ONCE UPON A TIME by Harry N. MacLean


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 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)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-016543-X
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993