2017 January

    • When the people we trust can’t be trusted Jan. 25, 2017 “Why is there such a cultural bias toward stories of abuse – and especially toward grotesque and absurd tales, even when there is no reliable evidence that any crime ...
    • For child witnesses, life was changed forever Jan. 4, 2017 “ is perhaps most poignant on the subject of the damage to the young people who acted as witnesses. ‘Children as young as three and ...

      2016 April

    • HB2 isn’t legislature’s first hysterical reaction 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 ...
    • ‘There are no profiles in courage out there’ 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 ...
    • This time, will NC Bar tell DAs to play fair? 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 ...
    • Embarrassed prosecutors, where are you? 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 ...
    • 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 ...
    • Beware of jurors wearing deerstalker caps 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 ...
    • Which candidate cares about wrongful convictions? April 8, 2016 “North Carolina’s attorney general (Roy Cooper) should set up a group to investigate claims of wrongful convictions to prevent more innocent people from being in prison, the head of ...
    • ‘Most people thought I had lost my damn mind’ April 5, 2016 At a time when the Little Rascals claims were exposing widespread gullibility, a gritty band of doubters – e.g., Raymond Lawrence, Glenn Lancaster, Jane Duffield, Doug Wiik, Susan Corbett and Dee Swain – ...
    • Junior Chandler faces 30th year in prison April 4, 2016 Junior Chandler may be the last still-imprisoned victim of the “satanic ritual abuse” day-care panic. Chandler was a driver for a Madison County, N.C., day care. The prosecutor alleged ...

      2016 March

    • In search of justified public panics…. March 28, 2016 “I was thinking about recent public panics and started listing a few of them in my mind. This is just off the top of my head: Crack babies Super predators Lehmann/AIG/Countrywide ...
    • Latest site of ‘ritual abuse’ claims: Scotland March 21, 2016 “Once again advocates of the much discredited Satanic Abuse Panic are making claims of widespread child abuse across Britain. “Scotland appears to have become caught up in a nationwide ...
    • The last trial of Darryl Hunt March 17, 2016 The award-winning documentary “The Trials of Darryl Hunt” was released in 2006, but of course Hunt’s world-famous exoneration only freed him to face new trials on the outside – most ...
    • How ‘Innocence Lost’ changed one viewer’s life March 16, 2016 “Thank you for providing a site to keep this tragedy alive….  I was a daycare/preschool owner/administrator for 20 years ending in 1995. The primary reason I retired early was ...
    • Exoneree ‘eventually got the death penalty’ March 14, 2016 Darryl Hunt, imprisoned for more than 19 years for a murder he did not commit, was found dead in a car in Winston-Salem early Sunday. “In 1984 at age ...
    • Tortured by timidity in Texas March 13, 2016 “Fran and Dan Keller have been released from a Texas prison after 21 years, yet still have little freedom of movement or circumstance, or even quality of life. ...
    • Prosecutors still digging in their heels? March 7, 2016 “Have any public officials apologized to Dudley? “No.” – From “Howard Dudley’s new life: restaurants, cellphones and a cemetery visit” (cached)  by Joseph Neff in the News & Observer (March ...
    • Who remembers wrongful conviction was overturned? “…not one ‘satanic abuse’ network in the modern context has ever been proven to exist.”
    • Prosecutorial arrogance – it’s forever! March 1, 2016 “It would be hard to imagine a more glaring judicial conflict of interest than the one the Supreme Court considered in a case out of Pennsylvania on Monday. “In ...

      2016 February

    • Retirement looms for Rubenstein, who detected scam Feb. 26, 2016 “What a waste it would be to force Bucks County (Pa.) Judge Alan Rubenstein from the bench. At 70, he remains sharp and vibrant, a jurist of impeccable ...
    • Antonin Scalia no sucker for children’s testimony Feb. 15, 2016 “(NYU law professor Rachel) Barkow points to Scalia’s (1990) dissent in Maryland v. Craig, where he railed against the court for permitting ‘a child witness to testify via closed ...
    • ‘A good day for justice’ in Texas – why not in NC? Feb. 13, 2016 “The disciplinary board of the Texas State Bar on Monday affirmed the agency’s decision to disbar Charles Sebesta, the former prosecutor who oversaw the wrongful death sentence of ...
    • NC GOP’s one weird trick for justice reform Feb. 11, 2016 “Significant criminal justice reforms (are needed) to minimize the chances of wrongful prosecution in the future. “Some might dismiss such goals as a liberal utopian ideal, but criminal justice ...
    • Former justice calls for investigation of state bar Feb. 8, 2016 “Bob Orr, a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice, says it’s time for a comprehensive outside review of the state agency that oversees lawyers. “Orr… is part of a ...
    • Is Finkelhor now less panicked by day cares? Feb. 3, 2016 “A new survey finds that adults at school, day care and organizations such as churches and scouting groups are less likely than relatives to abuse or mistreat children. “In ...

      2016 January

    • The truth about justice – as seen on TV! Jan. 29, 2016 “The release last month of ‘Making a Murderer’ capped a year in which popular culture’s portrayal of the criminal justice system seems to have shifted. Out with the ...
    • Separate disciplinary panel needed for prosecutorial excesses Jan. 20, 2016 “The Jan. 15 editorial ‘The limits of zeal’ contrasted the penalty given Christine Mumma with the absence of rebuke to prosecutors for the ‘massive failure’ that kept her client ...
    • Mumma victimized by prosecutor’s perverse priorities Jan. 16, 2016 “Joseph Sledge spent 37 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. At his trial, the state paid a lying snitch to testify against him. While he was ...
    • Will Edenton, too, ever be ‘honest about what took place’? Jan. 14, 2016 “Researchers announced this week they have confirmed the plot (in Salem, Mass.) where 19 people accused of witchcraft were hanged in a wave of hysteria that swept this ...
    • ‘Motive behind these sexual acts is never revealed….’ Jan. 12, 2016 “There are strong similarities between the confessions taken from accused witches in early modern Europe, the testimony of Satanic ritual abuse taken by modern therapists, and accounts of ...
    • Obama can’t pardon Chandler – but McCrory could Jan. 6, 2016 “Many fans of (the hit Netflix documentary) Making a Murderer, which sheds light on questionable conduct by prosecutors and police involved in (Steven) Avery’s conviction, view the 53-year-old’s imprisonment as ...
    • How Edenton resembled Guantanamo Bay Jan. 2, 2016 “The CIA’s use of its enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence… and on several occasions produced inaccurate information…. “Despite declaring the program a ‘success,’ ...

      2015 December

    • 2015: Train for justice stayed stuck at station Dec. 30, 2015 Where things stand at year’s end in the obscure but still hopeful world of littlerascalsdaycarecase.org: – Junior Chandler continues to wait for a decision from the Duke Wrongful Convictions ...
    • One argument for ‘satanic ritual abuse’ pardons Dec. 28, 2015 “One problem with pardons is that Presidents have considered them in secret, springing the decisions on the public only after they have been made. In high-profile cases, like ...
    • DA acknowledges junk science in arson conviction Dec. 17, 2015 “Three men convicted of murder by arson for a 1980 fire in Brooklyn (were) exonerated on Wednesday…. “What carried the three men into prison was not reliable evidence of ...
    • Defendants’ bond lowered to ‘only’ $200,000 Dec. 16, 2015 On this day 25 years ago: Bonds for Little Rascals employees Robin Byrum and Dawn Wilson are reduced to a still excessive $200,000 – Byrum’s from $500,000, Wilson’s from $880,000. Byrum will be ...
    • Another century, another generation of fake victims Dec. 8, 2015 “It is over 20 years since the rash of allegation that rituals of devil worship, including the sexual abuse of children, the sacrifice, and (sometimes) eating, of animals, ...
    • Throw symptoms against the wall, see if any stick…. Dec. 4, 2015 “Hertford, N.C. – Three children who attended Little Rascals Day Care Center behaved strangely in kindergarten, a teacher testified Wednesday in the sex abuse trial of Dawn Wilson. “Lisa Leary ...

      2015 November

    • In Guilford County, a DA who paid attention Nov. 27, 2015 “We cannot bring criminal prosecutions based upon what we think the facts might be, out of our love for animals or in response to public pressure. Down that ...
    • Catholic clergy abuse scandal unrelated to day-care cases Nov. 18, 2015 “Readers who want a deeper look at how young children’s accounts of CSA (child sexual abuse) were discredited in the same time frame of the (Roman Catholic) clergy ...
    • ‘Michelle Remembers’ spread its myth widely Nov. 15, 2015 “In 1977 the Canadian psychotherapist Lawrence Pazder published a memoir of one of his patients, ‘Michelle Remembers.’… “Michelle’s memoir had been preceded by a number of other books by survivors of ...
    • Chandler’s sentence designed to lock him up forever Nov. 8, 2015 “The latest obstacle to Gerald Amirault’s freedom came without fanfare. A three-member panel of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections has now decided that, since the prisoner has refused participation in ...
    • Just what McMartin case needed: More hysteria! Nov. 4, 2015 “(Psychiatrist Roland) Summit praised the hysteria-induced news media hype and community gossip (about the McMartin Preschool case) as a public service: Without that type and extent of press ...

      2015 September

    • Sweden examines its mistakes – why doesn’t N.C.? Sept. 29, 2015 “Thomas Quick was the name adopted by Swedish petty criminal and drug addict Sture Bergwall, who under ‘recovered memory’ therapy, confessed to raping, killing and even eating more than ...
    • Innocent defendants are poor candidates for recidivism Sept. 22, 2015 “Pedophilia, the sexual attraction to children who have not yet reached puberty, remains a vexing challenge for clinicians and public officials…. Researchers have found no effective treatment. Like ...
    • ‘Ritual abuse’ claims exempt from retraction? Sept. 14, 2015 “Rising retraction rates reflect (in part) the fact that scientists, journalists and amateur watchdogs have begun scrutinizing research more closely…. “This heightened scrutiny – the very scrutiny that likely ...
    • Another child-witness, now grown, spills the beans Sept. 8, 2015 “Jennifer (a pseudonym) reached out to me after seeing an interview I gave about the McMartin Preschool trial…. She said she had been involved in a similar case ...
    • It wasn’t just Edenton where lips were zipped Sept. 5, 2015 “An 1895 reporter found (Salem) town residents reluctant to talk about the past. “When they did, it was to impress upon him that they had not burned a single ...
    • Steinem made case for believing the unbelievable Sept. 1, 2015  “(As witnesses) children are even less likely to be believed when their stories involve extremes of sadism, collusion among families and communities (sometimes extending over several generations) and ...

      2015 August

    • Dog bites man: ‘Paper will not be retracted’ Aug. 26, 2015 In November 2012 the journal Nursing Research declined my request to retract Susan J. Kelley’s 1990 article based on the existence of “satanic ritual abuse” in day cares. ...
    • ‘Antifeminism’ to blame? Not so fast, Mr. Beck Aug. 24, 2015 “(Richard) Beck is generally restrained in his narrative, letting the details pile up to a well-deserved indictment of the many players in the ‘moral panic.’ But in explaining ...
    • When imaginary crime leads to real punishment Aug. 20, 2015 “In the mid-1980s, a friend of mine testified on behalf of an elementary-school teacher who had been accused of being a pedophile. “A child had told his mother that ...
    • Prosecutors misused bail to squeeze defendants Aug. 16, 2015 “In 1689, the English Bill of Rights outlawed the widespread practice of keeping defendants in jail by setting deliberately unaffordable bail, declaring that ‘excessive bail shall not be ...
    • At last, book lays bare ‘satanic ritual abuse’ era Aug. 10, 2015 Since I undertook this blog in 2011, I’ve been waiting for a mass-market book that recalls the “satanic ritual abuse” day-care era with authority, insight and thoroughness. “We Believe ...
    • Immunity lets off miscreant prosecutors scot-free Aug. 9, 2015 “Suppressing evidence, coddling informants, even outright lying are some of the instances of prosecutorial misconduct that sent away nearly half the 1,621 people convicted for crimes they didn’t commit since ...
    • Injustice without amends: ‘We should be ashamed’ Aug. 4, 2015 “Some have drawn parallels between the Salem witch trials of 1692 and the false accusations of sexual abuse that sweptc America in the 1980s. The difference is this: “Those ...

