Couple Cleared of Satanic Abuse Awarded $3.4 Million

The state of Texas will pay $3.4 million to a couple who were wrongfully imprisoned for over twenty years on claims that they sexually abused children in their day care business in 1992. Dan and Fran Keller will receive the payment from a state fund for the wrongly convicted.

In June, a judge approved the request for a declaration of innocence for the Kellers. The Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore stated that there wasn't enough evidence left. The Kellers were convicted in 1992 of sexually assaulting children at the day care they operated out of their home after children told investigators about dismembered babies and tortured pets. They were sentenced to 48 years in prison.

In 2013, the couple was freed after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that the doctor was mistaken in determining the physical evidence of assault. The court ruled that the doctor's testimony was false, and the doctor also recanted it. The alleged victim acknowledged in a later interview that she didn't' have any memory of being abused.

The courts determined that Dan and Fran Keller are each eligible for $80,000 in compensation for every year they were wrongfully imprisoned. They will also receive a matching annuity that provides annual payments of 5 percent as long as they are alive.

Comments from Allen:  As this case demonstrates, the innocent do get convicted.

The Kellers were wrongfully imprisoned for 20 years each.  All the stories concerning them try to sensationalize the award by using the figure $3.4 million as the award for wrongful imprisonment.  That makes the award sound like a lottery windfall.  While the gross figure sounds high,when you break it down, this was a conservative award.

First, a couple did not go to prison.  Dan went to prison for 20 years.  Fran went to prison for 20 years and not once did she so much as glance at her husband; she never saw him.  A couple does not go to prison.  The photo above shows this couple as a couple, holding hands for the first time in 20 years.  Dan's award was $1.7 million.  Fran's award was $1.7 million.

The award amounted to about $232 for each day they spent in prison.  When you consider that award should include 20 years of interest, they basically were each awarded their accumulated lost paychecks, with interest.

The wrongful conviction had everyone in the state of Texas falsely believing Dan and Fran were satan-worshipping perverts and child molesters.  For 20 years.   They were not compensated for that.

Each one spent 20 years in a prison in which each of the other inmates "knew" Mr. and Mrs. Keller was there because they molested lots of children.  I don't know what abuse the Kellers suffered at the hands of other inmates, but I know from some who have been incarcerated for those crimes that such inmates are subject to incredible abuse at the hands of the other inmates.  Why?  Because there is a Code of Honor in prison.  There are certain things that are just not tolerated by inmates.  Theft and beatings and drugs are okay, but you do not abuse children.

One person with whom I spoke who had just been incarcerated for child abuse described his first day in prison like this: He returned to his cell and shut the door. Moments after closing the door, he heard a tremendous "THUMP" on the door from another inmate beating on it.  The assailant then yelled, "YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!"  Then he heard a second, and a third, and a fourth assailant all do exactly the same thing, until each prisoner in that block had expressed himself in exactly the same way.  

Another inmate convicted of child abuse described his incarceration as "fist city."  Knowing that defendant would be subjected to beatings by fellow inmates, the sentencing judge merely recognized that out loud at his sentencing and said "I know you will not be a most favored guest at that institution, but that is not my problem."

In other words, when you are convicted of child abuse, rightfully or wrongfully, you suffer much more than confinement.

In addition, Dan has lost an entire generation of his life: the children born whom he never met, birthday parties and baseball games he never attended.  Old friends who moved away or died over the last 20 years that he will never see again.  An entire generation of his life is lost forever.

Fran also suffered that same loss.  That loss was not compensated by replacing her lost income earning capacity.

This occurred in Texas.  The Texas legislature has seen fit to provide some modicum of compensation for people who have been wrongfully incarcerated.  Something is better than nothing.

I practice law in Idaho, and I have seen people with good cases who have been wrongfull imprisoned.  How has the Idaho legislature addressed this?  The Idaho Tort Claims Act, I.C. section 6-904(3) states the following:  "A governmental entity and its employees while acting withing the course and scope of their employment and without malice or criminal intent shall not be liable for any claim which ... arises out of ...false imprisonment...."

Annual compensation in Texas for sitting in prison while innocent: $80,000.  Annual compensation in Idaho for sitting in prison while innocent: $0.

The only recourse for someone wrongfully imprisoned in Idaho is to seek assistance under the Federal Civil Rights Act.  Something should be done to change the law in Idaho.  Don't hold your breath waiting for the legislature to do so, however; this exception to government liability in Idaho has been in place since the Idaho Tort Claims Act was enacted in 1971.


Allen Browning is an attorney in Idaho Falls, Idaho who handles personal injury and criminal defense. He has over 30 years of experience and handled thousands of cases. Allen handles cases from all over Idaho. Call (208) 542-2700 to set up a free consultation if you are facing legal trouble or you have been involved in an accident.

Also, check out for more information about Allen and Browning Law.

Allen Browning can help with all personal injury claims including motor vehicle accidents, truck accidents, auto accidents, serious and disabling accidents, and wrongful death claims.

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