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 early days of the case, and it became just about impossible after the first “Innocence Lost” episode cast the town in a starkly unflattering light.

The default response to anyone with a notepad: Go away.

In 1996, however, a defense attorney weighing Edenton as a site for Bob Kelly’s possible retrial had better luck. His case notes include this candid and chilling evaluation from a longtime Edentonian:

“(The resident) didn’t believe that any of the defendants, but especially Bob, had a chance of getting a fair trial in Edenton. Although the constant talk of Little Rascals has died down, he said people still wouldn’t dare mention the idea of innocence. He believes that probably half of (Chowan County) either doesn’t believe Bob did it or at least not to the extent alleged. He believes the largest group of ‘nonbelievers’ to be those of lesser means, and especially minorities.

“He said that anyone of means or in any type of business in town would be committing financial and social suicide if they voiced any belief in Bob’s innocence.

“He said that even if he knew Bob to be innocent, or less guilty than charged, he would have a hard time voting so as a juror in light of the lifelong social repercussions. If there was even one or two jurors who believed Bob was guilty, they would be able to pressure everyone else into voting with them….”