David McMahon hated the design of his classroom.
Located on the ground floor of the Pudong campus of the Shanghai French School, its almost floor-to-ceiling windows made him feel like he was “teaching in aquarium,” in the words of one of McMahon’s colleagues. Passersby couldn’t help but look in, and their attention would inevitably distract the kindergarteners inside. But when, in 2013, he was accused of abusing several of his students, the windows suddenly seemed to McMahon and his defenders a saving grace — proof the claims being made against him could not have happened. How could he have molested multiple children over the course of months, his lawyers planned to ask in court, in full view of anyone walking through a heavily-trafficked area of the campus?
It was one of many strands of a defense that seemed relatively iron tight to McMahon and his fiancée Linnea, who said that while they were appalled and upset at the charges, they weren’t overly worried, figuring the truth would come out at trial. “At the beginning it just seemed like this couldn’t possibly go any further, there wasn’t enough evidence, like how could this happen?” said Linnea, who requested to be identified only by her first name in order to protect her privacy. But when McMahon’s case came to court, just one of McMahon’s witnesses was allowed to testify, and she was only permitted to speak to his character. Almost all the evidence put forward by his lawyers was summarily dismissed, court documents show, demonstrative of the difficulties defense teams often have in the Chinese justice system, where around 99% of prosecutions end in a guilty verdict.