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A special letter from Elisabeth Friedman

Dear Friends and Supporters, 

After 20 years of fighting, we finally have our first significant victory. Jesse has been granted a hearing in federal court. This is finally an opportunity to call witnesses, depose those involved in the prosecution, and possibly have Jesse’s conviction overturned.  The legal issues are somewhat complicated, but I’ll try and explain: 

In the federal appeal we raised three issues each relating to the withholding of information which should have been provided to Jesse prior to trial. These were Constitutional violations and had we known of any of this information at the time Jesse would have most certainly have taken his case to trial rather than pleading guilty.

The following are three issues raised.

1) More than 100 children were present during the computer classes (at the same time as the alleged abuse was going on) who told the police, “I was there and nothing happened.” This was never disclosed to the defense.

2) As our lawyers put it: “There was a crucible of suggestion, intimidation, and falsification on the part of the police. The prosecution failed to disclose exculpatory evidence showing that the police utilized aggressive suggestive and coercive interrogation techniques they knew, or should have known, would yield false allegations.”

3) The use of hypnosis during therapeutic sessions resulted in a situation of potential “implanted memory” or “repressed memory syndrome” and should have been disclosed to the defense at the time.

In her decision the federal judge ruled on the first two issues that the statute of limitations had expired and denied our petition. It is worthy to note that she did NOT rule our issues were meritless, merely that they were time-barred.

However, on the third issue, relating to hypnosis, Judge Seybert ordered a hearing to determine to what extent hypnosis was used, and how gross a constitutional violation this newly discovered evidence proves itself to being.

Our lawyer told us the chance of being granted a hearing from a habeas corpus was about as probable as walking into the corner deli and winning a million dollars on a scratch off lottery ticket.

In our hearts we never thought it would be possible for Jesse to have a fair day in court. Nonetheless, we did everything possible to prove Jesse’s innocence. He never hurt those children. The lie perpetrated on his life was also perpetrated on the lives of those children who were “accusers.” The relentless questioning by the police, and the therapists who used hypnosis on children as a means of eliciting testimony, destroyed the lives of the children involved. Jesse has been fighting not only to prove his innocence, but also to try and bring healing to those who have grown up believing they were sexually abused, when indeed they never were.  

As a result of Jesse’s conviction we live under the oppression and restrictions of Megan’s Law. There is no way to explain how dehumanizing and difficult this is. One example is a fear of reprisal from law enforcement, as well community, if we were to become parents. We live our life, always with a cloud of fear. This new chance for justice not only gives us an opportunity to shed a light on the truth, it also gives us the small and tender hope that we may someday live normal, simple lives.

Before I married Jesse, I knew our lives would be difficult, but I married him anyway. Even though it meant giving up on some things I hold so completely dear (like my hopes of being a mother). I love him that much. I love him more than I ever thought I could love at all. 

We are overjoyed with having won a hearing, but we are also in shock: happy, terrified, wonderful immense shock.

I think perhaps one of the largest concerns is money, and the lack there of. Jesse and I keep thinking of Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko” with the story of the guy who looses his fingers on a table saw. The doctors tell him, “We can save the middle finger for $60,000 or the ring finger $12,000.” That is how we feel. I don’t know if people realize that justice goes for a high price, and that indeed a lack of money often means a lack of justice.

As of now, where we stand, there is pretty much nothing left to pay the lawyers. The money Jesse got from his father’s life insurance claim has long since evaporated in legal bills. This appeal was only possible because of a generous team of people donating time, money, support, and effort, most specifically Andrew Jarecki (the director of Capturing the Friedmans) without whom there would have been no movie, and no appeal. It would no longer be fair to expect so much more from Andrew for he has already given so much and continues to be a wonderful friend.

Our lawyer, Ron Kuby, knew of our meager funding. While Mr. Kuby never agreed to working pro bono, he did agree to do what he could with what was available, and he has done some outstanding work. This past March we got what we thought would be the last bill from Ron and there was no money to pay him. Out of the goodness of his heart he agreed to keep working on the case in good faith, agreeing to wait and see, knowing I would do what I could to eventually pay him for all his work. 

Because of this wonderful turn of events this case now stands to be significantly more expensive than we ever had funding for. It is no longer Mr. Kuby working late into the night on his laptop with a pile of books. It’s now about hiring private investigators; tracking down witnesses; finding experts on hypnosis; and full days in court deposing witnesses. 

The thought of having to ask for money to help fund continue fighting this case makes us feel terrible. It’s just not the kind of thing that feels good to anyone. Especially  knowing there were those who have already donated to the defense fund. At this point, we just don’t know what else to do. There is really not much that I can say, just that, if it falls on your heart to give then please help, even if it’s only $5. If a thousand people could give $5 that can make a significant difference. I also ask that if you can pray, please pray that we will be able to go into this hearing with everything we need to see justice prevail.

Donations made to the National Center for Reason and Justice, who sponsor Jesse’s case, are tax-deductible (as they are a 501(c)(3) organization). The NCRJ is an advocacy and issue-awareness group dedicated to helping those much like Jesse. Donations can be made to the NCRJ, allocated for Jesse Friedman, and mailed to:

National Center for Reason and Justice
P.O. Box 230414
Boston MA 02123-0414

Donations may also be made on-line via the Friedman Defense Fund. There is information and a link for Pay-Pal at www.FriedmanDefenseFund.org.  All that money will go to pay legal bills directly.

My mother once told me that people bow down to God because the weight of the world crushes them, not because they are particularly submissive. That is how it has always been with me. When my world gets too heavy I bow down, because I can't always carry my heart when it gets so heavy. Jesse on the other hand has always had a mind-boggling reservoir of strength. He carries the immense weight of these injustices with his head up, heart strong, one foot in front of the other, and none of this has been able to bring him down. This past week I have seen him bow down, not because he was crushed, but because he was in awe. He is in awe of seeing even just a chance of justice in his life, and that is significant because justice and freedom are things most of us take for granted.

Keep your eyes on the media, and check-in with Jesse’s website for updates and breakthroughs in the case.

Thank you so much for your support.  Your kind letters have been a wonderful influence on our lives.

Sincerely,

Elisabeth Friedman