Customer Reviews: Once Upon A Time, A True Story of Memory, Murder and the Law
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Showing 1-10 of 20 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on November 14, 2011
Spoiler Alert: I'm a trial lawyer in Cal., and have some information for those looking for updates. First, as to the book, it's very well written, and you feel like you are at the trial. My quibble might be that it is clear that the author just personally liked the prosecutor better than the defense lawyer, and put her performance and the descriptions of her in a much better light than the defense, even though objectively, as a trial lawyer, from my reading, the defense attorney did the best he could with a biased judge.


For those interested, I think you can Google Franklin vs. Duncan to find the federal court decision overturning the conviction in 1995. The federal appeals court agreed in overturning the conviction, and the prosecutors decided not to retry the case. My take is that the father was a horrible, abusive, depraved person, but that the evidence he committed this particular crime was flimsy to non-existent. The book does a good job in showing how the cops, prosecutor and jury believe what they want to believe, and how they can twist the evidence to fit what they want to believe.

The grounds were that the trial judge was wrong to let the prosecutor argue that the defendant's silence when his daughter asked him whether he did it when he was in jail indicated guilt, because a criminal defendant has the right to remain silent and that cannot be used against him. The trial court also was in error by refusing to let the defense present evidence that every single detail of the crime that the daughter came up with had been published in newspapers and mentioned on TV. The prosecutor argued that the details the daughter gave could only be known by someone who had witnessed the crime, and they all matched up with the actual scene and body, but then the judge wouldn't let the defense show she could have read the stuff in the paper. The federal court was also very disturbed by the prosecutor implying to the jury that the information wasn't publicly known, when she knew that it was known, and the court thought the prosecutor may have induced perjured testimony. The trial court also indicated there was evidence the daughter committed perjury in testifying that she didn't discuss the facts of the case with her family, that she didn't watch press reports and that the memory was not induced by hypnosis. Her mom and sister, who backed her up in the trial, now claim that she was lying. The conviction was thrown out only on the jailhouse silence and the refusal to permit evidence of the press coverage, but the court was clearly disturbed by the other issues.


The father, after his release, sued the cops, the prosecutor, his daughter and the state's expert witnesses for conspiring to violate his rights. In 2002, the federal appeals court held that the witnesses had immunity from suit for various reasons. I think an Internet search of Franklin vs. Terr may turn that up.
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on August 28, 2014
I am filled with many emotions as I end this book. I a not a detail person and the repetition of details was almost more than I could stand, yet the overall story was very interesting. The author was meticulous in his portrayal of the facts. I feel as if I know all the people described. I never wanted to know such a dysfunctional family, yet I was fascinated by them. I don't think I will ever assume people come from "normal" backgrounds again. I could hardly believe it was a true story. How could a father so evil even exist? How could a wife deny so much? How could children grow up in that environment? And then how could the father live a life so different when he is found years later? and it was incomprehensible to me that the spineless, uninvolved mother could develop into a completely different person by the time of the trial. It is a story that will stay with me for a very long time. I must say that I am glad I read it. It expanded my understanding of what some people have to overcome in life. I wish no child had to ever endure what those children experienced.
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on November 29, 2014
It is an interesting book, but I hate when so much of it is the direct transcript from the trial. I am almost finished with it. I did like that the jury was interviewed and their initial thoughts and vote was given. You will not know the end until you read the whole book. J
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on December 15, 2013
Overall, a pretty good book. It basically is a play by play of a real story, and it succeeds in hitting all the details, but it seems a little long. I'm not sure what could be cut--it goes into great depth from beginning to end, and it left me curious about the real event. It was well written, but maybe goes into too much detail. Still, an interesting read. The writer definitely did his research.
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on January 21, 2012
Brilliant law facts, psychological experts and one really screwed up family will keep you glued to this book. The repressed, recovered memory may very well exist; however, I would never have convicted Mr. Franklin on that alone. The way Eileen kept changing her story to fit the facts is very bothersome to me. I have no doubt the defendant did some, if not all of the things he was accused of but convicting him on a self-professed liar's word alone with absolutely not another shred of evidence is horrifying. The Susan Nasons of the world deserve justice but it certainly must be proven. If she were my daughter, I'd still be wondering if we had the right man.
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on June 1, 2012
I remember when this case and the surrounding publicity hit the media. I must say I came away with a different conclusion after reading the book. When someone is warped by this kind of horrible abuse, it is impossible to know what is the "truth". I liked the book.
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on September 21, 2012
The story is compelling but so many people told so many lies, it's hard to figure out what really happened. Life isn't as tidy as a novel (as opposed to true crime)and sometimes you have to go with gut feeling. Did George Franklin do it? I'll never know, but he was a contemptuous human and decimated his family with abuse in all forms. Despicable man!
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on September 4, 2014
This is an excellent book for anyone who loves reading about true crimes, especially how the legal system works. Very well written and organized, laid out logically to best tell the story. I like the way MacLean introduces characters and provides detail at places in the story where they are more relevant, making it easier to keep the characters separate. I would have given it a 5 rating but, to me, there were some parts that were "overly descriptive" and that's just a "thing" I have as a reader. At any rate, I couldn't stop reading, even though I was familiar with the tale. Highly recommended.
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on May 26, 2014
This is a great book but very disturbing. The accused is a disgusting human being and this book goes to great pains to describe his depravity. A very good read minus the extrodinary details regarding the accused person's conduct.
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on August 28, 2014
I really liked this true story, fast paced and interesting. I have to tell you, the kindle version is full of typo's which to me was an annoyance. I don't know who type/edits for Kindle format, but they suck.
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