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.

111017MontgomeryI asked Mark Montgomery, who in 1995 successfully argued Bob Kelly’s case before the North Carolina Court of Appeals, why that might have been:

“Each state has its own criminal laws, rules of procedure and evidence, etc. … Several features of the law in North Carolina gave prosecutors an advantage.

“First, the prosecution interviewed all the children attending Little Rascals Day Care. Most said they had seen no abuse. The law allowed the prosecution to withhold those interviews from the defense. And the defense was not allowed to interview the children. So all the jury heard were the stories of the 12 children who were the subject of indictments.

“Second, the law allowed the state’s expert witnesses to testify that they believed the children’s claims.

“Third, the defense was not allowed to conduct its own physical or psychological examinations of the children.

“Fourth, North Carolina had (and has) very liberal rules for the admission of hearsay by children in these cases. Almost anything a child says out of court can be used by the jury as substantive evidence of guilt. An effective prosecution strategy was to enlist the parents to elicit allegations of abuse. For months, parents, who were told their children had been abused, pleaded with their children to ‘disclose.’ Some eventually did. The prosecution then called the parents as witnesses to testify to what their children said, even if the children themselves did not testify.”