• HB2 isn’t legislature’s first hysterical reaction

    Charles Dunn

    Daily Tar Heel, 1970

    Charles Dunn

    April 29, 2016

    The damage was minimal compared with that caused by HB2, but the N.C. General Assembly in 1992 produced its own ludicrous overresponse to a nonexistent problem. It fell hard for the “satanic ritual abuse” allegations in the Little Rascals Day Care case.

    Requiring SBI notification within 24 hours of any report of sexual abuse in a day-care setting was reasonable enough. But that was only the beginning.

    According to the Associated Press:

    “Law enforcement officials are teaming up with social services experts to investigate and more effectively prosecute child sexual abuse in North Carolina day-care facilities….

    “State Bureau of Investigation Director Charles Dunn said… the goal is to train up to 300 individuals in the state’s largest cities.

    “Under the protocol, agencies in counties would establish guidelines for interagency task forces. Each task force would include an investigative unit and a resource unit.

    “The typical investigative unit would include a child protective services social worker, law enforcement officer, consultant from the state day-care licensing agency and an SBI agent.

    “The resource unit might include medical personnel, SBI lab experts, mental health workers and representatives of the attorney general’s and local district attorney’s offices….”

    Maybe this sprawling bureaucratic troop movement, frustrated in its original mission, could be reactivated to enforce HB2 in the state’s bathrooms…..

    — My response to a post on HB2 at the North Carolina Criminal law blog (April 29)

  • ‘There are no profiles in courage out there’

    The Intercept article


    The Intercept article

    April 25, 2016

    “Prosecutors wield extraordinary, unparalleled, and unchecked power. ‘They alone decide who to prosecute for criminal offenses, what charges to bring against them, and what punishments to seek,’ as the National Registry [of Wrongful Convictions] says. ‘In practice, that power extends to convicted defendants as well. If a sitting prosecutor asks the appropriate court to vacate the judgment and dismiss the charges against a defendant … it will happen.’

    “But this requires political will. And too often, the will is not there. As [Keith Hampton, attorney for Fran and Dan Keller] notes, convincing a prosecutor that an injustice has happened can be a tough pull: ‘Unless you have DNA – unless you get the DA completely cornered – there are no profiles in courage out there,’ he says.

    “Still, the number of exonerations in cases where no crime was actually committed are on the rise – so at least in some jurisdictions, individuals aren’t forever left in the kind of limbo in which the Kellers find themselves. The National Registry includes 540 exonerations in no-crime cases, including 51 exonerations in child sex abuse ‘hysteria’ cases [including Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson]….”

    – From “Convicted of a Crime That Never Happened: Why Won’t Texas Exonerate Fran and Dan Keller?” by Jordan Smith at the Intercept (April 8)


  • This time, will NC Bar tell DAs to play fair?

    Brad Bannon


    Brad Bannon

    April 20, 2016

    “‘If prosecutors have an ethical duty to avoid wrongful convictions, then they should have some sort of ethical duty to remedy wrongful convictions,’ said attorney Brad Bannon of the North Carolina Bar’s ethics committee.

    “He wants North Carolina to adopt a rule recommended by the American Bar Association, requiring prosecutors to come forward if they find ‘new, credible and material evidence’ that an innocent person is serving time. Thirteen states have adopted the post-conviction rule. North Carolina isn’t among them.

    “The State Bar rejected the rule several years ago but recently appointed a committee to reconsider….”

    – From “Rule targets prosecutors who don’t reveal innocence evidence” by Martha Waggoner of the Associated Press (April 16)

    Given prosecutors’ disproportionate influence on the state bar, to even “reconsider” the disclosure rule suggests the recent stream of unbecoming publicity  hasn’t gone unnoticed.


  • Embarrassed prosecutors, where are you?

    Jordan Smith


    Jordan Smith

    April 16, 2016

    “To many in the criminal justice system, it is now a source of embarrassment that there was ever a time when police and prosecutors were convinced that bands of Satanists had infiltrated the nation’s day care centers in order to abuse young children. Yet in the [Fran and Dan Keller case], which I investigated for the Austin Chronicle back in 2009, I was startled to hear both a veteran cop and a prosecutor say they still believed in even the most absurd of the children’s allegations….

    – From “Convicted of a Crime That Never Happened: Why Won’t Texas Exonerate Fran and Dan Keller?” by Jordan Smith at the Intercept (April 8)


  • From father of bus rider, a dissenting view


    April 13, 2016

    This week our recently installed Facebook page received a response from the father of one of Junior Chandler’s bus riders. He believes Junior was appropriately convicted and explains why.

