Lunch and Southwest of Salem Panel Discussiom

Location: Regency Ballroom
Date: Fri, April 8
Time: 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Attendees are invited to sit in topical affinity groups.

Following lunch, please join us for a panel discussion featuring the San Antonio Four, attorney Mike Ware, and Southwest of Salemdirector Deborah Esquenazi, moderated by Mike Hall of Texas Monthly.

In San Antonio in 1994, during the height of the nationwide and now debunked “satanic panic,” four young Latina lesbians were charged with the bizarre gang rape of two little girls. Although the accusations were preposterous in nature, the investigation, led by a San Antonio homicide detective, was fueled by an erroneous “scientific” finding made by a pediatrician during the sexual assault exam. The pediatrician found that there was unmistakable physical evidence of painful, blunt force trauma to one of the girls’ sex organs, which could only have been caused by a sexual assault. She alerted police investigators that this was possibly a case of ritual, satanic, sexual abuse. 

Although all four young women, none of whom had any criminal history, consistently maintained their innocence and insisted they had no knowledge of any such crime, they were brought to trial, convicted, and given lengthy prison sentences, largely on the erroneous “scientific” testimony of the pediatrician. In 2010, the younger of the two girls, now in her 20’s, publicly recanted and explained how she and her sister came to make the false accusations. The testifying pediatrician then reviewed her original report and trial testimony and conceded in an affidavit that because of advanced scientific knowledge, based on scientific studies and data collection conducted after the time of her testimony, she could no longer say that there was any physical evidence indicating sexual assault. She stated that her purported “scientific” trial testimony had been in error.

As a result, with the agreement of the state, the women—Kristie Mayhugh, Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, and Anna Vasquez-- were released from prison on bail in late 2013, and are currently fighting a court battle to establish their complete innocence. Their story is told in a documentary called Southwest of Salem, directed by Austin filmmaker Deborah Esquenazi, which will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 15, 2016.