      2015 July

    • Wikipedia stifles ‘ritual abuse’ disinformation campaign July 31, 2015 “Since February, 2008, on Wikipedia’s page on ‘Satanic Ritual Abuse,’ Wikipedia’s staff has been suppressing and deleting credible posts from credible sources (including my posts – I am ...
    • This just in: La. theater killings rooted in ‘ritual abuse’! July 26, 2015 “A look at America’s underbelly indicates more than a ‘random’ killing (at a Lafayette, La., movie theater). Eight signs point to John Russell Houser possibly being subjected to programmed satanic ...
    • Excuses for denying exoneration (Salem version) July 21, 2015 “When Massachusetts exonerated the Salem victims in 1710 it overlooked six women. They remained missing through the 1940s and 1950s as the commonwealth considered pardons but could not ...
    • Kelly defenders risked ‘financial and social suicide’ July 13, 2015 Throughout the long unfolding of the Little Rascals Day Care prosecution, outsiders often sought to determine the “mood of Edenton.” This was a challenging task even in the ...
    • Rare words of prosecutorial remorse July 5, 2015 “In March, A. M. Stroud III, lead prosecutor at trial, wrote a remorseful article in The Shreveport Times, declaring, ‘Glenn Ford was an innocent man,’ taking responsibility for a rush ...
    • British lawyers see payday in ritual abuse claims July 2, 2015 “The notion of satanic ritual abuse was dismissed as ‘utter nonsense’ by Mrs. Justice Pauffley in care proceedings in the family court at (London’s) Royal Courts of Justice in March. ...

      2015 June

    • Betsy Kelly barred from reunion (but still got T-shirt!) June 28, 2015 “Today in Edenton members of John A. Holmes High School’s Class of ’73 will walk across a stage in caps and gowns, receive diplomas and turn tassels on ...
    • In 1993, predicting a historic marker – and more June 18, 2015 Given my thoroughly unsuccessful attempt to persuade the State of North Carolina to erect a historic marker recalling the Little Rascals Day Care case, I had to laugh at discovering ...
    • ‘A personal mission to have Bob put behind bars’ June 14, 2015 Long after Bob Kelly reclaimed his freedom, he continued to fear that prosecutor Nancy Lamb was searching for yet another excuse to send him back to prison. His apprehension ...
    • What movie may doubt, book surely doesn’t June 11, 2015 “In (the upcoming movie) Regression, Ethan Hawke plays a detective investigating accusations by a woman against her father. There’s a twist: The father has admitted wrongdoing, though he has ...
    • McCrory tires of Sherlock Holmes impersonation June 4, 2015 “Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday pardoned two half-brothers who were exonerated of murder after spending three decades in prison. “The governor took nine months to make the decision….” – From ...
    • When rationalizing is mistaken for reasoning June 2, 2015 “Psychologist Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia says that the most common and problematic bias in science is ‘motivated reasoning’: We interpret observations to fit a particular idea. “Psychologists have ...

      2015 May

    • What might’ve been: Nancy Lamb at the multiplex May 30, 2015 Ofra Bikel’s eight hours of “Innocence Lost” were surely powerful, but the narrowness of PBS’s audience limited their impact. What if the Little Rascals Day Care case had ...
    • The imaginations run amok were not the children’s May 27, 2015 “Here’s an observation from the (“satanic ritual abuse” day-care) panic that I don’t think has been fully explored: These kids didn’t make up these stories. “In this case (of Fran ...
    • Prosecution’s doctors ‘medicalized Satan’ May 25, 2015 “Investigative journalist Susan Goldsmith has spent years examining the medical and legal industry that has arisen to promote its belief that vicious baby-shaking by enraged adults has killed ...
    • Investigation without end, injustice without end? May 8, 2015 “A new investigation by the governor into ‘culpability’ has some concerned that he may be caving to the political pressure inherent in the pardon process – particularly given ...
    • How could anyone doubt ‘shoes made of baby skin’? May 5, 2015 “Its members are, it’s claimed, drawn mainly from a school and church in Hampstead (a North London suburb). They are said to wear shoes made of baby skin, ...

      2015 April

    • ‘So, Paula, do YOU think I should pardon them?’ April 29, 2015 “Wednesday marks the 230th day that Governor Pat McCrory has refused to grant a pardon of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, the two Robeson County men ...
    • Kids say the darndest things… eventually April 24, 2015 “As was made clear repeatedly upon testimony by experts, the very first reports of the children were the ones that would be most critical in determining whether sexual ...
    • Lack of DNA evidence opens way for injustice April 18, 2015 “DNA testing has been used 329 times now to prove the innocence of people wrongly convicted of a crime. But what happens when there is no DNA evidence ...
    • Death noted: Little Rascals judge Marsh McLelland April 13, 2015 D. Marsh McLelland, judge in the trials of Little Rascals defendants Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson, died last month in Burlington. He was 94. This laudatory obituary in the Greensboro News ...
    • Prosecutors claimed WHAT happened here? April 6, 2015 A team from the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic recently traveled to Buncombe and Madison counties to collect documents from court clerks’ offices, to interview witnesses and to inspect ...
    • System that wronged Betsy Kelly rewarded Nancy Lamb April 5, 2015 William L. Anderson, professor of economics at Frostburg (Md.) State University, writes widely in opposition to big government. He has a particular aversion to overreaching prosecutors such as ...

      2015 February

    • ‘Black helicopters’ over Edenton? Sure, why not? Feb. 27, 2015 “…. A social worker from North Carolina informed the group (the Society for the Investigation, Treatment and Prevention of Ritual and Cult Abuse) that in the day-care sex-abuse ...
    • Can we cope with seeing wrongful convictions? Feb. 20, 2015 “Exonerations, which were once exceedingly rare, have become regular features of the American justice system. The National Registry of Exonerations records 1,535 exonerations nationwide (including Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson) since records ...
    • The shocking ease of installing ‘lost memories’ Feb. 13, 2015 “Psychologists terminated a study (of 70 students at a Canadian university) that showed the ease of implanting false memories of committing terrible, violent crimes in the recent past ...
    • Salem to Edenton was a road heavily traveled Feb. 9, 2015 The Little Rascals Day Care case has often been likened to the Salem Witch Trials, but this lengthy list from “Understanding The Crucible: A Student Casebook to Issues, ...
    • McMartin therapy victim: ‘I lived in fabricated fear’ Feb. 5, 2015 “I was involved in this (McMartin Preschool) case. I remember getting dropped off at court-ordered therapy. I don’t remember the sessions, but I have seen the macabre pictures ...

      2014 November

    • Can Edenton squeeze in one more historical marker? Nov. 27, 2014 “Of the dozen or so historical markers clustered in the town of Edenton, only one – recognizing novelist Inglis Fletcher – postdates the 1800s. “The North Carolina Highway Historical Marker ...
    • Lessons of ‘ritual abuse’ era still relevant today Nov. 19, 2014 “While (‘The Witch-Hunt Narrative’ author Ross) Cheit… admits that there was some ‘overreaction’ and injustice to innocent people – including ‘five, possibly six, of the seven defendants’ in ...
    • How one young reporter changed his mind Nov. 8, 2014 “In the summer of 1989, I accepted my first job at a daily paper when The Daily Advance hired me to cover a two-county beat – Chowan and ...
    • Nancy Lamb loses bid for district attorney Nov. 5, 2014 Andrew Womble: 24,357 votes (53 percent) Nancy Lamb: 21,411 votes (47 percent)  I’d like to attribute Nancy Lamb’s defeat to her misbegotten role in the prosecution of the Edenton Seven. ...
    • Little Rascals? Doesn’t ring a bell, says local daily Nov. 2, 2014 “For District Attorney – Nancy Lamb: Two equally motivated and capable candidates, Democrat Nancy Lamb and Republican Andrew Womble, have mounted compelling political campaigns to claim the job ...

      2014 October

    • Lamb not only unrepentant prosecutor facing voters Oct. 24, 2014 “As Middlesex County (Mass.) district attorney, (Martha) Coakley defended the convictions of Fells Acres day-care center operator Violet Amirault and her two children, Gerald Amirault and Cheryl Amirault LeFave. The ...
    • A familiar story of day-care sex abuse – too familiar? Oct. 16, 2014 “A 38-year-old man from Statesville has been accused of molesting children as young as 3 years old at the day care where he worked in the 1990s…. “Police said ...
    • What white people believed that black people doubted Oct. 14, 2014 “(Bob) Kelly’s father-in-law, Warren Twiddy, says that blacks are the only people in Edenton who still treat him like a human being. “One black woman, calling the whole episode ...
    • Veteran journalist bought into Believe the Children Oct. 4, 2014 Among those journalists who fell for the “satanic ritual abuse” storyline, none fell harder than Civia Tamarkin. She not only stage-managed an embarrassingly credulous episode of “Nightline,” but also ...

      2014 September

    • Junior Chandler’s homefolks updated on his case Sept. 29, 2014 “Duke law professor Theresa Newman has three boxes full of files about Andrew Chandler Jr.’s case: details about the bizarre allegations, the expert testimony that would not be ...
    • Duke Law project examining Chandler’s case Sept. 23, 2014 The Duke Law School Wrongful Convictions Clinic was a crucial ally of defense attorney Sean Devereux in the recent exoneration of Michael Alan Parker, whose “satanic ritual abuse” conviction bears many ...
    • Evidence of new day in Edenton? We can hope Sept. 17, 2014 I’m doubly intrigued by this recent letter to the editor of the Elizabeth City Advance. First, that an electioneering party official – in Edenton! – would cite the Little ...
    • What? No Little Rascals on Edenton’s Wiki page? Sept. 12, 2014 Edenton has been the scene of many historic events – the Edenton Tea Party, the escape of Harriet Jacobs, etc. – but surely nothing happened there in the entire 20th ...
    • Isn’t half of Junior’s life enough, North Carolina? Sept. 8, 2014 “The aging prison population represents a national human-made epidemic decades in the making. … “Our current trajectory is economically infeasible and morally untenable…. “Although there is no commonly agreed-upon age ...
    • ‘What have you got? Exoneration? I don’t think so….’ Sept. 4, 2014 “The evidence you heard today in my opinion negates the evidence presented at trial…. Based upon this new evidence, the state does not have a case to prosecute….” – ...
    • Edenton Seven can’t wait forever for exoneration Sept. 1, 2014 The recent deaths of Little Rascals figures Patricia Kephart Hart (obituary cached here) and C. Harvey Williams remind me that the clock is ticking on the defendants as well. (Patricia Kephart, mother of ...

