130218PearceFeb. 18, 2013

Gov. Jim Hunt was serving his fourth term (1997-2001) when prosecutors dropped the last Little Rascals charges. Although Gary Pearce, Hunt’s longtime adviser and later biographer, doesn’t remember the governor being involved in the case, Pearce experienced his own Edenton moment:

“I actually got called by one of the parents who had heard of me. I met with them and worked with them on a program that UNC-TV did (in 1993 to give parents a chance to respond to “Innocence Lost: The Verdict”). I did it just out of curiosity. It was one of the damnedest things I ever did.

“What the parents were claiming happened was, in the truest sense of the word, incredible. But they seemed absolutely and genuinely and sincerely convinced that it had happened….

“The best word to describe the whole thing is ‘gothic.’”

Defense attorneys were excluded from the program, UNC-TV director Tom Howe explained, because “We’re not really interested in getting into a tit-for-tat about guilt or innocence.”