous person.” And if he were to avoid this fate, he would
serve ten years probation during which he would have to undergone “therapy.”

This morning, I was given permission to reveal something that I have known
for a very long time.

The Middlesex DA’s office offered Shanley a deal. If he would plead guilty
to one count, his sentence would be time served followed by two years of
probation. No further incarceration. But Shanley refused to plead to
something he did not do.

Should this plea bargain be made public, I fully expect Martha Coakley will
deny it. She did something similar in a case I was involved with a couple
years ago. Martha can lie without batting an eye.

I’m sure Shanley was offered the deal because (1) the DA’s office knew its
case against Shanley was extraordinarily weak and (2) they expected Frank
Mondano to provide a strong defense. But they were wrong about the second

We were told that the hearing would start at 9, and we arrived at 8:15 to
insure getting into the courtroom. We entered the courtroom at 8:30, but
eventually were told that the hearing wouldn’t start until ten. The
courtroom quickly filled up with media and members of various
victim/survivor groups.

The mood among the latter was celebratory and almost voluptuously mean. We
overheard many charming comments during our wait. Someone accused a court
officer of “catering to the NAMBLA contingent.” One wit gathered a large
laugh by saying he’d heard that “Shanley called in sick.”

The hearing began at 10:15. Assistant DA Lynn Rooney asked for two life
terms plus ten years probation. (Which she essentially got.) She stressed
that Shanley showed, “No remorse. No resposponsibility.” (For crimes he did
not commit. I have seen Rooney use those same lines against the Amiraults.)
She stated that Paul Busa’s promising career in the Air Force had come to an
end on 2/11/02, when he suddenly “remembered” his six years of weekly abuse.

Busa’s father, Richard, began his impact statement by saying, “This verdict
is a tremendous relief and a source of satisfaction.” He talked about his
son’s “lifelong horror” and said that Shanley had “robbed my little boy of
his innocence” and “took his faith away.”  He concluded by mentioning that
he works for the Department of Correction, and that “I’ve seen a lot of evil
people, but I want you to know [Shanley] is right at the top of the list.”

Busa’s wife, Teresa, cried through her statement. She said that Paul would
get “physically ill walking through the door of the church” and described
her husband “punching a hole in our bedroom wall” with his fist. She spoke
of Paul’s recurring “stress rash” and “weeks of depression when he wouldn’t
shower or shave.” She said that Paul “will never find comfort in faith.”
Addressing Shanley, she said, “No words will ever describe my disgust for
you. You are sick to the core.”  She said she wished he would die in prison,
beg God for forgiveness and be denied, and spend eternity in hell.

After her statement, Teresa and Paul shared a tearful hug. (Indeed, there
was constant hugging going on among the victim/survivors. A friend of mine
who ended up sitting in the thick of them found himself consoled on

Paul Busa would not read his statement, so it was read by Assistant DA

Busa (via Rooney) said, “This monster must spend the rest of his life in
prison…. He ripped my character and my world apart…. He is a pedophile,
possibly the worst ever.”  Busa also falsely claimed, “He is a founding
member of NAMBLA and openly advocated sex between men and little boys.” (If
you repeat a lie often enough does it eventually become true?)

Busa also said, “I want him to die in prison, whether by natural causes or
otherwise…. However he dies, I hope it is slow and painful.”

Shanley’s lawyer, Frank Mondano, criticized the DA’s written argument for
sentencing. He pointed out that its recitation of facts were not the facts
presented at trial. He noted that Shanley had no criminal record, and that
the public outcry against him had been “fueled by half-truths and lies.” He
mentioned that public statements by the jurors indicated that they had paid
little attention to the facts. (This would have been difficult, considering
that the Commonwealth presented no reliable evidence.) Mondano pointed out
that the entire prosecution had been “geared to emotion” and that “this is
the point where emotion should be separated from the facts.”

Mondano expressed fear for Shanley’s safety in prison, and cited a recent
quote from a representative of the Massachusetts Correctional Officers who
said they could hardly protect themselves let alone the inmates.

As expected, there was no statement from Shanley. It had been Mondano’s
policy from the beginning to alone Shanley to speak to no one. I think this
hurt Shanley a great deal.

There was a recess while the judge prepared his sentence. “That Mondano. He
is a scumbag,” said a woman sitting in front of me.  “He’s just a low-level
felon,” the man to her left said supportively. The victim/survivor crowd
kept exchanging big warm hugs. Busa worked the room, laughing and joking
among his adoring supporters. For a time he hovered a few feet away from us,
accepting congratulations for his eloquent victim’s impact statement.  Jim
overheard him say, “I wrote something about the gay life, but they wouldn’t
let me keep it.”