      2014 June

    • Portrait of a town haunted by hindsight June 29, 2014 “(The Little Rascals Day Care center) is red brick, with plate glass windows on the front. The two-story structure is located on East Eden Street, amid mostly modest ...
    • It’s not just politics that make strange bedfellows June 23, 2014 “The emphasis has got to be on the crime. Once you start using labels like satanic, sadistic or ritualistic, then you’re immediately raising a red flag…. Law enforcement, ...
    • Cable head Wendy Murphy strikes (out) again… June 18, 2014 “I was disappointed to see that one of the most celebrated cases of this time was mentioned in (Ross Cheit’s) book but not analyzed. The Little Rascals case from Edenton, ...
    • Dr. Frances makes case for Chandler’s release June 15, 2014 “Andrew Junior Chandler has been unjustly incarcerated in a North Carolina prison for 27 years, charged with a crime that almost surely never happened…. “Let’s hope that Gov. Pat ...
    • What is so sad as a debunker with no bunk? June 12, 2014 “He thinks the continued treatment of these cases as a modern-day episode of mass hysteria does disservice to children and even puts them in danger. “ ‘We have, over ...
    • Nancy Lamb: ‘Would you want someone like me?’ June 3, 2014 “I want all of you to ask yourselves: If you were to find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of being the victim of a crime, who would you ...

      2014 May

    • Courts reluctantly turn to Little Rascals DA May 27, 2014 “The state court system says it hired a local defense attorney to prosecute three murder suspects because the current district attorney had conflicts of interest in all three ...
    • Day-care panic had roots in incest movement May 23, 2014 “….The widespread belief that sexual abuse of children is endemic to society is a relatively new notion. In fact, it can be traced to a particular moment in ...
    • The unenlightened self-interest of prosecutors May 16, 2014 Exhibit A: “Last year at a state solicitors’ convention in Myrtle Beach, (South Carolina State Supreme Court Justice Donald Beatty) cautioned that prosecutors in the state have been ‘getting ...
    • Supposed debunking of moral panic is itself spurious May 10, 2014 “The failure to obtain convictions (in the McMartin Preschool case) combined with massive press coverage during and after, which ‘taught’ the American public various ‘lessons’ about child sex ...
    • The reign of fantasy as therapy, recalled in a single chart May 3, 2014  As I’ve noted before, the Google Ngram Viewer mines a database of more than 5 million books to track word and phrase frequencies over time. Too bad it abruptly ends at ...

      2014 March

    • Where ‘thousands of cult abusers infiltrated respectable society’? March 30, 2014 A welcome contribution to the unraveling of the “satanic ritual abuse” case against Fran and Danny Keller was this letter from Chicago psychology professor Evan Harrington dismantling the testimony of prosecution witness ...
    • Psychiatry, the devil and Gloria Steinem March 24, 2014 As described in Richard Noll’s “When Psychiatry Battled the Devil,” the 7th annual conference of the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation, held in ...
    • SRA apologists flushed from their diploma-papered caves March 22, 2014 “Editorial Note: In light of the responses we have received regarding this article by Richard Noll, PhD, that was posted on our website on December 6, 2013, the ...
    • Too bad ‘True Detective’ chose to mislead, not to enlighten March 15, 2014 “In an interview with Entertainment Weekly (True Detective creator Nic) Pizzolato responded to a question about the inspiration for the show: ‘You can Google “Satanism” “preschool” and “Louisiana” and ...
    • New York Times remembers McMartin case March 12, 2014 “Really now, teachers chopped up animals, clubbed a horse to death with a baseball bat, sacrificed a baby in a church and made children drink the blood, dressed ...
    • Why SRA authors might’ve passed on responding March 8, 2014 Last of three posts As I recounted earlier, Dr. Jon Conte expressed a willingness to consider my expanded letter seeking a retraction of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence’s past support ...
    • A funny thing happened on the way to publication March 7, 2014 Second of three posts After our lengthy email exchange I took up editor Jon Conte on his offer to consider an expanded letter challenging the Journal of Interpersonal Violence’s past support ...
    • What? A journal willing to retract? March 6, 2014 First of three posts Psychiatric Times isn’t the only professional journal to avoid reexamining the “satanic ritual abuse” era. Other examples include Nursing Research, Child Abuse & Neglect and Relational Child and Youth Care Practice. The ...

      2014 February

    • Richard Kluft, ‘advocate of moderation’? Feb. 28, 2014 As noted by Gary Greenberg, Richard Noll’s disappeared history of psychiatry and satanic ritual abuse “singles out two psychiatrists – Bennett Braun and Richard Kluft – who were instrumental in giving ...
    • C’mon, Dr. Kluft, aren’t you proud of your role? Feb. 24, 2014 Why would Dr. Richard Kluft “take exception to” and “(raise) the issue of legal liability” over “When Psychiatry Battled the Devil”? It’s not as if the record of Kluft’s ...
    • In search of a ‘frank and unblinking appraisal’ Feb. 20, 2014 Following up on the curious case of Richard Noll v. Psychiatric Times, I wrote editor-in-chief James L. Knoll IV to ask about the removal of Dr. Noll’s “satanic ritual abuse” essay from the ...
    • Psychiatric Times clings to embarrassing position Feb. 14, 2014 Thanks to Ivan Oransky at Retraction Watch for spotlighting Psychiatric Times’ remarkably inept retraction of Richard Noll’s “When Psychiatry Battled the Devil.” Don’t miss the update appended by Dr. Noll: “On 16 January 2014 I received a ...
    • ‘Where is psychotherapists’ mea culpa?’ Feb. 7, 2014 A sampling of responses to the recent reporting and comments of Richard Noll and Allen Frances about psychiatry’s costly failure to reject the cult of “satanic ritual abuse”: ■  ■  ■ “Kudos to Dr. ...
    • Is psychiatry ready to face up to its denial? Feb. 1, 2014 “As our medical schools and graduate programs fill with students who were born after 1989, we meet young mental health professionals-in-training who have no knowledge or living memory of ...

      2014 January

    • Responses to N&O op-ed vary dramatically Jan. 24, 2014 “Powell is right (in this News & Observer column). The state should exonerate those wrongly convicted members of the Edenton Seven and the wrongly accused who were never ...
    • It’s not too late to exonerate, Mr. Attorney General Jan. 20, 2014 “Eighteen months ago I petitioned Attorney General Roy Cooper to issue a statement of innocence for the Edenton Seven. “ ‘In 2001 Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift signed a resolution ...
    • Texas physician, DA show how to admit injustice Jan. 8, 2014 “Among the atrocities that Frances and Dan Keller were supposed to have committed while running a day care center out of their Texas home: drowning and dismembering babies ...
    • Practicing therapy ‘on the basis of sheer myth’ Jan. 5, 2014 “Probably the main reason for the growth of false charges of (sexual) abuse has been the recent proliferation of abuse specialists and therapists, many of whom lack any ...

      2013 December

    • Could we resolve to better next year? Dec. 28, 2013 End-of-year grab bag from the wide world of justice delayed: ● Thanks to Professor P. S. Ruckman Jr. at Pardon Power for posting my comments on Andrew Junior Chandler. ● Two glimmers of ...
    • Dennis Rogers: Who has the courage to make amends? Dec. 21, 2013 As noted here and here, News & Observer columnist Dennis Rogers was among the too-few voices of skepticism about the Little Rascals case. Today Rogers is mostly retired, but he continues to ...
    • ‘Ritual abuse’ prosecution as stepping stone? Dec. 15, 2013 “….Rumor has it that people are urging former District Attorney Nancy Lamb to run against Republican (State) Rep. Bob Steinberg in Northeastern North Carolina…. “In Steinberg’s district, Democrats hold ...
    • Clemency now rare; is it fear of blowback? Dec. 8, 2013 “Obviously, there’s a modern trend towards more limited use of executive clemency that extends beyond the current president. I speculate that the increased media scrutiny given to pardons ...
    • Three ‘built-in biases’ with tragic consequences Dec. 2, 2013 “Of the many built-in biases in human thought, three have perhaps the greatest consequences for our own history and that of nations: the belief that we see things ...

      2013 October

    • 50 students now know the facts Oct. 28, 2013 “What was surprising was that in a class of 50 students, none had heard of the day care allegations of the 1980s.” – From a note from Catherine Caldwell-Harris, associate ...
    • Nancy Lamb, DA? It’s up to Gov. McCrory Oct. 18, 2013 Because the Elizabeth City Daily Advance rejected my letter to the editor questioning its support of Nancy Lamb for district attorney, I’ve been posting comments in the online Advance, these ...
    • Focus on Lamb’s politics is off the mark Oct. 14, 2013 “Whether Nancy Lamb should be promoted to district attorney is not simply a question of Democrats vs. Republicans. (Lamb is a Democrat; the decision on whether to appoint ...
    • Holocaust denial shows vulnerability of real memory Oct. 11, 2013 “Holocaust deniers have managed to receive, in recent years, a respectful hearing on college campuses and elsewhere, despite the existence of mountains of firsthand and corroborated traumatic memories ...
    • ‘Hunt for child abusers has become national pathology’ Oct. 9, 2013 “We are a society that, every 50 years or so, is afflicted by some paroxysm of virtue – an orgy of self-cleansing through which evil of one kind ...
    • ‘And believes to this day she was molested….’ Oct. 7, 2013 “Today (in 2001), few contend that the interview techniques used at the outset of the Fells Acres child abuse investigation, in 1984, were proper and reliable. Middlesex County (Mass.) prosecutors ...
    • Satanic ritual abuse exemplified ‘counterknowledge’ Oct. 4, 2013 “The essence of counterknowledge is that it purports to be knowledge but is not knowledge. Its claims can be shown to be untrue, either because there are facts ...
    • Newspaper saw Kelly conviction as ‘breakthrough’ Oct. 2, 2013 “…It’s understandable that this week’s conviction of former day-care center owner Robert Fulton Kelly Jr. in Farmville, N.C., is being hailed as a breakthrough…. The conviction  increases public ...

      2013 September

    • What better credential than Little Rascals debacle? Sept. 30, 2013 Death noted: District Attorney Frank Parrish, 64, who succeeded H. P. Williams Jr. in prosecuting the Edenton Seven. By the time Parrish took office in 1994, Little Rascals had become ...
    • Children ‘defend veracity of implanted memories’ Sept. 27, 2013 “The children are the big victims (in unfounded sex abuse cases) and are sacrificed….  Can you imagine being a child and being interrogated, being sent to the gynecologist, ...
    • You had to have been there (or did you?) Sept. 25, 2013 “Peer group pressure… is a factor that should be considered when there is an allegation of sexual abuse involving multiple victims. Children in Edenton who never attended the ...
    • When will wheels of justice turn for Junior? Sept. 23, 2013 There’s a bit of an update out of Raleigh on Junior Chandler’s prospects for clemency. Billy Chandler, Junior’s brother, received this email last week from Pat Hansen in the Governor’s Clemency ...
    • Day-care ritual-abuse claims vs. ‘The Cosby Show’ Sept. 20, 2013 “In 1984 in particular we see a turning point in the media representation of American motherhood. Two major media events exemplified the cultural contradictions in which working mothers ...
    • Defending Betsy Kelly? Prepare to be stalked Sept. 18, 2013 “Joseph B. Cheshire V, Betsy Kelly’s attorney, says the believers in town remain so hostile to the heretics who profess any disbelief over the charges that he no ...
    • ‘The truth is not a smorgasbord….’ Sept. 16, 2013 “The prosecution-minded are careful to say that they do not believe everything a child says. For example, they do not believe 3-year-old Virginia’s statement that ‘Karen was cooked ...
    • Board couldn’t see Betsy Kelly ‘minus her publicity’ Sept. 13, 2013 “I am urging you to treat Elizabeth Kelly as you would treat anyone else with the same case file.  I am asking you to demonstrate that we are ...
    • ‘Too many therapists with too little expertise’ Sept. 11, 2013 “Why did the epidemic of day care hysteria happen just when and where it did? Why in 1982? Why in the United States?…. You can’t have a panic ...
    • Judith Abbott’s fantasies of Charles Manson Sept. 9, 2013 “According to court records, one of the state-recommended therapists, Judith Abbott, showed a five-year-old girl drawings of satanic symbols (a horned mask, inverted crosses and a peace symbol described ...
    • Still waiting for that ‘huge mea culpa’ Sept. 6, 2013 “The day-care trials couldn’t have happened without the active participation of social workers and therapists.  Police authorities relied on the therapists to interpret what the child witnesses were ...
    • ‘Question mark in so many minds’ about McMartin’ Sept. 4, 2013 In her appreciative review of “The Hunt,” the new Danish movie about a kindergarten teacher wrongfully accused of child sexual abuse, Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times ...
    • Clemency for Junior Chandler is long overdue Sept. 2, 2013 “That power (of clemency), which the Constitution explicitly grants to the president, has always served as an indispensable check on the injustices of the legal system and as ...

