Monday, August 10, 2009

Justice for Benard Baran?

Took the day off from work today when I came across this over at Renee's place.

We all know that men across the world carry the stigma of being assumed to be child predators simply because we are men. Men like Benard Baran remind us that this is not just about straight men but gay men carry this burden as well.

In 1984 Baran was a daycare worker employed at the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He was known for being excellent with children and had lots of past experience in babysitting. All was going well until October of that year when, at the age of 19, was arrested for sexually assaulting two three-year old children. That's when it all started to go down hill.

When it comes to accusations of child molestation and abuse its bad enough Benard was a man but on top of that he is openly gay. The homophobia of the parents of the children at the center he worked came to light with one set of parents saying no ninth-grade dropout homosexual would help take care of their son. I am pretty sure the whole ninth-grade dropout part was not the deciding factor in their decision to not want him around their son.

There's evidence that parents were coaching their children to make false accusations against him.
§ The children first denied being molested, and produced accusations under parental coaching (one girl, whose mother was a friend of Julie H., told a therapist after the trial that her mother had told her to say Baran had molested her so they could get toys and money). Psychologists working with the police used the same discredited techniques that have typically produced false accusations: asking persistent, leading questions; manipulating puppets and using anatomical dolls. Improbabilities in the children's stories were brushed aside. (Two boys said Bernie raped them on a field trip that Baran had not been on, also in a locked shed to which he had no key.) Dark conclusions were drawn from fragmentary, barely comprehensible remarks.

The anti-gay sentiment was not just coming from parents but also from the prosecution as well. The prosecutor, Dan Ford allegedly intimidated and threatened Bernards's boyfriend with prosecution and anti-gay slurs such calling him a fag. Its also been said that during the trial Ford coerced testimony from the children.
Baran’s sister told him that she heard DA [now Judge] Daniel Ford tell a little girl witness to just say yes to his questions and they would go to McDonald’s afterwards. According to the trial transcript, Ford also used the McDonald’s bribe when kids were on the witness stand. Ford used anatomically correct dolls in the courtroom. The children, when they bothered to respond at all, answered mainly with nods or in monosyllables. Whenever a child gave the wrong answer, Ford persisted until they gave the right one. If this failed, he suggested that the children wouldn’t cooperate because they were in terror of Baran. The judge routinely overruled the defense’s objections.

The false accusations, underhanded tactics from the prosecution, and the homophobia of the community added up to Barn being sentenced to three concurrent life terms. (I'm not sure how long a life term is in that jurisdiction but concurrent means that he would have to served them each individually.)

In 2006 he was granted a new trial and one would think that with the negligence, abuse of authority, and outright discrimination (being a man and being gay) that was carried out against Baran back in 1985 he would just be let out right? Wrong. Current DA David Capeless announced his intent to oppose the decision to grant a new trial. Capeless fought until June of this year when, finally faced with having to disclose Ford's reprehensible behavior in the original trial, he finally dropped the charges and Baran became a free man.

However can it really be that simple? Benard Baran is a man that did not abide by the gender role that he was "supposed to fill". And this refusal is part of cost him 21 years of his life. Twenty one years locked away in a facility where he was the early (he was raped for the first time only four days after starting his sentence and was raped/assaulted 30-40 times in his first four years alone) and constant target of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. What kind of justice is there for that? And kind of justice can there be for all the other who knows how many gay men (or straight or otherwise for that matter) who are still wasting away in prison for crimes they did not commit?

(I have to say that if I were him I'd clean Ford, those lying parents, and that city out of so much money that my great grand kids would be able to live off the interest.)