May 29, 2016
“It’s easy to whip people into a frenzy over a moral panic [such as ‘satanic ritual abuse’ in the 1980s]. All you do is tell people there’s a vast segment of humanity that wants to prey on their children. You tell them that these predatory people aren’t like us – they’re outsiders with different values. And you make sure that the talking heads on TV keep the story alive.
“Is it possible that a moral panic could happen today?
“Just ask Gov. Pat McCrory, who has cost his state millions of dollars defending a law that allegedly protects North Carolina children from transgender bathroom-goers – a statewide crisis that suddenly popped into existence during an election year, conveniently enough.
“Moral panics still exist, and they’re still absurd. The only difference is, they’re a lot more expensive than they were back in the ’80s.”
– From “History warns us to beware of ‘moral panic’ ” by Ben R. Williams in the Martinsville (Va.) Bulletin (May 27)
May 26, 2016
“I would like to see more cooperation between prosecutors and defense attorneys in their efforts to achieve justice, particularly when there is a credible post-conviction claim of innocence. The overloaded, underfunded, and often inefficient adversarial system doesn’t have to be the approach when common sense and a shared interest in justice can more quickly address injustices for the convicted and victims of crime.
“Prosecutorial conviction integrity units around the country have made that clear, but the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys seems to be encouraging less cooperation, not more.”
– Christine Mumma, quoted by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice
Mumma, of course, has famously endured the wrath of prosecutors whose autocracy she challenged.
You can like the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys on Facebook.
May 29, 2016
“ ‘On behalf of the State of North Carolina, I apologize to Mr. [Edward Charles] McInnis for the 27 years he had to spend behind bars for crimes he did not commit,’ McCrory said in a statement announcing the pardon. ‘While we cannot give him back those years of his life, I wish him well as he resumes his life as a free man.’ ”
Another DNA exoneration – thanks yet again, North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission – and this time both District Attorney Kristy Newton and Gov. McCrory acted expeditiously and humanely.
I look forward to seeing the governor extend such sentiments toward Junior Chandler, who has now spent more than 29 years behind bars.
May 18, 2016
Even where [wrongful imprisonment] compensation laws exist, they can be badly flawed. Most states, like Louisiana, place the burden on people who were wrongly convicted to prove their innocence before any payment is made. Several states offer embarrassingly small payouts…. Others have laws riddled with unreasonable restrictions…. Some refuse to pay anyone who pleaded guilty or who confessed to a crime he or she did not commit, despite evidence that many innocent people do both….”
– From “Paying for Years Lost Behind Bars,” editorial in the New York Times (May 18)
And some states – well, actually, just one – have governors who withhold compensation for nine months while gratuitously reinvestigating a DNA exoneration.
May 16, 2016
The aftereffects of Little Rascals on Edenton have long interested me. With few exceptions the town’s residents, now fewer than 5,000 for the first time since 1970, seem dedicated to forgetting their prominent role in the “satanic ritual abuse” day-care panic. When the chief prosecutor ran for district attorney, the local paper published 17 stories and an endorsement editorial without mentioning Little Rascals.
One Edenton innkeeper even deleted mention of the case from the town’s Wikipedia page.
So I’m always glad to see another perspective. This is from a note sent by a former resident:
“I was excited to see your Facebook page on Little Rascals. I had been looking for copies of the PBS programs for years and had only uncovered some poor quality copies.
“I have many friends in Edenton, which made viewing ‘Innocence Lost’ all the more interesting. I began to know Edenton right at the tail end of the saga. For me its attractiveness was the sense that I was in a very different place, a different culture from home. Quiet, peaceful, slow-paced. But we concluded this was no place to live. Yes, some nice people to be found, but overall, pretty stifling.
“The town leaders still have some things to answer for about Little Rascals, and I suspect that until there is a process of reconciliation, the town will remain a troubled place, though it does a good job putting on a facade.
“Little Rascals is unfinished business. The problem is that the power structure sees no reason for change. There is such a direct link to the plantation mentality here in eastern North Carolina (which also saw no reason to change), it’s not even funny.”
May 10, 2016
“Assistant District Attorney Nancy Lamb once said, ‘The goal of the prosecution is to seek justice.’
“If the defendants were guilty, the prosecution failed.
“If the defendants were innocent, the prosecution failed.
“The prosecution failed at everything but taking years from people’s lives, ruining their reputations, breaking up their marriages, dividing the people of a small town, wasting more than $1 million of the taxpayers’ money and smearing North Carolina’s reputation.”
– From “ ‘Rascals’ debacle ends, but damage is done,” an editorial in the Wilmington Morning Star (Sept. 27, 1999) after prosecutors dropped the last charges against Bob Kelly