In the mid 1980's there was a great hysteria in Kern County over alleged child abuse. Satanic rings that had supposedly existed for generations were said to be abusing many innocent children. This hysteria was initiated and fanned by rumors, much of the local press, and in particular by local prosecutors and prosecution oriented social workers. A group of local prosecutors and social workers used this hysteria build their careers by profiling themselves as vigorous and effective law officials. To do this they short circuited the justice process, contaminated evidence, and committed many illegal and unethical actions. In doing so this group of prosecutors and prosecution sponsored social workers removed many children from their families, destroyed many decent families, and convicted many innocent people, sending them to prison for terms ranging up to hundreds of years.
Many of the unjust convictions have been overturned by the Appellate Courts of California after the victims of official misconduct suffered years of unjust incarceration. However some of the unjustly convicted are still in prison. One such case is that of Jeffrey Modahl. Jeffrey Modahl was convicted of child abuse in an alleged incident in June, 1983, that was reported in October, 1984. He was accused of molesting one of his daughters as part of a so-called sex ring. The prosecutors wanted to charge him with molesting more children, but the other children refused to testify against him.
The one witness against him, Carla Modahl, only testified against him after many interview sessions with prosecution social worker Velda Murillo and Sheriff's Deputy Connie Ericsson in which Murillo asked many leading and suggestive questions. She was also falsely promised that she could go home after she gave the prosecution desired testimony. Later, in 1987, after the trial, Carla recanted his testimony and stated in a signed affidavit that Jeffrey Modahl was innocent.
However her recantation was not accepted. Today Jeffrey Modahl is in prison serving a sentence of 48 years for crimes that never occurred. The real illegalities were committed by the prosecutors, namely Social Worker Velda Murillo and Deputy District Attorney Craig Phillips.
Perjury And Deceit Regarding Witness Questioning
First there is the perjury and deceit of Velda Murillo. Murillo directly testified that no tape recordings were made of her interviews with the children. In the trial of Teresa Cox, who was accused of molesting the group of children along with Jeffrey Modahl, sworn court testimony was given as follows:
Q (Mr. Sullivan, defense lawyer): "None of the other children ever named Teresa Cox, in any of their interviews, did they?"
A (Velda Murillo): "No, they did not."
Q: "Now, were any of these interviews tape recorded?"
(Reporter's Transcript of Testimony and Proceedings, People v. Teresa Cox, Kern County Superior Court, Dept. 11, No. 28275, February 25, 26, and 28, 1985, Bakersfield California, RT 165).
Yet in the fall of 1997 a recorded taped interview with the other daughter of Jeffrey Modahl was recovered. Thus Murillo is caught providing perjury, or false testimony under oath, which is a felony. This evidence clearly demonstrates Murillo is the law breaker.
Moreover, Murillo was also deceitful concerning her interviews with the children. Murillo at the same trial denied she or Connie Ericsson, the other interviewer, ever told a child would what to say or ever suggested that any person not yet mentioned by the child could be a molester.
However, the found tape directly contradicts her. On this tape Murillo and Ericsson did most of the talking while the child witness, the other daughter of Jeffrey Modahl, mostly answered un-huh to questions. It was unclear as to what the child witness was agreeing to.
Moreover, Murillo did mention the names of other people as possible molesters before the child witness mentioned them. On pages 1 and 2 of the tape recording transcript there is the following exchange:
Murillo: "Okay. I don't know -- I keep getting the same feeling about Leroy that I did about Tony that (unintelligible) and some more things, and more recently than that. What made him stop?"
witness: "I don't know."
Murillo: "I know, I know. Okay. But he would hold you down so that -- that Tony could do that stuff to you, huh? Okay. And then -- well, we can talk about Grandpa some more later on. I -- I'm still kind of worried about Grandpa and Grandma, and then they -- they got a lot of problems. It sounds like from what you tell me and what Ruth tells me they (unintelligible) tying her up and stuff like that, which means they got a lot of problems.
"And like I said, the -- the boys -- all of them, your dad and Tony and Leroy, all have got a lot of problems, and they got them from somewhere. And I just feel that, you know, there's a pretty good chance that they could have done something to -- to -- and we would need to talk about that, too. All right? So I need to know about that -- about your grandparents, too. You're doing real good about telling me about the other two. We need to know about them, too."
witness: "They haven't done anything to me."
Sheriff's Deputy Connie Ericsson also provided deceitful and misleading testimony. He testified that Velda Murillo did not have a tape recorder at any of these interviews. He also stated that he never suggested anyone could be a molester before the child named the person herself. However it has been demonstrated that Velda Murillo used this very interview tactic.
Moreover, Velda Murillo and Craig Phillips, in failing to disclose the tape, violated a court order. On January 17, 1985, lawyers for Jeffrey Modahl filed a discovery motion that included "all tape recordings made of statements or conversations of witnesses". Judge Gary Friedman granted the discovery motion on January 18. Yet Phillips violated this court order. Grave prosecution misconduct occurred.
Withholding Medical Evidence
Then there is the evidence withheld by Kern County Deputy District Attorney Craig Phillips, who prosecuted the case against Jeffrey Modahl, Teresa Cox, and the rest of the alleged members of the so-called Cox sex ring. At various trials including that of Anthony and Leroy Cox, defense lawyers requested medical exams of the child witnesses. This request Craig Phillips stoutly and successfully resisted. He insisted that medical exams would be intrusive and invasive of the privacy of the child witnesses. Even though the medical exams requested by the defense were merely routine examinations done by all OB/GYN physicians, the court denied the defense request.