      2013 August

    • A national epidemic of supposed ‘remembering’ Aug. 30, 2013 “The Edenton case is not just a horrifying aberration. Adults across the country are suddenly ‘remembering’ that they were abused as children, and filing civil lawsuits and criminal ...
    • Day-care teachers ‘as helpless as a clay pigeon’ Aug. 28, 2013 “It’s not by chance that day care centers are the sites of magical molestation, and not public schools with their powerful lobbies and unions…. Those primary and secondary ...
    • ‘Cooper stopped far short of apologizing….’ Aug. 26, 2013 “Attorney General Roy Cooper stopped far short of apologizing to (Greg Taylor and Floyd Brown). He said that the SBI had better investigative practices now and that ‘It ...
    • Faulty ‘mental tuning forks’ betrayed therapists Aug. 23, 2013 “Developing a mental tuning fork for the credibility of a claim, gaining an instinct for when to trust and when to doubt a source – these are two ...
    • Child sex trafficking: 21st century’s moral panic? Aug. 21, 2013 “Some advocates have suggested secure facilities for America’s child sex trafficking victims…. Such facilities force troubled children into a system of care that may be just as exploitive ...
    • Remember when ‘ritual abuse’ was a hot topic? Aug. 19, 2013 A brief visual aside, courtesy of the Google books Ngram Viewer: However much frustration I feel in pursuing exoneration for the Edenton Seven – plenty! – I do take some ...
    • Anxieties about children still make us crazy Aug. 16, 2013 “Ritual abuse may now seem an almost quaint aberration, a temporary fad that seized the popular imagination, as outdated as hula-hoops or disco fever. But our anxieties about ...
    • That was Dennis T. Ray’s story, and he was sticking to it Aug. 14, 2013 “FARMVILLE – A juror in the trial of Robert F. Kelly Jr. testified Wednesday that it was an ‘amazing coincidence’ that information from a magazine article appeared in ...
    • Calling all members of ‘secretive organizations’…. Aug. 12, 2013 “To maintain their belief in networks of satanic ritual abuse, the people involved in (the 16th Annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference, to be held ...
    • X-factor in child-witnesses’ accounts: TV Aug. 9, 2013 “(One) area of uncertainty is the extent to which sexual knowledge is learned by young children through exposure to either explicit or sexually suggestive materials on television, video ...
    • ‘Will Edenton be able to heal from this?’ Aug. 7, 2013 “After (the first episode of “Innocence Lost” aired in 1991), letters and phone calls poured into the mayor’s office. “ ‘Dear Mayor: Thank God I don’t live in Edenton. ...
    • Did prosecutors check out AG’s horror movies? Aug. 5, 2013 The little-publicized North Carolina Justice Academy describes itself as “one of six divisions of the N.C. Department of Justice under the administration of Attorney General Roy Cooper… charged with improving ...
    • How to make Nancy Lamb very, very unhappy Aug. 2, 2013 “The attorney for Dawn Wilson was the late Kirk Osborn, who also represented Reade Seligmann in the Duke Lacrosse Case. “Osborn told me that after Wilson’s conviction was overturned, ...

      2013 July

    • ‘Have you ever stopped to consider…?’ July 31, 2013 “Have you ever stopped to consider what the statistical odds must be against the following allegations made by the prosecution? How could the following all be true? “1. That ...
    • Of mice and memory and the moral panic July 29, 2013 “Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed the ability to implant mice with false memories. The memories can be easily induced and are just as strong ...
    • For Betsy Kelly’s sister, a chillingly close call July 26, 2013 Rereading appellate defender Mark Montgomery’s thunderously compelling brief on behalf of Bob Kelly always delivers something I had either passed over earlier or forgotten. This time it was that “(Jimmy) and ...
    • Officer Toppin sure had an eye for ‘red flags’ July 24, 2013 “(Edenton police officer Brenda) Toppin, who conducted the first interviews of children allegedly abused at the center, testified that ‘In the early interviews, I had very few children ...
    • Claims were extraordinary, but evidence wasn’t July 22, 2013 “Precisely because of human fallibility, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Now, I know that (alien-abduction theorist) Budd Hopkins responds that extraordinary claims require extraordinary investigations. And I have ...
    • What was learned from Little Rascals debacle? July 19, 2013 “…There should be lessons here, lessons about the risks in cases so emotional that they take on a life of their own; lessons for prosecutors who need to ...
    • The toxic legacy of phony scholarship July 17, 2013 “Some reports of day care abuse suggest threats and verbal coercion to be particularly severe. (David) Finkelhor et al. (1988), for example, reported that in day care abuse, perpetrators threatened ...
    • Ritual-abuse theorist played ‘concentration camp’ card July 12, 2013 “Some professionals take the charges (of satanic ritual abuse) seriously. ‘It’s hard to believe, but so were the reports about Nazi atrocities,’ says Bennett Braun, director of the ...
    • For maximum notoriety, avoid Chowan County July 10, 2013 Although some consider Little Rascals the East Coast version of the McMartin case, according to Google’s nGram Viewer it comes in a distant second in prominence. Not even eight hours of “Innocence Lost” ...
    • Prosecutor reneged on promise to Betsy Kelly July 8, 2013 “As the parents made their case to the (North Carolina Parole Commission), prosecutors and defense attorneys continued sparring over whether the state had reneged on the plea bargain ...
    • ‘The most fundamental questions of fairness’ July 5, 2013 “RALEIGH – During a hearing at the state Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Gerald Arnold repeatedly asked a state prosecutor about the fairness of testimony by (Bob) Kelly’s ...
    • Nancy Lamb rejected reason in favor of fantasy July 3, 2013 “(Nancy Lamb) is aware of the naysayers, those who say she ran a witch hunt, gleaning hundreds of charges against (Bob) Kelly and his staff from the children’s ...
    • 9/11, Sandy Hook and the McMartin ‘tunnels’ July 1, 2013 I noted last week the continuing unwillingness of law professor John E.B. Myers, widely published authority on child sex abuse, to express an opinion “regarding the guilt or ...

      2013 May

    • MPD renamed DID – but it’s still bunk May 31, 2013 “After the DSM-III, often called the ‘Bible’ of psychiatric diagnosis, included (Multiple Personality Disorder) in 1980, thousands of spurious cases emerged in the next two decades, and special ...
    • ‘Very sick…. very troubling…. very sad!’ May 29, 2013 “Very sick! There is clear evidence (the Edenton Seven) are guilty… Very troubling to know someone wastes their time writing about this every day. He’s just as sick ...
    • UNC-TV counterprogrammed ‘Innocence Lost’ May 27, 2013 Recent revelations about billionaire David Koch’s influence on the airing of an unflattering PBS documentary bring to mind how UNC-TV showed similar deference to the accusing parents in the Little Rascals case. Although ...
    • The unbearable emptiness of ‘n=’ May 24, 2013 “The research described is a study of a clinical sample of 72 women who allegedly sexually abused 332 children. The Sample is examined from a variety of perspectives, ...
    • Sheriff, mayor escaped prosecutors’ dragnet May 22, 2013 “One of the biggest strengths for the prosecution was that these children would go home every night to a parent or parents fully aligned with the prosecution theory. ...
    • A rare chance to watch the story unfold May 20, 2013 The day-care ritual-abuse era generated a wealth of words, many of which have been cited here. Aside from the epic “Innocence Lost,” however, little video evidence remains. Just made ...
    • What? ‘A hotel that doesn’t take American Express?’ May 17, 2013 From Betsy Kelly’s comments at the ceremony awarding Ofra Bikel the 2007 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism: “I stand before you tonight because of Ofra Bikel. She spent many ...
    • Unaccountable prosecutors: A familiar story May 15, 2013 “As one of the lead prosecutors, (Elizabeth Lederer) helped lock up five young people (the Central Park Five) based on false confessions, no DNA evidence and media hysteria, ...
    • Investigator still believes Kelly was guilty May 13, 2013 “On January 20, (1989, Audrey) Stever met with (social workers) David McCall and Grenda Costin, who told Ms. Stever that there was going to be an investigation into ...
    • Prosecutors’ bag held one last trick May 10, 2013 “Evidence at the trial of Robert F. Kelly Jr. consisted mainly of the fantasy-laced testimony of children and no physical proof. His conviction was overturned by an appeals ...
    • A rare chance to watch the story unfold May 9, 2013 CBS Correspondent Mike Wallace narrated this 1999 production that covers a number of the ritual abuse court cases, including Little Rascals. (A more modern version of this video posted ...
    • ‘Right much training but nothing like she needed’ May 8, 2013 “We just had all kinds of rumors. Everybody in town was involved in it, with this one pointing fingers, that one pointing fingers. My telephone was ringing right ...
    • Chandler’s hopes rest with innocence project May 6, 2013 When last we left Junior Chandler, his former appellate defender, Mark Montgomery, had asked North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services to look into the case. But NCPLS requires the prisoner himself ...
    • A deal for Betsy? Then why not for Bob and Dawn? May 3, 2013 “In the quaint village of Edenton, where residents have suffered either a sadistic witch hunt of historical proportions or a rampage by a despicable gang of ritualistic child ...
    • ‘Parents too trusting’? No, magazine too gullible May 1, 2013 “For several years… during which innocent people, many of whom were themselves the parents of young children, were sent to prison, the press by and large went along. ...

      2013 March

    • For Little Rascals DA, mum was always the word March 29, 2013 “ELIZABETH CITY – Attorneys for the seven defendants in the Edenton child abuse case want to know what techniques were used to elicit accusations from the children…. Prosecutors ...
    • Authorities misled parents by cherry-picking evidence March 27, 2013 “Authorities fed… parents and public (in Edenton) a biased reading of the evidence, but few realized it was biased. “Consider the following: John and David, two friends in the ...
    • A DA unafraid ‘to go where the truth leads….’ March 25, 2013 “I really see us as sharing the goal of making sure this conviction rests on credible and substantial evidence. I’m going to go where the truth leads in ...
    • Prosecutor believed he had closed the deal early on March 22, 2013 “’There are some people who said we could have stopped after the first child testified.” – District Attorney H.P. Williams Jr., expressing confidence that the jury was being persuaded by ...
    • Potent weapon for N.C. DAs: court calendar March 20, 2013 “Unlike their counterparts in every other state, North Carolina prosecutors have control over criminal court calendars. “In the Little Rascals case, prosecutors used their trial-scheduling authority to let defendants ...
    • Could N&O have thwarted ‘prosecutor gone wild’? March 18, 2013 “When I look back, I think my greatest mistake (was) my failure as editor of the News & Observer to make sure we had a top-notch investigative reporter ...
    • ‘No innocent person should have to endure….’ March 15, 2013 “To the extent that we may have contributed in any way to the public perception that you might have been involved in this crime, I am deeply sorry. “No ...
    • Edenton newspaper shed little light on case March 13, 2013 In researching his master’s thesis, “Modern Witch Hunts: How Media Have Mishandled Ritual Child-Sex-Abuse Cases,” UNC Chapel Hill journalism student David O. Loomis focused on the inadequate coverage ...
    • The unsinkable Ann Wolbert Burgess March 8, 2013 “Over 15 years ago, a number of children were sexually abused while attending three different day care centers sponsored by military services… “This is the fourth follow-up interview with ...
    • An expertise ‘contrary to science and common sense’ March 7, 2013 Anthony Oberschall’s “Why False Beliefs Prevail: the Little Rascals Child Sex Abuse Prosecutions” appeared in “Essays in Honor of Raymond Boudon” (2000). Most saliently, the UNC sociologist argues that “hysteria” ...
    • UNC sociologist sought to deflate moral panic March 6, 2013 Anthony “Tony” Oberschall, professor (now emeritus) of sociology at UNC Chapel Hill, wrote extensively – if not prominently – about the insanity of the Little Rascals case. How ...
    • UNC experts failed to bring rationality to case March 4, 2013 “What did Mark Everson, Dr. (Jean C.) Smith, Dr. (Desmond K.) Runyan, Dr. (Doren D.) Fredrickson… all say about behaviors of children who are sexually abused?”  – From Nancy ...
    • Weighing the evidence vs. ‘betraying the children’ March 1, 2013 “Now, you can ask yourself why did the jury believe these things? How could the jury believe that, as in the Amirault (day-care ritual-abuse) case, old Mrs. Amirault, one ...

