Will a court pay attention?

April 13, 2021

If I had harbored even an iota of doubt about Junior Chandler’s innocence, it would’ve been vaporized by the podcast episode below.

Most dramatically, the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic’s meticulously assembled “Impossibility Exhibit” demonstrates that Junior was nowhere near the scene of his imaginary crimes….

But is the court paying attention?


Today’s random selection from the Little Rascals Day Care archives….


National borders were no barrier to panic

121015WitchOct. 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 in the number of abuse claims by children and their parents….

“In the city of Muenster…. children (at a Montessori school) accused persons totally removed from the setting, including taxi drivers, and talked about coffins, mortuaries, trap doors, chaining and secret subterranean vaults. The panic spread to other schools.

“Finally, the (Montessori) investigation, which lasted from 1990 to 1993, resulted in dismissal for lack of evidence. A key role was played by a level-headed psychologist who submitted an analysis of the children and their parents forming a ‘group mind’ that had evolved through mutually reinforcing suggestion.

“A warning for the modern world: When analyzing children’s allegations, we also must analyze the role of the modern mass media, not only within national boundaries….”

– From “Witch-Children: From Salem Witch-Hunts to Modern Courtrooms”  by Hans Sebald (1995)

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 Times in 1990, barely a week after a jury returned not guilty verdicts in the McMartin Pre-School case:

“Experts across the country say the interview techniques intended to extract the truth from youngsters who attended the Manhattan Beach nursery school were so misguided as to make the children seem coerced, rehearsed and ultimately unbelievable to the jury….

“According to both child development and criminal defense experts who have closely monitored the case for the last six years, some of the adults — the parents, the prosecutors, the therapists — who tried hardest to find out what happened in the first place may have done the most to confuse the case in the end…. Most of the children were never given the chance to simply tell what, if anything, happened to them.

“‘They were never given the opportunity to tell their stories as they knew them, in their own words, until long after their minds had been contaminated with the thoughts and fears of the adults around them,’ said David Raskin, a psychologist at the University of Utah who has been studying child abuse cases for the last 15 years. By then, he said, it was too late.”

Contamination proved every bit as rampant among child-witnesses in the Little Rascals case, but prosecutors had learned from McMartin to conceal it by denying access to verbatim records of therapists’ interviews.

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:

111205Loftus“One of the earliest and more famous experiments to demonstrate that memories are malleable was conducted by Elizabeth Loftus, a psychology professor at the University of California, Irvine, and an early pioneer of witness memory research.

“In a 1974 study published in The Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, (Loftus) asked participants to view films of fender-benders in which no car windows or headlights were broken. Later, the subjects who were asked how fast the cars were going when they ‘smashed’ into each other – as opposed to ‘hit’ – were more likely to report speeding and describe shattered glass they never actually saw.”

While researching a book on the Wenatchee, Washington, ritual sex abuse case (1994-95), Kathryn Lyon asked Loftus about the consequences when professionals contribute to and reinforce false memories in children.

“If you believe real child abuse has long-term deleterious consequences,” Loftus responded, “then what happens when you create a false memory of child abuse? Are you creating a victim who is also likely to have long-term troubles?

“Having a real and a pseudo memory are in many ways the same. If you create the memory, are you not creating child abuse?”

Lyon, a lawyer, spent a year in Wenatchee to write the thorough and chilling “Witch Hunt: A True Story of Social Hysteria and Abused Justice” (1998).

How did prosecutors let go ‘16 psychotic, baby-killing pedophiles’? 


Brian Lambert

June 3, 2017

How did prosecutors let go ‘16 psychotic, baby-killing pedophiles’?

“An early indicator of the bizarre and fickle nature of the [Little Rascals] prosecution was that in all, 23 Edenton residents were named by the children (via counseling) as having engaged in essentially the same abominable acts as those indicted.

“Yet the county DA’s office arbitrarily pared the case to seven, leaving, one assumes, 16 psychotic, baby-killing pedophiles to walk freely on the streets of their small city….”

