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USA v. Peterson, et al. Trial - No Retrial

No Retrial in Peterson et al. Case

U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. dismissed criminal charges against psychiatrists Gloria Keraga and Richard Seward, psychologist Judith Peterson, therapist Sylvia Davis and hospital administrator George Jerry Mueck on Monday, March 1, 1999. Formerly associated with the Spring Shadows Glen mental hospital in Houston (now Memorial Spring Shadows Glen), the five were accused of conspiracy in which they knowingly misdiagnosed multiple personality disorder and satanic ritual abuse in order to keep patients in the hospital and collect their insurance.

A seven-month trial that began on September 9, 1998 ended in a mistrial in early February after five jurors or alternates were dismissed leaving a panel of 11. While a jury of 11 can return a verdict if both sides agree, the defense attorneys objected.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Eastepp said that because the government’s case was so complex, a retrial would take seven months. He said that the effect of a retrial on the witnesses was the primary consideration in seeking a dismissal. "To ask these witnesses to once again undertake public airing of their mental health histories, then-existing family problems and other very personal details, particularly with an unrelenting cross-examination designed to lay bare old wounds, would be unfair." This web site has the full text of the prosecution’s motion to dismiss.

During the trial prosecutors called 30 witnesses and played more than 50 tape-recorded therapy sessions to show that patients were brainwashed through hypnosis, drugs and isolation.

Mueck’s defense attorney Thomas Hagemann said "This case involved an unprecedented effort by the government to criminalize a recognized medical diagnosis and treatment methods, and the effort failed miserably."

Defense attorneys had emphasized during the trial that a number of patients arrived at Spring Shadows Glen already diagnosed with multiple personality and satanic ritual abuse. They argued that the defendants could not have conspired to suggest memories if the patients already had them.

Defendant Judith Peterson said that other patients and the plaintiffs’ attorneys may have brainwashed the plaintiffs so that they had "false memories" of their treatment. She said, "It is sure easier to blame the therapist than your parents or some other abuser."

Defense attorneys said that it had been a difficult and long ordeal for the defendants and that they are now looking forward to putting their lives back together.

This article was based on a Houston Chronicle article by Mark Smith, "Judge dismissed charges in ‘false memories’ case." March 1, 1999.

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