      2013 January

    • By time to testify, children knew their lines Jan. 30, 2013 “They have been through more dress rehearsals than the cast of ‘Cats.’” – Joe Cheshire, lawyer for Betsy Kelly, protesting the latitude given the prosecution in preparing Little Rascals children to ...
    • Edenton’s history was no defense against panic Jan. 28, 2013 Manhattan Beach, California; Malden, Massachusetts; Christchurch, New Zealand; Maplewood, New Jersey; Sao Paulo, Brazil…. For more than a decade, unfounded allegations of day-care ritual abuse were breaking out ...
    • When millions believe in alien abduction…. Jan. 25, 2013 “With regard to recovered memories, ritual abuse charges and multiple personalities, the tide seems to have turned. Courts are continuing to reverse decisions…The Edenton Seven have been released ...
    • ‘Burying the memory’: Misconception that won’t die Jan. 23, 2013 “Ritual sex abuse is back. Recently (in 2003) I heard that a conference on the topic was being held for psychotherapists. “It was planned not to critique a nasty ...
    • Less bonding, less crying, more thinking – why not? Jan. 21, 2013 “According to advocates (of victim impact statements), they allow victims to personalize the crime and elevate the status of the victim by describing the effect the crime has ...
    • Grandmother blames ‘Kelly magic’ for outlandish tales Jan. 18, 2013 ““I am the grandmother of a Little Rascals Day Care victim, and I am greatly disturbed by many responses to ‘Innocence Lost: The Verdict.’ “Wake up out there! Do ...
    • ‘Subculture’ of therapists blamed ritual abuse Jan. 16, 2013 “Therapists diagnosing Satanic Ritual Abuse as the cause of their patients’ troubles… often belonged to a subculture within the therapeutic community, where focus on dissociation and multiple personalities ...
    • For Junior Chandler, yet another long shot Jan. 14, 2013 Junior Chandler’s prospects for at last walking out of Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution a free man remain bleak. After more than 25 years, he is probably the last still-imprisoned ...
    • Oh, to see ourselves as other see us – ouch! Jan. 11, 2013 “Chris Bean (Bob Kelly’s lawyer until becoming involved as a child-witness parent) told me that when the townspeople first saw the documentary, they thought it was OK and ...
    • If only reality had offered such vivid details…. Jan. 9, 2013 “One question that arises from studies on children’s suggestibility is whether they document false memories or merely false reports. Do children really believe that the fictional events happened? ...
    • Betsy Kelly: Still innocent, but no longer believing Jan. 7, 2013 ““When I began this journey almost five years ago, I was a very strong, very optimistic, very believing and very innocent person. As I stand here today, I ...
    • Piaget experienced reality of false memory Jan. 4, 2013 “Psychologist Jean Piaget reported that his earliest memory was of his nurse defending him against a potential kidnapper at age two. He distinctly recalled sitting frightened in the ...
    • Perdue removes one stain, leaves another Jan. 2, 2013 What a bittersweet moment, reading Gov. Bev Perdue’s statement announcing her pardon of innocence for the Wilmington 10. Surely, for the six surviving defendants, the pardon represents far too ...

      2012 December

    • ‘A state lost the ability to see clearly’ – again Dec. 31, 2012 Anticipating Attorney General Roy Cooper’s 2007 statement dismissing charges against the lacrosse defendants, Duke law professor Paul Haagen said, “The critical thing could be the wording. It could simply say the ...
    • In search of ‘clues or indicators’ for ritual abuse Dec. 28, 2012 Let’s not leave behind “Ritual Abuse: What It Is, Why It Happens, and How to Help” without considering Appendix B, “Similarities in the Lives of Ritual Abuse Survivors.” Author ...
    • A bit of doubt creeps into claims of child abuse Dec. 26, 2012 By 1993 the moral panic was at last retreating from therapists’ offices, courtrooms and the media. That timing gives “Ritual Abuse: What It Is, Why It Happens, and ...
    • ‘Attached to their convictions’ – and them some Dec. 24, 2012 “Why prosecutors sometimes fight post-conviction evidence so adamantly depends on each case. Some legitimately believe the new evidence is not exonerating. “But legal scholars looking at the issue suggest ...
    • Oh, those consequences of imaginations run amok Dec. 21, 2012 “In the accusatorial post-McMartin climate, day care providers… took measures to protect themselves from false allegations. They installed video cameras to record all of their activities, opened up ...
    • Skeptics not welcome where ‘awareness’ rules Dec. 19, 2012 “Down with skepticism, up with awareness.” – Button worn at a conference on “multiple personality disorder” (hat tip, religioustolerance.org) Six words that say it all, from MPD to satanic ritual abuse to ...
    • Gun lobby knows that public outrage will subside Dec. 18, 2012 The hands-off-my-guns community is hunkering down, as it did after Columbine, after Tucson, after Aurora, confidently waiting for the storm of outrage to pass. Just curious: If 20 dead ...
    • A real head-scratcher: Diagnosis or job description? Dec. 17, 2012 “(They) are arrogant and self-centered, and feel privileged and entitled. They have a grandiose, exaggerated sense of self-importance and they are primarily motivated by self-serving goals. They seek ...
    • Santa, I know this is an unusual request, but…. Dec. 14, 2012 “Lamb, Nancy and Bill Hart. ‘Pointers on multi-victim, multi-perpetrator cases.’ American Prosecutors Research Institute 1992. Attorneys who prosecuted Little Rascals case offer advice regarding mass molestation cases.”  – Description ...
    • Moral panic drove men from day-care centers Dec. 12, 2012 “In 1983, (the year of the first McMartin Preschool allegations), only 5 percent of day care providers were male. During the nine years of the moral panic, an ...
    • Journal editors find excuses to avoid retraction Dec. 10, 2012 I’ve been surprised – naively, I suppose – by the refusal of professional journals such as Nursing Research, Child Abuse & Neglect and Relational Child & Youth Care Practice to retract articles that ...
    • How one journal editor went very, very wrong Dec. 7, 2012 Following up on Wednesday’s post: Here’s how editor Gerry Fewster began his introduction to “In the Shadow of Satan: The Ritual Abuse of Children,” the still-unretracted 1990 special issue of the Journal of ...
    • ‘Satan’ issue was 100% baloney – but so what? Dec. 5, 2012 As noted previously, my requests for retraction to Nursing Research and Child Abuse & Neglect went nowhere. But I found a spark of interest at a third journal, Relational Child & ...
    • In Raleigh, even justice delayed is hard to come by Dec. 3, 2012 Exoneration is in the air! From Texas to New York – and of course here in North Carolina – more and more prosecutorial abuses are being dug up, dusted off and exposed to long-delayed doses ...

      2012 October

    • ‘Belief in a devil’ is essential to fanatics Oct. 31, 2012 “Mass movements can rise and spread without a belief in God, but never without belief in a devil.” – Eric Hoffer in his landmark analysis of fanaticism, “The True ...
    • ‘With fewer accounts of human sacrifice….’ Oct. 29, 2012 “For at least eight years American law enforcement has been aggressively investigating the allegations of victims of ritualistic abuse. There is little or no evidence for the portion ...
    • We believe them, we believe them not…. Oct. 26, 2012 “As in the McMartin case, the North Carolina ‘experts’ dismissed absurd elements of the children’s stories and fixated on the guilt of the caretakers. “When a child put two ...
    • Abuse primer was big seller for county Oct. 24, 2012 “Indeed, at a time when the (Los Angeles County) Board of Supervisors has been meeting just five floors below the (Ritual Abuse) task force to dismantle county health ...
    • ‘Fear of closets’? Get that child to a therapist! Oct. 22, 2012 In the Dark Ages of social science – the 1980s, give or take a few years — unfounded concepts were treated as received truth: satanic ritual abuse (later ...
    • When ‘backlash spewed,’ Judy Abbott blamed ‘falsehoods’ Oct. 19, 2012 “The backlash spewed from the guilty verdicts in the Little Rascals Day Care case have (sic) been painful and difficult to hear and live with. Those of us ...
    • How to uncover ritual abuse: a foolproof recipe Oct. 17, 2012 “Little Rascals is a most important case, because it demonstrates how the mind set of interviewers can be transmitted to the children and persuade them to disclose events ...
    • National borders were no barrier to panic Oct. 15, 2012 “German television and the press (especially the tabloids) dwelled on McMartin with almost the same intensity as did the U.S. media….The impact was predictable: an immediate, steep increase ...
    • ‘You don’t just brush off 24 years of a man’s life’ Oct. 12, 2012 The exoneration of Willie Grimes warms my heart, and not just because the 66-year-old parolee has become “Free at last!” after a 1987 rape conviction in Hickory. As often lamented on this ...
    • Oh, those ‘anxious parents, well-meaning child advocates’ Oct. 10, 2012 “This case arose during the height of the Child Sexual Abuse Hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s. The McMartin Preschool case, perhaps the most famous such case, was ...
    • Counselors gotta counsel – but about what? Oct. 8, 2012 “Even those (ritual-abuse day-care cases) that resulted in acquittals… reflect hundreds of children and their family members referred to counseling. “Many families were limited to a handful of approved ...
    • N.C. justices to Junior Chandler: Drop dead Oct. 5, 2012 Because today’s North Carolina Supreme Court decision on Junior Chandler’s appeal comprised three separate parts, I didn’t fully comprehend it. “Is this good news or bad?” I emailed Mark Montgomery, Junior’s ...
    • Exoneration depends on catching eye of media Oct. 3, 2012 “You can have all the evidence in the world, and that’s still only 50 percent of the fight. The other 50 percent is media. “You have to get the ...
    • ‘Evidence too compelling to dismiss’? Really? Oct. 1, 2012 “Since 1983, public and professional interest in maltreatment of young children in day care has increased dramatically. It was then that children first began disclosing allegations of sexual ...