Before passing sentence, the judge spoke of the devastation to Paul Busa
“when he first recovered his memories.”

Traumatic amnesia is now considered fact in Massachusetts courts.

I think the time has come to retire the term “recovered memory” completely.
It means too many different things to too many different people. All
memories are recovered. No memory is continuous. A continuous memory would
be with us every waking moment. The interval between retrieval of the “same”
memory can very from minutes to decades. (Actually, I doubt that any of us
ever retrieves the “same” memory in precisely identical ways. memory is
always changing.)

>From now on I will use terms such as “massive repression” and “traumatic
amnesia.” But whatever you call it, there’s no evidence indicating that it

In my opinion, it is essential that this verdict is appealed and appealed in
the most careful and professional way. This will be a hard case to win,
because this case is so politically loaded. But the effort has to be made.
Too much is at stake.

The challenge will be to keep Paul Shanley alive while the appeal is written
and argued. I fear that Paul Busa may get his wish and that Shanley will be
murdered in prison.

I have the most uneasy feeling that I have just come from an execution.

-Bob Chatelle (with Jim D’Entremont)
For a good account on the Shanley case, I recomment this article.

Bad — but not unexpected — ruling in the Shanley case

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Dear Friend of Justice,

I learned today that Judge Neel turned down the new-trial motion in the Paul Shanley case. While this decision saddens and angers me, it was what I was expecting. I attended the trial and the hearing on the new-trial motion. Neel made it obvious that he didn’t understand the issues involved, including the difference between repression and forgetting.

I have not read the decision and I am not in a hurry to do so. I don’t want to lose my appetite completely on the day before Thanksgiving. If you have a strong stomach, let me know and I will send the document to you.

Robert Shaw, Shanley’s appellate attorney, is intelligent, dedicated, and hard-working. I know that he will do a stellar job before the Appeals Court. My hope is that he will draw three fair, intelligent, and courageous judges.

-Bob Chatelle

Forgetting and "Repression"

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Dear Friend of Justice,

The theory of “repressed memory” – or, alternatively, “dissociative amnesia” – posits something radically different from ordinary forgetting. Indeed, were this not so, there would be no need to invent special terms.

Almost all of the confusion in the repressed-memory debate arises from people confusing the two phenomena.

We are all prone to forgetting – and forgetting about – things that have happened to us. We even forget about traumatic events, sometimes for years.

Consider this excerpt of an email from a colleague, a distinguished professor of psychology:

Is it possible to forget major traumatic events and later remember them? I am convinced it happens quite frequently. It happened to me.

As a teenager I was violently mugged and injured by a gang in Central Park and ten years later when I entered grad school I told my colleagues I had never been a victim of violent crime while actively searching my memory for anything that would count. The next day the entire mugging memory came back in full detail even though I had apparently not thought of the event several years. This is not scientific but I believe it is strongly analogous to sexual abuse cases. I don’t believe I repressed the memory, I believe that moving to Hawaii in my early 20s made the memory irrelevant and thus I forgot it through normal cognitive mechanisms.

This is an ordinary case or forgetting and remembering. The memory was delayed by a few hours after the recall attempt was made, but that is not unusual. I suspect that similar things have happened to all of us.

It is also common for people to forget – or forget about – childhood sexual abuse. But in this instance, memory scientists and those believing in dissociative amnesia make very different predictions.

Dissociative amnesia is supposed to protect the individual from traumatic memories. Thus the more traumatic event, the more likely it is to be repressed. Many even believe that traumatic events can be repressed immediately after they occur. For example, many believe that a father can violently rape a daughter during the night and that the daughter can sit down to breakfast with him in the morning as if nothing untoward had happened.

My colleague instead has this to say:

Most importantly one needs to know if force was alleged. If no force was used and if the child believed at the time that the behavior was acceptable then I believe it is possible to forget even repeated sexual contacts and in adulthood regain access to the memories. Furthermore I do not believe this to be repression. If the child is able to fit the behavior into some type of schema for acceptable behavior then the child will be more likely to simply forget it as he or she moves on through life.

According to popular culture, adults who have sex with children are violent rapists who obtain the child’s silence through violent threats. If these sex offenders exist, they are quite rare. The fact that an adult wants to behave sexually with a child doesn’t mean that he or she is stupid. The last thing they want is to get caught.

The usual pattern instead is not to frighten the child but to befriend the child. Children and adults have different moral senses. What is obviously wrong to an adult may not necessarily seem wrong to a child.

