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Woody Allen-Mia Farrow Custody Trial: 1993

The Custody Trial Begins

The next day, on March 19, 1993, the custody trial began before Acting Justice Wilk. Allen testified that after Farrow learned of his affair with Soon-Yi, she cut his head out of family pictures and that "she [Farrow] called me dozens of times a night, raging and screaming, threatening to kill me." He testified further that he once found a note she left by an open window saying, "I've jumped out the window because of what you've done to the children."

The nude photos of Soon-Yi were admitted as evidence in court. Farrow's attorney, Eleanor B. Alter, suggested they were pornographic. Allen testified they were a matter between consenting adults and were intended to be erotic. Attorney Alter read a letter from Moses Farrow, 15, to Allen that said, "You have done a horrible, unforgivable, ugly, stupid thing. I hope you get so humiliated you commit suicide.… Everyone knows not to have an affair with your son's sister, including that sister, but you have a special way to get that sister to think that that is O.K." Questioned by Elkan Abramowitz, his own lawyer, Allen responded that Moses was manipulated by his mother and used the same words and phrases that she had used only days earlier.

Farrow then testified that Dylan told her the preceding summer that her father had sexually molested her. Farrow conceded, however, that the child, in her shyness, would not tell doctors of the abuse and that a medical examination produced no signs of it. She explained that she had videotaped the girl's statement because, "I wanted this documented because it had happened before.… He would creep up in the morning and lay beside her bed and wait for her to wake up. I thought it was excessive. I was uncomfortable all along." Farrow added that when Allen came to visit, Dylan screamed, "Hide me! Hide me!" to her brothers and sisters.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Coates, who had treated Satchel and met often with both parents, testified that she had been convinced by Farrow's behavior—including sending Allen a Valentine with skewers through the hearts of her children—that she might harm herself or Allen.

More than two weeks went by in the stuffy, crowded New York City courtroom where the paint was peeling from the walls and ancient chairs creaked constantly. Dr. Coates testified that Allen should be allowed unsupervised visits with Satchel but was less certain about his seeing Dylan. The children's nanny testified that Farrow was not always a good mother and had once slapped an adopted son across the face for not finding a dog leash. Allen's sister testified that Farrow taught the children to hate him. Allen produced a surreptitious recording of a phone call from Farrow's Connecticut housekeeper that disparaged Farrow's abilities as a mother. Allen's lawyer, Abramowitz, accused the Connecticut State Police of aiding Farrow's case by allowing her lawyers to see the Dylan videotape but refusing his request to see it. A baby sitter testified that she saw Allen kneeling before Dylan "in a way that bothered" her. In a three-hour shouting match between Farrow's attorney, Alan M. Dershowitz, and Allen's attorney Abramowitz, Dershowitz denied allegations by Abramowitz that he had asked Allen to pay millions of dollars to get Farrow to call off the molestation charge. Justice Wilk criticized New York investigators for subjecting Dylan to the trauma of a second sex-abuse investigation. A doctor who headed the Connecticut investigation said that Dylan's story had "a rehearsed quality" and that Farrow might have encouraged the child to fabricate because she liked to perform.

On June 7, 1993, Justice Wilk, in a stinging 33-page decision, called Allen a "self-absorbed, untrustworthy and insensitive father. It is clear," he continued, "that the best interests of the children will be served by their continued custody with Ms. Farrow." The judge denied Allen immediate visitation rights with Dylan, ruling that a further review be held after Dylan received psychological therapy. Supervised visits, however, with Satchel would be allowed. The judge also acceded to Moses's request not to be forced to see his father and ordered Allen to pay Farrow's legal fees. Finally, the judge questioned the findings of the Yale-New Haven Hospital investigators, noting that whether or not molestation took place, "Mr. Allen's behavior toward Dylan was grossly inappropriate."

In September 1993, Connecticut State Attorney Frank Maco announced that, while he had "probable cause" to prosecute Allen on charges of sexual molestation of Dylan, he was dropping the case to spare her the trauma of appearing in court. Allen filed complaints asking the state bar counsel to disbar Maco and requesting that the State Criminal Justice Commission discipline Maco for making an accusation without producing an indictment. In October, the New York State Department of Social Services dropped its investigation into the child molestation charge. It concluded "that no credible evidence was found … that the child named in this report has been abused or maltreated." In November, the Connecticut Criminal Justice Commission voted unanimously to dismiss Allen's complaint against Maco. It said that after four hours of deliberation it could find no evidence that Prosecutor Maco had violated the canon of ethics for lawyers in his remarks during the September news conference in which he announced that he was dropping the charges against Allen. In January 1994, the Connecticut bar's disciplinary panel criticized Maco's handling of the case and found that he might have prejudiced the celebrities' custody battle, but that he did not violate the state's code of conduct for lawyers.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Woody Allen-Mia Farrow Custody Trial: 1993 - Life Imitating Art?, The Custody Trial Begins, The Aftermath