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3 decades after the McMartin preschool trial, a look at what went wrong

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They were accusations that shocked the nation and led to the longest criminal trial in the history of the U.S.

Members of the family that operated the Manhattan Beach-based McMartin preschool, plus teachers at the daycare, were accused of sexually abusing a number of students and subjecting them to satanic rituals.

The 2.5-year-long trial produced no conviction.

In “We Believe the Children,” writer Richard Beck lays bare the various forces at work – from overzealous investigators to well-intended psychologists to a media caught up in the heinousness of the allegations  – that helped fan the hysteria of child sexual abuse across the country.


Richard Beck, author, “We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s” (PublicAffairs, 2015). He is an editor at the literary journal, n+1

Kevin Cody, publisher of the community paper Easy Reader News, serving Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo and Palos Verdes. Cody reported on the entire McMartin trial for the paper