When I posted my account of the recent Shanley hearing, I made the following observation:

When Shaw expressed the opinion that the theory of repressed memory was “junk science,” Judge Neel asked if it wasn’t the case that Dr. Elizabeth Loftus believes that it does exist but is very rare. Shaw disputed this. I am sure that he was right. As a scientist, Dr. Loftus would never state that the nonexistence of repressed memory has been proven. She may have said something like, “If it exists, it is very rare.”

It turns out that what Loftus actually said in her affidavit was that traumatic events “rarely slip from awareness.” Now “slipping from awareness” is radically different from “repression.”

Judge Neel doesn’t know the difference between “repression” and ordinary forgetting. And the reason he doesn’t know the difference is that Shanley’s trial lawyer, Frank Mondano, didn’t do his job.

My guess is that Mondano himself never grasped the difference. Thus it is not surprising that he was unable to educate the judge and jury. And as a result Paul Shanley was undeniably deprived of his right to a fair trial.

-Bob Chatelle

Shanley Media P.S.

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Dear Friend of Justice,

Jim D’Entremont suggested that I supplement my rant with specific examples of the media coverage.

Particularly annoying was the coverage by WBUR, which began with the outrage of victim advocates that Shanley was exercising his rights. Then Monica Brady-Myerov juxtaposed a sound bite of Robert Shaw calling repressed memory theory “junk science,” making the statement appear unsupported, with an uncritical summary of the ADA’s claim that repressed memory is widely recognized as real by distinguished scientific professionals.

The Boston Globe also began with victims outrage. Then they quote Shaw calling repressed memory “junk science” and immediately follow that with Mitchell Garabedian and Robert Costello, who says he was abused by another priest.

The Boston Herald story was entirely about victims advocates and their outrage.

Suprisingly good was an article by Keri Roche in the Waltham Daily News Tribune. Waltham is a town of about 60,000 west of Boston. I was surprised that they even bothered to send a reporter to cover the story. When I first looked at the Shanley articles I’d received from my google alert, I confess I skipped over the Waltham article. I read it just now and it caught me by surprise.

Roche’s story was devoid of sensationalism. There were no quotes from outraged victims. Instead she reported on what was actually said in the courtroom. She disposed of the “junk science” sound bite and instead discussed Shaw’s arguments.

Her reporting on the DA’s case was equally fair and accurate.

Roche was also the only journalist to report that there were issues other than repressed memory.

The Boston Globe could learn a lot about journalism from Keri Roche.


The Depressingly Predictable Media

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Dear Friend of Justice,

The media on the Shanley hearing was as inaccurate and as unfair as I feared it would be. I’m not sure why those reporters even bothered to sit in that courtroom, given that the proceedings went above their heads and that they had drawn their conclusions beforehand.

Reporters now just ignore anything inconsistent with their assumptions. What they ignore doesn’t make the six o’clock news. And if it doesn’t make the news, it doesn’t exist.

The overriding assumption is that accusers must never be doubted. Accusers are victims and victims are Holy. To doubt a sainted victim is to commit heresy. And heretics don’t have a lot of career opportunities.

The rush to judgment of accused Catholic priests was additionally complicated by a lot of pent-up homophobia and anti-Catholicism. Paul Shanley never had a chance. He was tried and convicted by the Boston Globe in January of 2002. Since then, his guilt — and that of other accused priests — has never been doubted by the Globe or most other media.

But it is as absurd to believe that all accused priests are guilty as it would be to assume that they are all innocent.

Because Shanley’s guilt is assumed by the media, and because the only evidence against him was the repressed memories of a highly disturbed young man, the press now considers the theory of repressed memory validated. In other words, Shanley is guilty because of repressed memory and repressed memory is proved by Shanley’s guilt. A perfectly circular argument.

The press refused to address the fact that there is no support for repressed memory within the scientific community. What did they do instead?

Some of them interviewed Mitchell Garabedian, an ambulance chaser who has earned millions of dollars, mainly from the Catholic Church, through civil suits based on repressed memory. Is Garabedian their idea of an objective observer?

Other members on the press instead concentrated on the outrage, expressed by victim-survivors, that Shanley was exercising rights given to him by the U.S. Constitution. Now I think it is newsworthy when any group asserts that the Constitution should only apply to people they happen to like. But since so many members of the press themselves endorse this notion, it’s not surprising that they took no note of it.

There was a time when I was naive enough to trust the press. But during the early 90s I became an anti-censorship activist. I soon learned that what I directly observed bore almost no resemblance to what was reported in newspapers and on television. Since then I have observed the failure of the press in many areas. They certainly failed big time from the beginning in their coverage of the Shanley case.