      2012 September

    • How to demonize ‘quite ordinary women’ Sept. 28, 2012 As mentioned last week, the preponderance of women among the Edenton Seven was one of many curiosities that apparently failed to burden the prosecution with second thoughts. Mary DeYoung addresses the ...
    • 27 million chances to provoke mass hysteria Sept. 26, 2012 “The (Little Rascals) kids stories have unerringly followed the ritual abuse plot, progressing lately to tales of witnessing babies slaughtered. Perhaps not coincidentally, their most bizarre allegations began ...
    • Faller, Everson resist trend toward skepticism Sept. 24, 2012 The February 2012 special issue of the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse is devoted entirely to “Contested Issues in the Evaluation of Child Sexual Abuse Allegations.” Ritual-abuse holdouts Kathleen Coulborn Faller and Mark D. ...
    • Abuse theory didn’t fit, but what the heck Sept. 21, 2012 “Los Angeles psychiatrist Roland Summit’s ‘child sexual abuse syndrome,’ a theory about incest… argues that if there is evidence of sex abuse and a child denies it, this ...
    • North Carolina’s bull market in hysteria Sept. 19, 2012 “The rumor has traveled like a Halloween ghost – from Wilson to Coats to Apex to Raleigh. “Perplexed law enforcement agencies statewide have been fielding inquiries for weeks about ...
    • What prosecutors didn’t (want to) know Sept. 17, 2012 I don’t doubt that prosecutors asked themselves many questions during the course of the Little Rascals case. “Think it’s gonna rain tomorrow, Nancy?” Or maybe “You want anchovies ...
    • Working ‘seven days a week’ in wrong direction Sept. 14, 2012 “Judith Steltzner Abbott of Camden has become a moving force for the well-being of sexually abused children and their families across the state. Her presentations on child sexual ...
    • ‘How long, O Lord, will you forget me forever?’ Sept. 12, 2012 “Connie Tindall wanted to be pardoned before he died. But like Jerry Jacobs, Joe Wright and Ann Shepard before him, Tindall was buried Friday without knowing if the ...
    • Edenton Seven could’ve used a Johnny Depp Sept. 10, 2012 “You saw those initial documentaries, you make a choice: Am I going to watch the thing and go ‘Wow, that’s really horrible,’ and go out and get a ...
    • City sidewalks, busy sidewalks: An upbeat dispatch from the DNC Sept. 7, 2012 Having met with less than overwhelming interest earlier in the week in front of the bustling Charlotte Convention Center, I narrowed my focus. Thursday I situated my “Exonerate” placard at the ...
    • Predigital advocacy for the Edenton Seven Sept. 5, 2012 Almost 68 years old I am, but until this week I had never hoisted a picket sign. Why now? Within walking distance of my house, thousands of delegates and ...
    • Postcard from the bumpy path to exoneration Sept. 3, 2012 Since its creation by the General Assembly in 2006, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission has considered more than 1,100 innocence claims, three of which resulted in exonerations.  This is ...

      2012 August

    • There was good reason children weren’t eager to accuse Aug. 31, 2012 “Children don’t just come running out of their houses screaming, ‘I’ve been molested!’” – Assistant attorney general Bill Hart, justifying to the Associated Press (Dec. 31, 1989) why the prosecution’s ...
    • What caused ‘inability to think straight’? Aug. 29, 2012 “Los Angeles County’s Satanic Abuse Task Force, an official sub body of the Los Angeles County Women’s Commission, concluded (in 1992) that Satanists were trying to pump diazinon ...
    • ‘Prosecutors’ Overreaching’? Edenton had it in spades Aug. 27, 2012 “Prosecutors are the most powerful officials in the criminal justice system. They decide whether criminal charges should be brought and what those charges should be, and they exercise ...
    • ‘I knew right then it couldn’t be true’ Aug. 24, 2012 My EDENTON7 license plate recently caught the eye of a former Little Rascals Day Care parent who left Edenton. Although Maria – a pseudonym, as she still has family back home ...
    • Even Betsy Kelley believed something happened Aug. 22, 2012 “They would have had to experience this or seen this. I know that for a fact. I know they didn’t make it up. I mean, I’m an intelligent ...
    • Beware the next generation of Indian captivity tales Aug. 20, 2012 Endlessly fascinating – and baffling – is how some experts fell headlong for “satanic ritual abuse,” while others managed to keep their wits. This is from an April ...
    • Day-care prosecutors ‘become like a torturer’ Aug. 17, 2012 “I’ve wondered how the prosecutors (in ritual-abuse day-care cases) could live with themselves. “Says Debbie Nathan (coauthor of “Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American ...
    • Court cracks door – can Junior fit through it? Aug. 15, 2012 The North Carolina Supreme Court won’t release its next batch of opinions until August 24, but its recent decision on a 2009 child sex abuse case could augur well ...
    • Mr. Attorney General, here’s chance to do right Aug. 13, 2012 I wrote Mark Davis, general counsel to Gov. Bev Perdue, to ask that she issue a “statement of innocence” on behalf of the Edenton Seven. This is Davis’s ...
    • How hard it was to say, ‘Boy, was I wrong’ Aug. 10, 2012 Carol Tavris: “After the McMartin trial in 1986, I wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times about research that had been done on how to interview children in ...
    • Blogger writes about Lew Powell’s writing about Little Rascals case Aug. 9, 2012 Text of Bill Lucey’s blog item about Lew Powell’s writing on the Little Rascals case. Retired Charlotte Observer Columnist Lew Powell Pursuing  State’s Admission of Guilt in Witch Hunt of Wrongly Accused After ...
    • Why there’s a littlerascalsdaycarecase.org Aug. 8, 2012 Five reasons the Little Rascals Day Care case has never attracted the attention it deserves: ■ Overshadowed by McMartin case. ■ No racial angle. ■ Remote location. ■ No death penalty. ■ No ...
    • Bill Hart used day-care moms as dating pool Aug. 6, 2012 Let’s say you were a special deputy attorney general called in from Raleigh to help prosecute the Little Rascals case. Now imagine: What would be the most inappropriate, ...
    • ‘If he made such a statement, it was not a threat’ (!) Aug. 3, 2012 “Betty Ann Phillips, who had worked at the day care center, said (in the first episode of “Innocence Lost’) that she had complained to (District Attorney H.P.) Williams ...
    • Mondale Act set up bonanza for therapists Aug. 1, 2012 “Congress’s well-intentioned but misguided Mondale Act (the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, CAPTA), signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1974, provided impetus to prosecute alleged crimes ...

      2012 July

    • R.I.P., Alexander Cockburn, ritual-abuse skeptic July 30, 2012 Death noted: Radical-left polemicist Alexander Cockburn, who as early as 1990 was raging against claims of satanic ritual abuse. Cockburn gave particular attention to feminism’s role in the mania: “In the ...
    • Why have historians overlooked day-care mania? July 27, 2012 “It has always intrigued me that, in a culture that is relentlessly self-critical… the pre-school hysteria and witch-hunts of the 1980s and ’90s (have) attracted little, if any, ...
    • A tormented wait for prosecutors to admit defeat July 25, 2012 “The terms of (Shelley Stone’s release on $342,000 bond) included an order to stay out of downtown Edenton so she would not run across any children – or ...
    • Defective interviews? Irrelevant, DA insisted July 23, 2012 “ ‘Don’t focus on the question, focus on the answer,’ (District Attorney H. P. Williams Jr.) said, referring to the defense argument that children were asked leading questions.” – ...
    • Honk if you believe that…. July 20, 2012 … Little Rascals parents were caught up in a frenzy of panic and misinformation. … Ill-prepared therapists served prosecutors, not their patients. … In their zeal for convictions, prosecutors behaved ...
    • Suppose you gave a lynch party, and nobody came? July 18, 2012 “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 ...
    • Betsy Kelly wouldn’t succumb to state’s torture July 16, 2012 “Elizabeth Kelly was denied parole Friday, three months after pleading no contest to charges of sexually abusing children at her Edenton day care. “Mrs. Kelly, sentenced to seven years, ...
    • When skepticism is set aside for outrage July 13, 2012 “It is painful to admit this, but when the McMartin story first hit the news, the two of us, independently, were inclined to believe that the preschool teachers ...
    • Prosecutors claimed to see ‘coherent package’ July 11, 2012 “And what did Doctor (Mark) Everson say what to look for? A coherent package that’s consistent. You look at the behavior and what the child says…. He talked ...
    • Another expert unfazed by being completely wrong July 9, 2012 What happens to a social scientist who builds her career on exposing illusory “sex rings” and “ritual abuse” at day cares? And, more specifically, whose seminar at Kill Devil ...
    • Why we want to forget the day-care abuse craziness July 6, 2012 “When you once believed something that now strikes you as absurd, even unhinged, it can be almost impossible to summon that feeling of credulity again. “Maybe that is why ...
    • Prosecution waited futilely for defendant to roll July 4, 2012 “The state has done me wrong and imprisoned me for over six years,” Bob Kelly said in 1995 after his conviction was overturned and prosecutors were deciding whether ...
    • What made Mark Everson an expert witness? July 2, 2012 Perhaps the prosecution’s most influential expert witness during the 1992 trial of Bob Kelly was psychologist Mark Everson, director of the Program on Childhood Trauma and Maltreatment in UNC Chapel ...

      2012 June

    • Nancy Lamb has an explanation for everything June 29, 2012 “One month after drawing national attention when she dismissed final charges involving the children at the day-care center, (Nancy Lamb) clings to her belief that Robert Kelly is ...
    • Ritual-abuse mania contaminated legitimate prosecutions June 27, 2012 “When well-intentioned but misguided individuals use questioning techniques known to increase the risk of false allegations of sexual abuse, a cascade of unfortunate events can follow. “Consequences of corruptive ...
    • Oh, for the ability to recognize something ‘odd’ June 25, 2012 “I saw this woman in her 20s … accused of something like 2,800 charges of child sex abuse. Oh, I thought, well, that’s very odd…. “I thought, How can ...
    • Holocaust child-survivors needed no coaxing June 22, 2012 “Teen-age Holocaust victims had no trouble looking their abusers straight in the face and saying, ‘You did this to me, you monster.’ None of them, when they were ...
    • Little Rascals: A ‘travesty of justice’ for the ages June 20, 2012 “The Little Rascals case still remains the greatest travesty of justice I’ve ever been associated with or seen or even heard about… since like 1960.” – Joe Cheshire, attorney ...
    • Children ‘got mixed up’? Believe them anyway June 18, 2012 “Yes, prosecutors blundered terribly by piling on charges and piling on defendants, just because they could. “Yes, some of the parents became hysterical and acted out of guilt. That’s ...
    • All molesters, please gather now on E. Eden Street June 15, 2012 “How did such a large group of child molesters assemble? This is not New York, this is Edenton, North Carolina.” – Edward B. Simmons, making his closing argument on behalf of ...
    • For therapist, creating memory is easy task June 13, 2012 “Actually, making a false memory is pretty easy. “(Psychologist Elizabeth) Loftus describes a father convincing his daughter she’d gotten lost in a mall when she was five years old. ...
    • Innocence, alas, does not guarantee exoneration June 11, 2012 After discovering the National Registry of Exonerations, I was happy to see that it lists Little Rascals defendants Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson, whose convictions were overturned on appeal. But what ...
    • Bill Hart played by his own (poker) rules June 8, 2012 “The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.” – American Bar Association “The primary responsibility of prosecution is to see that justice is accomplished.” – National ...
    • A mother to fear at your day-care door June 6, 2012 “The Kellys decided to buy the day care center after a previous owner quit following a dispute with a mother (who) was upset that her son didn’t get ...
    • Citing self, professor finds ‘false allegations quite rare’ June 4, 2012 “Drawing upon clinical experience and research, Faller… asserted that false allegations are quite rare and pointed out that children have little motivation for making a false accusation, but ...
    • A funny story about the Little Rascals case (really!) June 1, 2012 An incident recalled by a former Edenton resident: “A friend had a son in Little Rascals but wouldn’t let him participate in the ‘hunt.’ She shielded him, as best ...

