In the 1990s, Dan and Fran Keller were wrongfully convicted of child sexual assault charges despite a distinct lack of evidence, and now they are getting $3.4 million from a state fund for those who were punished for crimes they didn’t commit.
The Kellers spent more than two decades in prison before being released on bail, and they weren’t officially exonerated by prosecutors in Austin, Texas, until June. The couple said they have been living on the brink of destitution and unable to find jobs due to their prior convictions.
“This means we don’t have to worry about pinching pennies on Social Security, and late bills. It means we will actually be free. We can start living — and no more nightmares,” said Fran Keller, 67.
After their release, they applied for (and received) $1.68 million each for the 21 years they spent wrongfully in prison. They couldn’t be happier about it.
Unfortunately, the problem goes deeper than the Kellers. Contrary to being offenders, they were actually victims of Christianity-fueled mass hysteria that led to accusations that they were evil Satanists who sacrificed babies and put blood in children’s Kool-Aid.
The Kellers’ lawyer, Keith Hampton, said he’s happy for his clients who were declared innocent. He argued in court that the Kellers were convicted because of the all-too-common Day-care sex-abuse hysteria.
Hampton argued that the Kellers were the victims of “satanic panic” — a belief that swept the nation in the early 1990s that a national network of secretive cults was preying upon day care children for sex and other horrors.
The Kellers also were harmed, he argued, by the combined efforts of inept therapists, gullible police and an investigation that spiraled out of control, producing a suspect list of 26 ritual abusers, including many of the Kellers’ neighbors and a respected Austin police captain.
I’m sure the $3.44 million will go a long way toward making the rest of their lives more livable, but it won’t undo the 21 years they spent in confinement for crimes they didn’t commit. We have to make sure this doesn’t happen again, by focusing investigations on evidence of wrongdoing and not anecdotal evidence.
Still, this major award is a win for the Kellers and anyone else who has been convicted based on false testimonies and flawed personal accounts. If even one person can be wrongly convicted due to psychological confusion or panic, which we’ve seen here can happen to multiple people, we need to put our emphasis on the facts and not emotional pleas based on ignorance.
(Screenshot via YouTube)