The press, of course, does OK when it operates with an open mind. The recent coverage of the Baran case by the Berkshire Eagle, for example, has been very good. Their coverage of the case back in 1985, however, was quite a different matter. Baran’s guilt then was considered as obvious by the press as is Shanley’s guilt now. Then and now, conflicting information was just ignored.

In my opinion, media unfairness is independent of ideology. For example, much has been made of the inaccuracies and unfairness of Fox News. But are the people who rely on Fox any worse than those Massachusetts “liberals” who get all of their information from the Boston Globe and NPR?

Citizens make decisions based on the information available to them. And most citizens get their information from the mainstream media. Without a fair and hard-working press, democracy cannot function.

Thomas Jefferson once said something to the effect that if given a choice he would prefer newspapers without government to government without newspapers.

What would Jefferson think if he knew the sorry state into which this nation’s media has fallen?

-Bob Chatelle

Shanley Hearing Report

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Dear Friend of Justice,

There may be worse ways of spending a beautiful spring afternoon than sitting in a Massachusetts court room, but they don’t readily come to mind.

On May 29th, I and about 35 others attended the hearing on the new-trial motion of Paul Shanley. About half of that number were supporters of Paul. Of the rest, many were from the media. I only recognized a handful of people from the victim-survivor cult.

Shanley was represented by an excellent lawyer – Robert Shaw of Cambridge. The Middlesex DA’s office was represented by Loretta Lillios and Bethany Stevens. The one who did most of the talking was Ms. Lillios.

Perhaps I should say the mumbling, as I was barely able to understand anything that either of them said. While Mr. Shaw spoke from a miked podium at the back of the courtroom, Ms. Lillios and Ms. Stevens stood directly in front of the judge and spoke in weak monotones.

In the new-trial motion, Shaw raises four issues:

  1. That Shanley’s lawyer, Frank Mondano, had failed Shanley by not demonstrating that the theory of repressed memory is not accepted by the scientific community.
  2. That the Court’s statute-of-limitations instruction to the jury was erroneous.
  3. That the Court had failed to follow mandated procedures during jury selection and that Mondano had failed to object to the same.
  4. That a court officer had secretly and inappropriately intervened to influence a key prosecution witness.

I will not give a detailed account of the hearing, which lasted for over two hours. And I will confine myself to an account of a discussion of the first issue, which I believe is the one of most interest to us.

Shaw said that the evidence on which Shanley was convicted was “the thinnest of thin.” He said that justice was not done and that the court needs to answer questions about the validity of repressed memory.

According to the allegations, every Sunday morning Shanley would remove up to three children from a class of 12, take them to various spots in the church, and sexually abuse them. Yet not one teacher had testified that he or she had seen Shanley remove a child from a class. One child had testified that when in second grade, Shanley had abused him during confession. Yet children do not go to confession at such a young age.

The allegations arose when a childhood friend of Paul Busa told Busa that he (the friend) had recovered memories of being abused by Shanley 20 years prior. Busa soon recovered identical memories and joined his friend in pursuing a lawsuit. Busa’s “memories” were images in his mind that occurred in the wake of massive media exposure. At the time, Busa even made statements that he didn’t know if these images were memories or not.

Shaw stated, “Repressed memory is not generally accepted in the scientific community. Shaw said that the court had to consider three questions.

  1. Who is the proper scientific community?
  2. What is valid scientific methodology?
  3. Was information at the trial accurately and fairly presented?

Shaw stated that he had presented a lengthy and detailed affidavit from Dr. Harrison Pope, an internationally respected memory scientist. He contrasted Dr. Pope with the prosecution’s “expert,” Dr. Daniel Brown. Shaw pointed out that the professionals that Brown relied upon included people who had been indicted and had lost their professional licenses. They included people who subscribed to unsupported theories about brainwashing by the CIA, Satanic cults, and the Ku Klux Klan. (See this speech by Dr. Corydon Hammond, co-author with Brown of Memory, Trauma Treatment, and the Law.)

Dr. Brown, first of all, misidentified that relevant scientific community. He stated that this community included social workers, hypnotherapists, and clinicians. None of these people are scientists.

In discussing methodology, Brown mentioned scholarship, clinical observation, and constructing meaning from observation. This is not scientific method.

Shaw stated that the prosecution’s other witness, Dr. Chu, had conducted retrospective studies in which people were asked if they had ever remembered things that they once had forgotten. Such “studies” are scientifically worthless. [Also, forgetting is very different from “repressing.]

When Shaw expressed the opinion that the theory of repressed memory was “junk science,” Judge Neel asked if it wasn’t the case that Dr. Elizabeth Loftus believes that it does exist but is very rare. Shaw disputed this. I am sure that he was right. As a scientist, Dr. Loftus would never state that the nonexistence of repressed memory has been proven. She may have said something like, “If it exists, it is very rare.”