However what Phillips did not mention was the examinations had already been done. On October 22, 1984, Velda Murillo signed both Carla Modahl and her sister out of the county home to go to the Kern Medical Center for medical exams by Dr. Jesse Diamond to check for possible sexual abuse. The existence and results of these medical examinations were kept from the defense. Only recently have these examinations been found. And for both girls the results of the medical exams demonstrated no sexual molestation.
Thus Craig Phillips deliberately withheld exculpatory medical evidence from the defense lawyers. Withholding of evidence is serious misconduct for a prosecution lawyer. The entire mission of the courts to seek the truth is gravely and fatally compromised and thwarted when evidence that could exonerate a defendant is kept unavailable to him and his lawyers. Yet Phillips deliberately committed this violation.
What Kern County prosecutors routinely did in the witch hunt sexual child abuse cases of the mid 1980s was to send alleged child victims to the Kern Medical Center for examinations for sexual abuse. However the medical center was told to send the results of the examination to the District Attorney's Office only if the results were incriminating. If the exams helped exonerate the defendants the results would supposedly never be in the hands of the District Attorney. Therefore, supposedly, the District Attorney would not be obligated to provide the existence and the results of such medical evidence to the defense lawyers.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared such conduct illegal and a violation of the constitutional right to a fair trial by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Kyles V Whitney, 514 U.S., the Supreme Court declared the prosecutor must review the evidence asked for by the defense. To claim no obligation to disclose evidence because it exists elsewhere would essentially mean the police would try the case. Thus the truth seeking function of the courts would be negated. Other decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts support the Kyles v Whitney decision.
The effect of the medical examinations on the prosecution case is readily apparent. On October 12, 1984, the first mention of alleged sexual penetration by members of the so-called sex ring occurred in an interview with a child witness who later refused to testify for the prosecution. On October 16, Carla Modahl named many participants that included Jeffrey Modahl to have sexually penetrated her in the alleged incident in 1983. She also was led to allege that vibrators, dildos and other sexual objects were used in this sexual penetration.
On October 22 Carla and her sister were taken to the Kern Medical Center for medical exams. From then on her allegations changed. At the preliminary hearing for Teresa Cox on November 2 and at the preliminary hearing for Jeffrey Modahl on November 22 she never mentioned sexual penetration or such sexual objects as dildos. She mentions only sexual touchings.
The defendants of the so-called Cox sex ring including Jeffrey Modahl were charged solely with California penal code violations 288(b), lewd and lascivious conduct by force, which does not necessarily mean sexual penetration, and 288a(d) oral copulation. In both items, the sexual penetration that could be found in a medical exam is not necessary for conviction. Thus medical examinations of the child witnesses would not be considered as needed for conclusive evidence. Any defense request for a medical examination would be less likely to be granted by the Superior court and the refusal of the request would be less likely to cause a reversal of conviction by the Appellate Courts.
Tampering With and Drugging Of Witness
Moreover, there is the deceitful and perverse medication of Carla Modahl during the trials. Carla was given medicine for what she was told was her gall bladder problem. Later she noticed the medicine made her feel stupid. In a telephone conversation with her grandmother and Jeffrey's mother, Ms. Blanche Modahl, she spelled out the name of the medicine she was taking. It was thorazine, a powerful psychiatric drug that effects the thought process. Yet no psychiatrist examined her and prescribed this drug. Clearly the county authorities improperly medicated Carla to influence her testimony. This action is definitely improper and most probably illegal.
Carla was taking the drug thorazine from late 1984, soon after she arrived in Jamison Center, to 1986. The medication was finally not renewed by Carla's foster mother Ms. Joyce Thompson. During the period Carla was taking thorazine, she was a major prosecution witness in several trials including that of Jeffrey Modahl. The drug thorazine is a sedative, causing in an individual lower volition or decision making, greater apathy, and cognitive dulling. A person taking this medication would be less assertive and more compliant. Thus the drug would definitely drastically ease the eliciting of prosecution desired testimony by Velda Murillo and other Kern County officials.
After Carla Modahl stopped taking thorazine, and the effects of the drug wore off, she recanted her testimony against Jeffrey Modahl to several people including her foster mothers Ms. Joyce Thompson and Ms. Hix, as well as the social worker Mr. Kerley.
Additional witness tampering included gifts of clothes and meals to Carla from Assistant District Attorney Craig Phillips. These gifts were rewards for providing prosecution induced testimony and are clearly an improper form of witness tampering.
The evidence described above demonstrates that the Kern County prosecutors in their attempt to win convictions have perjured themselves, withheld important evidence, tampered with witnesses, and in general irretrievably corrupted the legal and justice system. In summary their egregious conduct is an outrage that demands correction. Yet some of the innocent are still in prison while the officials who were the real lawbreakers remain unpunished. The system is broken.
To correct abuses of the police and restore credibility to the justice system federal and state prosecutors prosecuted Stacy Koon and other policeman in Los Angeles. This is not enough. The injustices in Kern County must all be reversed. And official lawbreakers such as Velda Murillo must face the legal consequences of their misconduct. Only by doing this will the justice system become something other than a sick joke.
Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and The Making of A Modern American Witch Hunt (New York: Basic Books, 1995)
"Conviction Without Evidence" found on website: http://www.erols.com/mpeters5/kmod2.htm
Stanley Simrin SBN 48685 Motion To Aid Claims To Petition For Writ of Habbeas Corpus: In Re Jeffrey V. Modahl No. HC 5752, filed August 3, 1998, Superior Court Of California, Kern County, Department 8.
Support: Jeffrey Modahl B.N. 1330851, E-111 17635 Industrial Farm Road Bakersfield, California, 93308