UPDATE:: Dan, Fran Keller to get $3.4 million in ‘satanic day care’ case
Dan and Fran Keller, who spent more than 21 years in prison after they were accused of sexually abusing children during supposed satanic rituals at their South Austin day care facility, will receive $3.4 million from a state fund for those wrongly convicted of crimes.
Shortly after receiving the news Tuesday, an ecstatic Fran Keller said they will no longer have to live on the brink of destitution, unable to find jobs at their ages and with their convictions, even if overturned by the state’s highest criminal court.
“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.
__Nearly two years after the state’s highest criminal court overturned the child sexual abuse convictions for day care owners Dan and Fran Keller, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore will file court documents Tuesday declaring them “actually innocent” under the law and dropping pending charges against them.The decision will resolve all outstanding criminal issues for the Kellers, who were convicted in 1992 and served more than 21 years in prison in a case that generated national headlines amid allegations that they performed satanic rituals on the children. The couple, now elderly and described by their lawyer as destitute, has been free on bond since 2013 and will each be able to apply for $80,000 for every year mistakenly spent in prison.
“I believe under the law that I am charged with this responsibility — and it is my personal decision,” Moore told the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV.
I can't believe that after 20+ years this case is still being written about. By the sounds of it, we will still be writing about if for years to come:
Unfortunately for the Kellers, an overturned conviction is not exoneration, which prosecutors oppose, though no evidence supports the case against the Kellers. There’s a fine legal distinction at play here, and possibly compensation for the more than 20 years the Kellers spent in prison. In short, the Kellers are no longer guilty of anything, but the charges against them remain in place. For the time being, they are in the position of having to prove their innocence. In other words, they are stuck having to prove, as Fran Keller has said, a negative.
Beginning in 1991, Fran and Dan Keller, who ran a day care out of their Austin home, committed unspeakable acts against their charges — they put one in a swimming pool with a baby-eating shark; they forced the kids to watch as they dismembered an infant; they flew the children to Mexico, where they were raped by soldiers, before flying them back to the day care in time to be picked up by their parents.Fran Keller's Satanic Conviction Overturned | Houston Press
Except, possibly, just maybe, perhaps, none of that ever happened. Incredibly, even though the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday overturned the charges against Fran Keller because of "false evidence," the court denied her claims of actual innocence.
The Kellers were convicted just as the "Satanic panic" — a tide of accusations of ritualized sexual abuse often coinciding with "recovered memories" — was winding down. The Kellers' trial took place two years after the debacle of California's McMartin Preschool trial, the touchstone flagship Satanic panic case that should have put the nail in the coffin of this most unfortunate and embarrassing period of American jurisprudence. But, unfortunately for the Kellers, word hadn't reached Travis County prosecutors in time.
The Kellers appealed, and Fran was released on bond in 2013, at age 63. By that time, Michael Mouw, the physician who testified to the evidence of sexual abuse, had recanted, saying he was mistaken. And it's because of that that the Texas CCA finally tossed Fran's conviction. Not because of the complete lack of evidence of baby-eating sharks.
Judge Cheryl Johnson was apparently baffled by her colleagues' reasoning — she wrote in a concurring opinion that the court should go ahead and find Keller innocent. (We'd like to see Johnson's rough draft, which almost certainly had to include the phrase "Are y'all fuckin' nuts?")