How hysterical parents, incompetent therapists and malicious prosecutors destroyed the lives of seven innocent
North Carolinians – and have yet to admit they were wrong

“And When Did You Last See Your Father?” by William Frederick Yeames, 1878, depicting English Puritan inquisitors grilling the child of a Royalist family

“And When Did You Last See Your Father?” by William Frederick Yeames, 1878, depicting English Puritan inquisitors grilling the child of a Royalist family


  • Another bumper harvest for National Registry of Exonerations

    March 20, 2017

    “America saw another record year for the number of prisoners being exonerated, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science & Society, University of Michigan Law School, and Michigan State University College of Law.

    “For 2016, 166 people were exonerated of crimes and released from prison, 52 of them for murder. Of all the exonerations, 70 cases involved official misconduct of some sort, and in 74 of the cases, convictions came from guilty pleas. And in 94 cases (also a record) it turned out that no actual crime occurred at all. These were mostly drug cases but also some child sex abuse cases. Most famously, the San Antonio Four, four women convicted in 1998 in a fabricated satanic child sex abuse ring scandal, were released in 2016 after it finally became clear the crimes never occurred.”

    – From “Decades of exoneration stats show blacks more likely to wrongfully convicted” by Scott Shackford at (March 7)

    Of the Edenton Seven, only Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson, whose convictions were overturned, qualify for the National Registry of Exonerations. As spokesman Ted Koehler told me five years ago, “The Edenton case was a terrible witch hunt. Regretfully, though, [Betsy] Kelly’s and [Scott] Privott’s guilty pleas and the dropped charges against [Robin] Byrum, [Shelley] Stone, and [Darlene] Harris do not fit our definition of an exoneration….”

  • Some journals getting better at correcting mistakes

    March 9, 2017

    “As a result of complaints, [scientific] journals have been posting notices of problems with Dr. [Carlo] Croce’s papers at a quickening pace. From just a handful of notices before 2013 – known as corrections, retractions and editors’ notices – the number has ballooned to at least 20, with at least three more on the way, according to journal editors….”

    – From  “Years of Ethics Charges, but Star Cancer Researcher Gets a Pass” by James Glanz and Agustin Armendariz in the New York Times (March 8)

    Yet another example of professional journals responding with new vigor to faulty articles.

    By contrast, no retraction has ever appeared in those journals that lent credence to testimony by the prosecution’s expert witnesses during the day-care panic. Or perhaps some author or editor still wants to defend the likes of “Stress Responses of Children to Sexual Abuse and Ritualistic Abuse in Day Care Centers” and “Satanic Ritual Abuse: A Cause of Multiple Personality Disorder”?


  • ‘Sybil’ came clean, but psychiatrist wasn’t interested

    Shirley Ardell Mason

    Shirley Ardell Mason

    “[Shirley Ardell] Mason was the real person behind the 1970s best seller ‘Sybil,’ which sold 6 million copies with its riveting account of an abused woman inhabited by 16 different personalities. Sally Field won an Emmy for her 1976 portrayal seen by 20 percent of the nation.

    “In the process, Mason popularized the condition known as multiple personality disorder – a trendy 1970s diagnosis. The number of cases mushroomed from about 75 to 40,000 after ‘Sybil’ was published….

    “In the trove of records kept on her case, Mason actually admitted making up the many personalities.

    “ ‘I do not really have any multiple personalities,’ she wrote in a letter to her psychiatrist. ‘I do not even have a “double.” … I am all of them. I have been lying in my pretense of them.’

    “Her doctor chalked it up to a defensive ploy to avoid deeper therapy….”

    –  From “The Minnesotan behind Sybil, one of America’s most famous psychiatric patients
    by Curt Brown in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Feb. 25)


  • Letters claiming wrongful conviction couldn’t be true – could they?

    Benjamin Rachlin

    Feb. 22, 2017

    “[When Rich RosenTheresa Newman and Jim Coleman began planning the state’s first innocence project], not everyone agreed their work was worth doing. To many… colleagues, in North Carolina and across the country, the letters they were reading were no more than acts of desperation: There was zero chance these inmates were innocent, only that they had nothing to lose by filing paperwork. The American criminal-justice system had always trivialized its own chances at convicting anyone wrongly, feeling certain – as lawyer Christine Mumma no longer could – that protections at trial made that outcome impossible….”

    – From “A Justice Startup” by Benjamin Rachlin in “Innocent: The Fight Against Wrongful Convictions,” a Time special edition

    Rachlin’s piece is excerpted from “Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption,” to be published in August.



Looking for something posted here earlier? Click here for the Archive.

The Little Rascals Day Care Case in brief

In the beginning, in 1989, more than 90 children at the Little Rascals Day Care Center in Edenton, North Carolina, accused a total of 20 adults with 429 instances of sexual abuse over a three-year period. It may have all begun with one parent’s complaint about punishment given her child. Among the alleged perpetrators: the sheriff and mayor. But prosecutors would charge only Robin Byrum, Darlene Harris, Elizabeth “Betsy” Kelly, Robert “Bob” Kelly, Willard Scott Privott, Shelley Stone and Dawn Wilson – the Edenton 7.

Along with sodomy and beatings, allegations included a baby killed with a handgun, a child being hung upside down from a tree and being set on fire and countless other fantastic incidents involving spaceships, hot air balloons, pirate ships and trained sharks. By the time prosecutors dropped the last charges in 1997, Little Rascals had become North Carolina’s longest and most costly criminal trial. Prosecutors kept defendants jailed in hopes at least one would turn against their supposed co-conspirators. Remarkably, none did. Another shameful record: Five defendants had to wait longer to face their accusers in court than anyone else in North Carolina history.

Between 1991 and 1997, Ofra Bikel produced three extraordinary episodes on the Little Rascals case for the PBS series “Frontline.” Although “Innocence Lost” did not deter prosecutors, it exposed their tactics and fostered nationwide skepticism and dismay. With each passing year, the absurdity of the Little Rascals charges has become more obvious. But no admission of error has ever come from prosecutors, police, interviewers or parents. This site is devoted to the issues raised by this case.