Once upon a Time: A True Tale of Memory, Murder, and the Law

Once upon a Time: A True Tale of Memory, Murder, and the Law

by Harry N. Maclean

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is a superb analysis of a case already widely publicized via 60 Minutes , a TV docudrama and Eileen Franklin's book, Sins of the Father , written with William Wright: a murder committed in 1969 brought a conviction in 1990 because of testimony stemming from a previously repressed memory. Susan Nason, 8, was molested and killed near San Francisco and 20 years later Eileen Franklin, who had been her best friend, accused her own father, George, of the crime. No forensic evidence substantiated her allegation, but as details of George's abuse of his five children--verbal, physical and sexual--emerged, the possibility grew that he could have committed murder. The case turned on the credibility of Eileen, who kept altering her story. Also looming large were the questions of accurate and false traumatic memories and of repression versus disassociation, which MacLean ( In Broad Daylight ) elucidates. In an epilogue, he presents his conclusion that Eileen was not a trustworthy witness--and his reasoning is highly credible. Photos not seen by PW . (July)
Library Journal
In 1990, the public was shocked to hear Eileen Franklin accuse her father of sexually attacking and murdering her best friend 20 years ago . She claimed that she had recently recalled a repressed memory of the incident. Her father was subsequently charged with her friend's murder and found guilty. Exploring this case in depth, MacLean found that Franklin was basically convicted upon the uncorroborated recollections of his daughter. Every key fact in her ``purported'' eyewitness account was already public knowledge. Did Eileen really witness this crime or was this memory created in Eileen's mind, unwittingly or not, as an explanation of her troubled childhood? MacLean describes in detail the Franklins' family life and reveals the father's brutality and sexual depravity. Following the trial jury proceedings carefully, MacLean challenges the reader with the ultimate questions: Was George guilty? Were Eileen's recollections true? A well-paced, exciting narrative, grippingly told, this book belongs in most true crime collections. Recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/92.-- Sandra K. Lindheimer, Middlesex Law Lib., Cambridge, Mass.
Kirkus Reviews
MacLean won an Edgar for In Broad Daylight (1988), which covered the case of a small-town bully shot dead in front of a crowd of locals who "saw nothing." Here, he takes on the equally controversial case of George Franklin, a Californian found guilty of murder 20 years after the fact, the conviction resting almost entirely on his daughter's belated memory (which surfaced in 1989) of having witnessed the killing of her then- best friend, eight-year-old Susan Nason. There's little doubt that, at the time of the murder, Franklin was a disastrous husband and parent: The "uncharged conduct" alleged against him (and not contested in court by his attorney) included physical and sexual abuse of his family, most notably his holding down daughter Eileen while a drug dealer raped her. MacLean documents Franklin's virulent racism, heavy drug use, alcoholism, and large collection of pornography (including pedophilic and bestial material) found in his apartment when he was arrested. Yet the accused was on trial for none of these offenses, but only for the murder of eight-year-old Susan—after she'd been raped. No physical evidence connected Franklin to the crime: It was only Eileen's inconsistent testimony, supported by a few expert witnesses on childhood trauma and the repression of memory, that finally convicted him. And the jury's deliberations, MacLean emphasizes, took place without benefit of evidence (contemporary newspaper accounts of the crime) that cast doubt on whether Eileen recalled her own eyewitness details of the killing—or whether she read about these details, then "remembered" them. MacLean builds the story of the murder, arrest, and trial in convincing detail,taking care not to intrude with his own judgment of Franklin's guilt or innocence until after he reports the verdict. A riveting, thought-provoking look at a disturbing case. (Photographs—not seen)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed

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