– From “A ‘Frontline’ documentary on child abuse hysteria shows how good TV can be” by Brian Lambert in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press (May 27, 1997)

Among the lucky 16: the mayor and sheriff.


Parents saw nothing amiss until rumors took hold

120418BruckApril 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 being abused or tortured during the period of the alleged abuses; there were no reports of unusual incidents from their children.

“Nor did the parents detect anything unusual when, without notice, they dropped in early to pick up their children from the day care (e.g., to take them to a doctor’s appointment).

“It was only after allegations began to grow that parents also began to remember events or behaviors consistent with their child being abused.”

– From “Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children’s
Testimony” by Stephen J. Ceci and Maggie Bruck (1995)

Prosecutor Nancy Lamb gave the Charlotte Observer her response to “Jeopardy in the Courtroom”: “It’s unfortunate that these two people who have a good reputation – or at least Ceci did – have written this. It’s garbage.”

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 foreign countries in how to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse. Among its allies: YMCAs.

Unfortunately, D2L is less than meticulous in associating itself with other organizations. This is a letter I sent D2L officials on Dec. 5:

Darkness to Light does a disservice to the public and to your cause when you include on your list of resources the Survivorship website.

120116BrickMugSurvivorship’s board president is Neil Brick, who identifies himself as “the founder of S.M.A.R.T. (Stop Mind Control and Ritual Abuse Today) at http://ritualabuse.us. He is a survivor of ritual abuse and a survivor advocate. He works on developing supports for survivors and getting information out to the general public about ritual abuse. He runs yearly ritual abuse conferences on the east coast of the United States every year at http://ritualabuse.us/smart-conference. Links to his presentation transcripts and research papers are http://ritualabuse.us/smart/neil-brick.”

S.M.A.R.T. is perhaps the most prominent organization still insisting that numerous day-care providers in the 1980s and early 1990s subjected children to “satanic ritual abuse.” Although the day-care panic eventually waned and courts freed nearly all the unfortunate defendants, S.M.A.R.T. continues to see abuse in every one of these cases – from McMartin to Little Rascals to Fells Acres, etc.

Like Scientologists and Holocaust deniers, S.M.A.R.T. has been banned from editing Wikipedia entries. Neither should its disinformation campaign be given a platform by Darkness to Light.

Darkness to Light has yet to respond to that letter or to a Dec. 30 follow-up soliciting “a statement explaining why you continue to support this organization.”  I’d be happy to publish such an explanation, but even happier to learn that D2L has cut its ties to the ritual abuse movement.

How one DA refused to yield to madness

Dec. 12, 2011

111212Rubenstein“(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) Rubenstein mounted an immediate, aggressive investigation of the evidence supporting each allegation.

“He took up the rug at the school where rabbits were alleged to have been ritually sacrificed and sent it to (an independent toxicology) lab for analysis; no rabbit blood was found.

“He sifted the school sandbox for evidence of allegedly sacrificed and mutilated animals; no traces were found.

“He had the children alleged to have been raped and beaten interviewed apart from their frenzied parents and without the assistance of the ubiquitous (Roland) Summit-trained ‘sex therapists;’ none were found to have been abused.

“One of the child ‘victims,’ whose videotaped ‘disclosure’ was key to the original allegations, actually objected to being transferred to another school, claiming she ‘liked Breezy Point.’

“Rubenstein firmly resisted hysterical parents and the public clamor for arrests. As a result of his courage and integrity, and his thorough, timely and scientific investigations, all charges of abuse at Breezy Point quickly evaporated.”

– From “Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom” by Raymond J. Lawrence (2007)

Striking, isn’t it, to see the prosecutor in a day-care abuse case say “Wait just a minute, let’s check this out” rather than falling all over himself to round up a coffle of suspects.

Later this week I’ll be checking in with Doug Wiik, owner of Breezy Point and a key member of the Committee for Support of the Edenton Seven, and with former District Attorney Rubenstein.