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 mind about the guilt of the Edenton Seven.

“I’m not in a position to talk about it,” he said.

Why is that? I asked.

“It’s just not a question I choose to answer.”

As I made another stab at continuing the conversation, he ended it: “Have a good day. Goodbye.”

Williams was 39 when the first charges were filed. Today he is in his early 60s. I held out hope that over the years he had reexamined his role in crushing the lives of seven innocent citizens, had suffered a few dark nights of the soul, had harbored an unspoken wish to make amends, had summoned the honesty and courage to break with the prosecutors’ code of silence when faced with the error of their convictions….

I was naive.