Dan and Fran Keller, who were convicted in 1992 of child sexual assault charges despite a distinct lack of evidence, have been officially exonerated by prosecutors in Austin, Texas. The couple spent more than two decades in prison before being released on bail.
Now, the Kellers are free in every sense of the word. The Travis County District Attorney’s Office admitted that there is “no credible evidence” against them.
The Kellers were each sentenced to 48 years in prison after Christianity-fueled mass hysteria contributed to false claims about them, including that they were evil Satanists who sacrificed babies and put blood in children’s Kool-Aid.
The couple’s prosecution in 1992 was part of a wave of cases across the country amid an episode of mass hysteria known as the Satanic Panic. Beginning in the 1980s, accusations flew that the childcare industry had been infiltrated by bands of Satanists hell-bent on brainwashing and sexually abusing young children. The Kellers’ exoneration closes a decadeslong chapter of profound injustice for a couple that paid an exceptionally high price for the credulousness of local law enforcement.
The troubles began for the Kellers when a three-year-old girl who visited their home day care accused Mr. Keller of spanking her “like daddy” used to. Under “intense and repeated questioning by her mother and a therapist,” the story reportedly “morphed to include claims of rape and orgies involving children.”
From there, the number of children alleging abuse increased and the accusations grew even more lurid and confounding: The Kellers had sacrificed babies; they held ceremonies in a local graveyard; they put blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; Fran cut off the arm of a gorilla in a local park; they flew the children to Mexico to be sexually assaulted by military officials.
The Kellers’ conviction was based on flawed personal testimonies, not scientific evidence, which is what ultimately caused Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore to drop the charges officially. The couple can now apply for $1.68 million each for the 21 years they spent wrongfully in prison.
“I believe under the law that I am charged with this responsibility — and it is my personal decision… no credible evidence exists that inculpates the defendants… I believe that the defendants are actually innocent of the crime for each was sentenced.”
This decision is a win not only for those convicted based on false testimonies and victims of mass hysteria, but also for maligned “Satanists” and anyone who values the importance of scientific evidence in criminal prosecutions. 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)