    Here is our exchange:

    I believe Andrew Chandler Junior is guilty of all charges and should not be grouped along with those that you are requesting exoneration.

    I was a resident of Madison County, NC in the 1970s and 80s. Not only did Junior transport young children from the day care he also transported handicapped clients from the Mountains of Madison Workshops Mars Hill, NC. My son William B Morris Jr.  (Billy) was one of these clients. Billy is a victim of Cerebral Palsy. We noticed a short time after Junior started transporting Billy, he started rubbing his penis when setting on the couch in our living room. His sister Kelly reported this to us. We also noticed he was not coming home at the usual time he had been when other drivers were bringing him home. Sometimes he was an hour or more late. On one occasion three hours late. The workshop was only 20 to 30 minutes away. After we complained to the transportation manager Junior said he was not going to transport Billy any longer because it was too far out of his way.

    One day a neighbor was coming home from Mars Hill after shopping and found Billy crawling along Gabriel’s Creek Road about a mile from our home. I complained to the managers again and the only action taken was to change drivers. This was almost a year before Junior was accused of his crimes. I told the transportation management and notified Erwin Adams the county commissioner that I thought something was wrong about Junior.

    Later after Junior was convicted I took Billy to Redmond’s Dam on the French Broad River below Marshall, NC where the crimes were committed, he freaked out and tried to get out of the car. He was terrified. I don’t know what he witnessed or what was done to him there because he couldn’t tell me but it had to have been bad.

    William B Morris

    Mr. Morris, thank you very much for your thoughtful response.

    I can think of lots of reasons for a bus driver’s tardiness other than his pausing to commit “satanic ritual abuse” on his passengers…. All those times Junior Chandler was late, and no passenger or parents reported a larger problem?

    After visiting the supposed crime site in Madison County, I found it even more inconceivable that Junior – as described in appellate attorney Mark Montgomery’s amended petition for writ of certiorari – “would drive off his route to a parking area next to the French Broad River, strip the clothes off the toddlers, troop the naked children down to the river, put them on a rowboat, proceed to insert various objects into their anuses and vaginas, bring them back to the bus, put their clothes back on and deliver them home.”

    Although I see unexplained incidents and conflicting details, I don’t see anything approaching justification for a felony conviction – much less consecutive life sentences!…..

    I’m reminded of a comment by a UNC Chapel Hill psychologist who testified against Bob Kelly in the Little Rascals Day Care trial…. He said about the fantastical, nonsensical testimony of the child-witnesses that “There’s so much smoke there, it’s hard to imagine there’s no fire”…. In that case, it has become inarguably clear that there was indeed no fire…. But the conclusions the psychologist drew from the smoke helped to send Bob Kelly to prison for six years….

    If there is fire in the case against Junior Chandler, I’m just not able to recognize it…..

    Even though we disagree about Junior’s innocence, I appreciate and share your interest in seeing that justice is done.


  • Beware of jurors wearing deerstalker caps

    Dennis T. Ray


    Dennis T. Ray

    April 10, 2016

    “[Daniel Green’s] Durham-based defense team says it has new evidence that challenges major parts of the prosecution’s case, while bolstering their request for a new trial. They claim that misleading testimony and misconduct by the prosecutor and jury helped send Green to prison for [the 1993 murder of James Jordan] he did not commit.

    “The evidence outlined in court documents includes… a sworn statement from the jury forewoman who admits she did her own investigation of Jordan’s murder, which violated a judge’s order. Paula Locklear says that during the trial, she visited the South Carolina creekside where the body was found and developed her own theory on how the killing occurred. A Charlotte legal expert says her action amounts to a ‘tremendous problem’ for the original case and could get Green’s conviction overturned….”

    – From “New questions raised in slaying case of Michael Jordan’s father” by Michael Gordon and Mark Washburn in the Charlotte Observer (April 9) (cached)

    Sound familiar? It should! As a juror in Bob Kelly’s trial, Dennis T. Ray not only conducted his own “crime” scene surveys, but also shared a Cosmopolitan article about how to identify child molesters, relayed incriminating claims from a jailhouse snitch and even displayed a supposed “magic key” described by child witnesses.

    Unfortunately, Judge Marsh McLelland didn’t consider Ray’s rogue behavior – or that of a second juror, who dramatically revealed during deliberations that he himself had been abused as a child – to be a “tremendous problem.”

    In fact, McLelland found precious few reasons to take issue with the prosecution’s case.

    Read more here (cached here).



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