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Innocence lost: the verdict

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Everyone in the country should be compelled to watch the new, two-part edition of Frontline, Innocence lost: the verdict (PBS, July 20, 9-11 p.m.; concludes July 21, same time). It is producer Ofra Bikel’s follow-up to her Emmy-winning 1991 documentary, Innocence Lost, about the widely publicized charges of child molestation brought against seven adults working in the Little Rascals day- care center in Edenton, N.C. In The Verdict, Bikel offers a quick summary of the case, which, after nine months of testimony, climaxed with the conviction in 1992 of Little Rascals owner Bob Kelly on 99 out of 100 counts of child sexual abuse. (Kelly is appealing.) Using trial transcripts and a remarkable series of interviews with five jury members, Bikel raises profoundly disturbing questions about both the validity of the children’s testimony and the manner in which the jury arrived at its verdict. Bikel is scrupulously objective, and The Verdict maintains a calm, nonsensational tone throughout, yet it can’t help but inspire strong reactions. I came away with no doubt that Kelly is completely innocent, that the judge should have declared a mistrial, and that this case is symptomatic of a tragic wave of child-abuse hysteria in America. You may end up believing the opposite; watch this and see what you think. A+