      2012 May

    • If anyone deserves pardon, why not Edenton Seven? May 30, 2012 Is the case for pardoning the Wilmington 10 any more compelling than that for pardoning the Edenton Seven? As the N&O’s Bruce Siceloff points out, “Somebody firebombed Mike’s Grocery, a ...
    • ‘Understanding and Assessing’ ritual-abuse mythology May 28, 2012 How would Bruce A. Robinson, founder of the comprehensive and widely respected ReligiousTolerance.org, describe the credibility now given ritual abuse? “I am unaware of any child psychologist or similar specialist ...
    • Children don’t remember, but are sure abuse happened May 25, 2012 “Maggie Bruck, co-author of ‘Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children’s Testimony’ and a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, says no long-term psychological studies ...
    • ‘The most innocent man I have ever defended’ May 23, 2012 Experienced trial lawyers can’t afford to dwell on lost cases. Sometimes that’s quite a challenge: “Robert Fulton Kelly…. was the most innocent man I have ever defended and the ...
    • Prosecutors grudgingly loosen grip on Bob Kelly May 22, 2012 Fifteen years ago today: Claiming they want to spare their child-witnesses from another round of testimony, prosecutors drop the last Little Rascals charges against remaining defendants Bob Kelly ...
    • ‘They saw themselves as the good guys….’ May 21, 2012 Lee Coleman, a Berkeley, Calif.,  psychiatrist and co-author of “Has a Child Been Molested?” (2000), served as a consultant to the Little Rascals defense. “When I examined the terrible ...
    • An encore for ritual abuse panic? ‘You can bet on it’ May 18, 2012 “Discredited child-sex rings like McMartin actually may not be a bogeyman of the past. Some parents, therapists and child-protection professionals continue to believe ritual sex abuse took place ...
    • When therapists ignore what researchers have learned…. May 16, 2012 “The researcher-therapist gap came to public attention because of three psychological epidemics, which spread like wildfire during the 1980s and ’90s: recovered memory, multiple-personality disorder and sex-abuse allegations ...
    • ‘Though others’ perceptions have changed….’ May 14, 2012 Mary De Young’s engrossing bibliography “The Ritual Abuse Controversy” lists page after page of books and journal articles that accept wholeheartedly the existence of an epidemic of ritual ...
    • Surviving tape undercuts officer’s testimony May 11, 2012 “One of the attorneys preparing the appeal brief for Mr. Kelly found a tape of an interview with a child that had been taped over with another interview, ...
    • Prosecutors have upper hand in plea bargains May 9, 2012 “A Question of Innocence: A True Story of False Accusation” by Lawrence D. Spiegel was published in 1986, but this passage – lamenting plea-bargains by those falsely accused ...
    • Prognosis uncertain for misled child-witnesses May 7, 2012 From an exchange with Stephen Ceci, author (with Maggie Bruck) of the landmark “Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children’s Testimony” (1995): Q: What may have happened to ...
    • Leading questions, not spontaneity, marked interviews May 4, 2012 “Written reports that contain statements such as ‘The child said that Mr. Bob told them secrets’ are meaningless. “We need to know whether this was a spontaneous remark, whether ...
    • Children abused, but not by Edenton Seven May 2, 2012 “Ironically, the children are indeed being sexually and emotionally abused by the therapists, officials and medical personnel who are supposed to be protecting them, and they often develop ...

      2012 April

    • Prosecutors turned on by nonexistent porn tape April 30, 2012 “Prosecutors are reviewing pornographic videotapes seized in Montana…. A man identified as Willard Scott Privott appears wearing a pirate costume in a boat full of children, according to ...
    • One less platform for ritual-abuse fantasizers April 27, 2012 Friday news roundup: ■ Darkness to Light, the Charleston-based nonprofit with the goal “End Child Abuse,” has responded to my request to disassociate itself from one of the last promoters of ...
    • McMartin interviewers showed way for Little Rascals April 25, 2012 “Many questions were repeated (by interviewers in the McMartin Preschool case) even when the children had previously given unambiguous answers. “For example, after a child responded that he/she did ...
    • Lamb ‘continues to hold herself out as an expert’ April 23, 2012 In 2007, W. Joseph Wyatt, writing in the professional journal The Behavior Analyst Today, looked back at the Little Rascals case: “Prosecutors appeared to have little appreciation for the ...
    • Scholarship minus skepticism = academic sham April 20, 2012 David Finkelhor’s “Nursery Crimes: Sexual Abuse in Day Care” (1988) helped lay the foundation for the moral panic that would soon engulf Edenton and so many other ill-starred ...
    • Parents saw nothing amiss until rumors took hold April 18, 2012 “One of the more surprising aspects of this (Little Rascals) case…. was that none of the parents… had observed anything that caused them to suspect their children were ...
    • ‘Juvenile renderings of grownups’ anxieties’ April 16, 2012 “At the beginning of each ritual-abuse case, the children had been eminently reliable, but what they communicated was that they had not been molested by satanists. Indeed, it ...
    • ‘Overzealous intervenors’ muddy waters in abuse cases April 13, 2012 “A decade-long investigation by the FBI has found no evidence linking child abuse with organized satanic cults. “In a recent report by the agency, Special Agent Kenneth Lanning warns ...
    • Ideal child prosecution-witness is 3 or 4 years old April 11, 2012 “Almost always you find the kids are three or four years old. “The two-year-olds are no good because they can’t speak well enough and are totally unreliable in what ...
    • Who killed the ritual abuse day care panic? April 9, 2012 “Where do epidemics go when they die?…. Have all the sadistic pedophiles closed down their day-care centers?” – From “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)” by Carol Tavris ...
    • ‘Parent-experts’ found meaning where there was none April 6, 2012 “Parent-experts made a specific kind of sense of their children’s behaviors and emotions by retrospectively interpreting them as sequelae of day care ritual abuse rather than as reactions ...
    • French prosecutors erred – and admitted it! April 4, 2012 “An appeals court Thursday overturned the conviction of six people accused of participating in a pedophilia ring in northern France five years ago, unraveling one of the most ...
    • What jurors learned from ‘Every Mother’s Worst Fear’ April 2, 2012 Among the contaminants reported in the deliberations of the first Little Rascals jury was a Redbook article used to profile Bob Kelly as a child molester. Its content ...

      2012 March

    • ‘We’ve learned a lot….’ (Too bad it took so long) March 30, 2012 Kee MacFarlane is the notorious therapist who led the ritual abuse scare of the late 1980s (and pioneered the misuse of anatomically correct dolls in interviewing children). In just four ...
    • Prosecutors learned wrong lesson from McMartin March 28, 2012 Had North Carolina prosecutors been interested in anything other than racking up convictions, they would’ve given earnest consideration to analyses such as this one in the Los Angeles ...
    • McMartin: Patient Zero in day-care abuse contagion? March 26, 2012 How did the moral panic over day-care ritual abuse spread so widely? Did some undetected psychotropic waft from Manhattan Beach to Edenton to Christchurch, New Zealand? I was reminded ...
    • Forensic evaluator or therapist? A distinction not made March 23, 2012 “A given professional must undertake either a forensic examination or therapy, not both, with any given child. “The roles of forensic evaluator and ongoing therapist are different. The forensic ...
    • Tracey Cline, Mike Nifong and H.P. Williams March 21, 2012 “In July 1993, (Tracey Cline) headed to the state’s northeast corner to work as a prosecutor in a cluster of counties near Elizabeth City. Her stint there was ...
    • ‘The right man’ was the wrong man? No way! March 19, 2012 In “The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life” (2011), Robert Trivers briefly addresses the causes and costs of the ritual abuse mania. I ...
    • Court finds Hart’s ploy ‘grossly improper’ March 16, 2012 “The appeals court called a maneuver (in Dawn Wilson’s trial) by the chief special prosecutor, Bill Hart, ‘grossly improper.’ “The judges found that Hart had tried to impugn the ...
    • The ugly truth about ‘Nancy Lamb’s state of mind’ March 14, 2012 “Prosecutor Nancy Lamb practiced a little ‘voodoo’ psychology by telling the jury that when Dawn Wilson held and played with her child during breaks in the trial, it ...
    • Was it really Dawn Wilson who ‘had no character’? March 12, 2012 After reading thousands of pages of Little Rascals coverage, shouldn’t I have become inured to the prosecution’s gratuitous brutality? Not yet. On August 11, 1993, Dawn Wilson, serving a life ...
    • Lessons from a Windshield Pitting Epidemic March 9, 2012 “This (Breezy Point Day School) case sounds like the Windshield Pitting Epidemic…. “In the early 1950s, people in the Tacoma-Seattle area began to notice little pits in the windshields of their ...
    • Nancy Lamb goes mum but ‘has the most to answer for’ March 7, 2012 “The one voice we most want to hear is that of Assistant District Attorney Nancy Lamb, who went after the Little Rascals defendants with the righteousness of an ...
    • Why prosecutors can’t admit they’re wrong March 5, 2012 “DURHAM — Tracey Cline could not admit she was wrong….” Thus begins J. Andrew Curliss’s latest behavioral analysis of Durham County’s latest disgraced district attorney. Coincidentally, Curliss cites a book I’ve been ...
    • What happens to kids programmed with lies? March 2, 2012 In 1995 John Money, professor emeritus of medical psychology and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, asked: “What happens to these kids who have been programmed to believe a delusion?…. ...

      2012 February

    • ‘Believe the children!’ (unless they deny being abused) Feb. 29, 2012 “The battle cry of those leading the charge in these cases is ‘Believe the children!’ In fact, the trouble always begins when adults do not believe children who ...
    • Nancy Lamb takes up career in ‘quality control’ Feb. 27, 2012 “One (change made by District Attorney Frank Parrish) was the assignment of Assistant District Attorney Nancy Lamb as ‘Chief Assistant District Attorney,’ making one of her duties ‘quality ...
    • Hit-and-run prosecutors, therapists don’t look back Feb. 24, 2012 “Samuel Sewall was one of nine judges appointed to hear the Salem witch trials in 1692. “Five years later he stood up in church in front of the congregation ...
    • Constitution prohibits ‘punishment in limbo’ Feb. 22, 2012 “(Even as) prosecutors quietly dropped all charges against the remaining three defendants, (Nancy Lamb) had the temerity to hint that there was sufficient evidence to convict if the ...
    • A pediatrician looks back at ‘ritual abuse’ Feb. 20, 2012 Cynthia Brown, medical director of the Mountain Child Medical Evaluation Program at Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville, was among the first pediatricians credentialed in the subspecialty of child ...
    • Therapists ‘overzealous… inadequately trained… unethical’ Feb. 17, 2012 “The named children were sent to predominantly four therapists (Betty Robertson, Judy Abbott, Susan Childers and Michele Zimmerman). “The therapists were not only overzealous and inadequately trained, but also proceeded ...
    • A last chance at freedom – or the end of the road Feb. 15, 2012 I asked Mark Montgomery for an update on Junior Chandler’s latest appeal of his two life sentences for child sexual abuse: “There are two prongs to the appeal. First, ...
    • UNCG professor showed no tolerance for skepticism Feb. 13, 2012 “It is evident that, although mistakes were made in the handling of the (Little Rascals) case, these children definitely were sexually abused by one or more individuals at ...
    • An antipodal view: What would Bronte have thought? Feb. 10, 2012 “(The scene of children screaming invective at a prison-bound Bob Kelly) was… the graphic heart of the documentary…. “The car pulled away, and they began to giggle self-consciously. A second or ...
    • The long goodbye: ‘See you in a million years’ Feb. 8, 2012 The indignities endured by Little Rascals defendants were unending and sometimes bizarre. A University of Georgia professor enlisted by the defense to conduct a penile plethysmograph reported that Bob Kelly ...
    • Therapist, prosecutor worked 4-year-old as tag team Feb. 6, 2012 Michele L. Zimmerman, now associate professor emeritus of psychiatric nursing at Old Dominion University, was one of four therapists who collaborated with prosecutors in interviewing Bob Kelly’s supposed ...
    • Privott’s allies found way around $1 million bail Feb. 3, 2012 Glenn Lancaster, a Raleigh pay-phone executive, played a key part in facilitating life-after-incarceration for both Bob Kelly and Scott Privott. I asked Glenn to recall how he became involved ...
    • That’s our case, and we’re sticking to it (cont.) Feb. 1, 2012 The HBO documentary “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”  surely deserves its Oscar nomination, although the only edge it holds over Ofra Bikel’s “Innocence Lost” trilogy of the ’90s is its ...