Paul Busa claimed that he has been abused and had instantly forgotten the abuse many times over. The only way the jury could make sense of such statements was to subscribe to a belief in repressed memory. The prosecution’s entire case against Shanley rests on belief in repressed memory, yet Shanley’s trial attorney, Frank Mondano, did not challenge the theory at trial. Mondano only called one witness – Dr. Elizabeth Loftus. But Loftus could not effectively respond to Dr. Chu because Loftus was not a clinician. [Note: I attended the trial. Mondano didn’t have a clue about what to ask Loftus. After prosecutor Lynn Rooney did a cross-examination that was mainly an attack on Dr. Loftus’s character, Mondano did not even bother to do a redirect.]

Shaw pointed out that the past thirty years of memory research should have been used in the Shanley case to discredit the theory of repressed memory. Yet because Mondano did not challenge it, the court relied on unreliable information to make erroneous decisions.

As I said, it was very difficult to hear and understand the DA’s response. But she seemed to try to make the following points:

  1. That the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has given its full blessing to repressed memory in the case of Commonwealth v. Frangipane.
  2. That “The DSM-IV [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] accepts dissociative amnesia [repressed memory] and that should be enough.”
  3. That Shaw had “unjustly maligned” Dr. Brown’s book, which is an award-winning leading textbook.
  4. That Paul Busa’s abuse had been corroborated because he was able to describe a number of rooms in the church and also because his teachers [not Shanley] had often sent him out of the room for misbehavior.
  5. That Frank Mondanao may have decided not to challenge the theory of repressed memory for “tactical” reasons.

The Frangipane decision is not a good decision. That should surprise no one – the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is not a good court.

Shaw had addressed the Frangipane issue in his written response to the Commonwealth. I will quote from that document.

In an effort to characterize the Defendant’s claims as having no merit, the
Commonwealth relies on several erroneous assertions concerning the Frangipane case. Commonwealth v. Frangipane, 433 Mass. 527 (2001). In Frangipane the issue of “repressed memory” was not subjected to any Lanigan hearing, and therefore no competing expert evidence was admitted and considered by any Court for a determination about general acceptance, standardization, or any other factor inherent in a proper Lanigan/Daubert evaluation. This is important context for the issues now before this Court, and perhaps explains why the Supreme Judicial Court’s opinion in Frangipane ultimately retained language indicating that the Court’s holding did not reach the question of whether there was general acceptance of “repressed memory,” or whether a Lanigan hearing was required. Commonwealth v. Frangipane, supra, supra, at 537 (“We need not reach the defendant

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Science

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Dear Friend of Justice,

This afternoon my partner Jim D’Entremont and I will be attending the hearing on the new-trial motion of Paul Shanley ( This case, as most of you know, hinges on the junk-science “theory of repressed memory.” (Usually referred to as “recovered memory,” but that usage is somewhat misleading. Every time we remember anything we can be said to “recover” a memory.)

In an article in today’s Boston Globe, Middlesex DA Gerry Leone is quoted as saying, “The concept of recovered memory by victims of abuse has been accepted by both the scientific and legal communities…”

That statement, of course, is a lie. But it is a lie that few Globe readers will question. Had Mr. Leone said, “The concept of astrology has been accepted by both the scientific and legal communities..,” his statement would probably have raised a few eyebrows. Yet there is no more evidence for repressed memory than there is for astrology.

Repressed memory has, unfortunately, been accepted by a great many prosecutors. But that is because it enables them to win cases they would otherwise lose. Scientific validity is seldom a matter of concern to such people.

But support for the theory of repressed memory in the scientific community is almost nonexistent. The “scientists” who support this theory are, for the most part, crackpots.

Consider, for example, Dr. Corydon Hammond, one of the principal authors of Memory, Trauma Treatment, and the Law. This is an award-winning book published by Harvard University. It is perhaps the bible of the repressed-memory cult. I’m sure Mr. Leone would not hesitate in saying that Dr. Hammond is a leading scientist who “accepts” (and promotes) the theory of repressed memory.

One wonders what Mr. Leone would say if he were to read this speech by Dr. Hammond (

Many of you have already read this speech. But I suggest you take a little time to read it again.

I think any reasonable person reading the Greenbaum speech would conclude that Dr. Hammond is not playing with a full deck.

Unfortunately, neither are a great many Massachusetts prosecutors, journalists, and politicians.

The battle against ignorance and bigotry is indeed difficult. But to abandon it is to abandon our humanity.

-Bob Chatelle