No Exoneration for a Wrongfully Convicted Couple

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( — December 1, 2014)  — AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — In 1992, Dan and Fran Keller were accused and sentenced to 48 years in prison after therapists testified that they helped three children recover memories of satanic rituals and sexual abuse at an Austin preschool the Kellers operated.

After 21 years, single evidence against Kellers was found to be mistake, so the couple, who meanwhile divorced in prison, were freed but never received an exoneration.

The Kellers, who always denied the charges, wanted the full exoneration. However, a year after they were freed from prison, Travis County prosecutors remain unwilling to proclaim them innocent, the Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday.

The prosecutors say that the couple was released because the lack of evidence, however, to overcome a jury finding of guilt and exonerate Kellers, court would need new evidence that unquestionably establishes their innocence. Prosecutors said the new evidence has to be strong as an ironclad alibi or DNA proof.

“Our responsibility is to make sure the law is properly applied, and, under the applicable standards, we are not satisfied that they have established actual innocence under the law,” Travis County Assistant District Attorney Scott Taliaferro said.

That standard seems unfair to Fran Keller, who believes their constitutional rights has been violated, as they are ‘guilty until proven innocent’.  She said there is no way to prove a negative, because the crime never existed.

During their trial, the only physical evidence came from an emergency room doctor who testified that internal lacerations on one child were evidence of abuse. But in court documents filed in 2013, Dr. Michael Mouw stated what he thought were lacerations were actually normal physiology.

After that, prosecutors in Travis County agreed that the case’s evidence was faulty and released the two on bond.

The future, however, does not seem bright as the Kellers’ claim of innocence will be decided by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has a history of conservative and skeptical stance toward overturning jury verdicts.

Furthermore, the court will be guided by the recommendations of Senior District Judge Wilford Flowers, who presided over the Kellers’ 1992 trial and their recent appeals — and who has already twice ruled that they had failed to prove their innocence.