      2012 January

    • Junior Chandler victimized by overreaching experts Jan. 31, 2012 Expert vouching. That odd little legalism is the crucial issue in Junior Chandler’s latest – and perhaps last – shot at justice. Durham attorney Mark Montgomery has just filed an ...
    • Montaigne and St. Augustine, of course, were never DAs Jan. 27, 2012 In “The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal” (2002), James Franklin points out that Montaigne opposed witch trials for their lack of evidence. “I am of St. ...
    • Did fear of Bob Kelly keep women behind bars? Jan. 25, 2012 I’ve heard again from the anonymous caller who responded to my ad in the Elizabeth City Advance addressing children involved in the Little Rascals case. The caller reiterated her ...
    • 25 years of wrongful imprisonment – and counting Jan. 23, 2012 Last week I visited Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution in Spruce Pine to talk to Junior Chandler, who soon will have served 25 years on charges strikingly similar to those in the Little ...
    • Prosecutors’ motto: But they’re still guilty! Jan. 20, 2012 Although the West Memphis Three weren’t day care workers, their notorious case – most recently updated in HBO’s “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” – holds obvious parallels to that ...
    • Why would prosecutors let ‘monster’ walk? Jan. 18, 2012 “One way or another, justice has failed miserably in the agonizing case of the Little Rascals Day Care…. Last week, eight years after launching an investigation into possible ...
    • The darkness that lurks behind Darkness to Light Jan. 16, 2012 Darkness to Light is a Charleston-based nonprofit with the goal “End Child Abuse.” Since its founding in 2000, D2L claims to have trained adults in 48 states and 10 ...
    • ‘I am now convinced I was terribly wrong’ Jan. 13, 2012 For months I have been fruitlessly searching the record for a public apology from even one prominent perpetrator of the ritual-abuse day-care hoax. At last I have happened ...
    • How much like Penn State were day-care cases? Jan. 11, 2012 “It’s worth remembering, in the 1980s we had a whole spate of false accusations of… sexual abuse of children. The McMartin Preschool, all those supposed satanic cults in ...
    • Among the costs of incarceration: a marriage Jan. 9, 2012 Perhaps the most inexplicable of the prosecution’s targets was 40-year-old Scott Privott, owner of an Edenton video store and shoe repair shop. Son of a district court judge, he ...
    • Does ‘convicting innocent people count as crime’? Jan. 6, 2012 “Innocence Lost” aired too late to save the Edenton Seven, but its influence in deflating the nation’s ritual-abuse bubble is hard to exaggerate. Shock and outrage – and ...
    • Journalists, too, suffer ‘incurable blind spots’ Jan. 4, 2012 “A few years back, I met a fellow investigative journalist in North Carolina….The subject came around to the Little Rascals case. He assured me the day care workers ...
    • ‘You believe a dozen kids just made up lies?’ Jan. 2, 2012 Next to “Why are you doing this?” the question I’m most often asked about Little Rascals is, “Since the trial, what has happened with the kids?” For those alleged ...

      2011 December

    • Nifong had sympathizer in H.P. Williams Dec. 30, 2011 “As the May 2 (2006) Democratic primary nears, (Duke lacrosse prosecutor Mike) Nifong has gotten an earful from his two opponents…. “ ‘I feel for him; no matter what ...
    • Prosecution kept its eye on the (wrong) target Dec. 28, 2011 “Throughout the trial, prosecuting attorneys (in the Little Rascals case) repeatedly pursued their hunches without an apparent desire to test an alternate theory. This resulted in a rather ...
    • ‘Keep telling the defendants’ story’ Dec. 26, 2011 “When I saw ‘Innocence Lost’ on PBS, I was outraged. The defendants received a bad deal from the state of North Carolina…. “Thank you for building and maintaining this ...
    • ‘Overwhelming power’ in the worst possible hands Dec. 23, 2011 “Many appalling results of the recovered-memory movement of the 1970s and ’80s arose from … unexamined views of memory – occurrences like the false accusations of employees of ...
    • ‘Is it not plain that people had frightened their children?’ Dec. 21, 2011 “Is it not plain that the people had frightened their children with so many tales that they could not sleep without dreaming of the devil, and then made ...
    • Case was boon to DA’s team of therapists Dec. 19, 2011 “In the Little Rascals case, a handful of therapists were compensated by the state for evaluating and ‘treating’ the child witnesses. But there seemed to be other motivations ...
    • ‘Facts in direct conflict with charges by parents’ Dec. 16, 2011 Alan Rubenstein, who as district attorney refused to prosecute the Breezy Point case, is now a Bucks County Court judge. Unlike H.P. Williams Jr., who was D.A. during the ...
    • For witch hunts, it’s location location location Dec. 14, 2011 Among the leaders of the Committee for Support of the Edenton Seven was Doug Wiik, whose own Breezy Point Day School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, had just been ...
    • How one DA refused to yield to madness Dec. 12, 2011 “(In 1989) when the Breezy Point Day School in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, was subjected to an elaborate skein of charges of satanic and ritualistic sex abuse (District Attorney Alan) ...
    • Imagining my part of a chat with H.P. Williams Jr. Dec. 9, 2011 Had former district attorney H.P. Williams Jr. let our conversation drag on beyond 30 seconds on Wednesday, here are some questions I might have asked: – In all the day care ...
    • Ex-D.A. ‘not in a position to talk about it’ Dec. 7, 2011 H. P. Williams Jr. was district attorney during the Little Rascals trial. He now practices criminal defense law in Elizabeth City. I called to ask whether he had changed his ...
    • Professional child abuse: Creating false memories Dec. 5, 2011 In this (Nov. 29) New York Times analysis of science’s ever-growing skepticism about eyewitness testimony I noticed a familiar name: “One of the earliest and more famous experiments to demonstrate that ...
    • How Bill Hart got better at playing dirty Dec. 2, 2011 “Videotaped interviews made during the early cases (alleging day care ritual sex abuse) show that when children were allowed to speak freely, either they had nothing to say ...

      2011 November

    • How were defendants so skillful at dressing kids? Nov. 30, 2011 “You have to start with the matter of probability. What every one of these (day care sex abuse) cases has in common is that no adult observer has ...
    • Parents ill-prepared to practice psychology Nov. 28, 2011 “The Little Rascals case offers a trove of testimony illustrating how immersion into the popular psychology of sexual abuse gave parent-experts the terms and concepts to retrospectively interpret ...
    • Parents’ gullibility ‘grounded in anxiety’ Nov. 25, 2011 “In the prototypical witch hunts in Europe and in the Massachusetts colony, the accused were often scapegoats for some calamity – disease, bad harvests, the birth of a ...
    • Imprisonment ‘without having to prove a thing’ Nov. 23, 2011 “Finally, after eight years, the Little Rascals case is over. We can consign to history what has to be the most bizarre and disturbing episode in the annals ...
    • Chaplain writes memoir about supporting defendants Nov. 21, 2011 Raymond Lawrence, the New York City chaplain who founded the Committee for Support of the Edenton Seven, was an attentive and often appalled observer at Bob Kelly’s trial. This ...
    • Good sense proved no match for gossip Nov. 18, 2011 “Gossip serves to fill up the vacuum of many people’s lives. It adds spice and excitement …. “ ʻI would never have imagined it,ʼ say the neighborhood people. ʻIt ...
    • Prosecutors couldn’t buy off ‘depraved’ defendants Nov. 16, 2011 “The Little Rascals defendants never wavered in their contention that the allegations were untrue. Not one testified against the other, even though prosecutors commonly offer leniency to accused ...
    • Anonymous sympathizer gave $750,000 Nov. 14, 2011 Raymond Lawrence, then director of chaplains for Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, attended Bob Kelly’s trial on several occasions and founded the Committee for Support of the ...
    • In the beginning, there was a paranoid schizophrenic Nov. 11, 2011 “The first case to raise alarms about predators in nursery schools was that involving the McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, California…. In 1983, a woman named Judy Jones ...
    • Parents stake claim on ‘years of trauma and persecution’ Nov. 9, 2011 “Fear recaptured the 9-year-old, much as it had six years ago when last he left Bob Kelly’s day care. Lingering fears gripped many of Kelly’s victims when the ...
    • Brent Adams & Associates begins to clean up its act Nov. 7, 2011 Last week I mentioned a misleading characterization on the website of the Raleigh personal-injury law firm Brent Adams & Associates: “A highly publicized case occurred in coastal North Carolina almost ...
    • Prosecutors followed playbook from 16th century Nov. 4, 2011 “A mere suspicion of witchcraft justifies the immediate arrest and torture of the suspected person…. “A prisoner may be promised immunity or reduced punishment if he accuses his accomplices.” – ...
    • Chapel Hill therapist was nothing if not certain Nov. 2, 2011 Post on hidden mysteries.org (1995): “Aside from the children and their parents, others are deeply disappointed by the N.C. Supreme Court’s decision not to (overturn) the reversals by the Court of ...

      2011 October

    • Brent Adams & Associates, clean up your act Oct. 31, 2011 “A highly publicized case occurred in coastal North Carolina almost 30 years ago. Making national headlines, the Little Rascals Day Care Center was run by a husband-and-wife team, ...
    • The prosecution’s failures Oct. 28, 2011 “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, ...
    • A theory on ‘the seeds of this case’ Oct. 26, 2011 “Many of the investigators in the Little Rascals case (seem to have been) poised to find allegations of sexual abuse. “The seeds of this case may have been sown ...
    • Other victims of the ‘decade of moral panic’ Oct. 24, 2011 It’s almost obscene to consider the Edenton Seven as lucky, but at least they eventually went free. Mark Montgomery, the Durham appellate lawyer who represented Bob Kelly, cites two ...
    • Kelly used hard work to survive hard time Oct. 21, 2011 How would you handle six years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted? Here’s how Bob Kelly did it: “In jail (in Chowan County before being found guilty) there was nothing but sitting ...
    • Children showed courage not to ‘remember’ abuse Oct. 19, 2011 Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2003, social psychologist Carol Tavris noted that: “One mother (in the Little Rascals case) told reporters that it took 10 months ...
    • N.C. law stacked deck against defendants Oct. 17, 2011 The two largest ritual-abuse day-care cases – Little Rascals in Edenton and McMartin in California – bore many similarities but McMartin resulted in not a single conviction. I asked ...
    • Why we could see another Little Rascals case Oct. 12, 2011 In the digital age more than ever before, no bad idea ever dies. Consider (neo)Nazism, creationism and vaccine-caused autism. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, ritual sex abuse is still ...
    • Bob Kelly: ‘I had nothing to be ashamed of’ Oct. 11, 2011 In 1989 Bob Kelly was charged with 100 counts of child molestation. In 1992 he was convicted and sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences. In 1995 his conviction was overturned ...