“20/20” airs Friday nights @ 9pm on WDAY/WDAZ.
Was it a warranted criminal investigation or a witch hunt orchestrated by a prosecution obsessed with putting a father in prison for life? Julian and Tali Wendrow were so desperate to help their autistic daughter, Aislinn, that they tried Facilitated Communication, which turned out to be a discredited technique when used to communicate with autistic people. But after the so-called “miracle cure” seemed to initially open up their daughter’s silent world, it opened up a world of trouble: out of nowhere came allegations of unspeakable abuse. Could their daughter now communicate and, if so, was what she communicated to be believed? Prosecutors certainly thought so – ignoring a mountain of evidence that Facilitated Communication was a sham, and failing to question whether Aislinn was being manipulated by her facilitator.
It is an investigation a Federal Judge called “a runaway train,” including a shocking videotaped police interrogation of Wendrow’s teenage son. Julian languished in jail for months, facing 75 years behind bars if convicted, while the children were torn from their home – until a dramatic courtroom confrontation where all was revealed.
Chris Cuomo reports on a story that the family at the center says serves as a warning for all… when the justice system goes wrong, anyone can become a target when prosecutors rely on junk science to file charges. “20/20” airs on FRIDAY, JANUARY 6 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
David Sloan is executive producer.