Re-Visiting Jordan, Minnesota

April 21, 2014
SrwuealThe new issue of the Roger Williams University Law Review is a symposium from the  2013 conference on child witnesses. (Here is the foreword by Prof. Carl Bogus.) The issue includes an article on the Jordan, Minnesota cases by Ross Cheit and Andrea Matthews. Based on extensive original research, the article argues that the Jordan, Minnesota cases were far more complicated  than the witch-hunt narrative has ever acknowledged.

Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker wrote the Jordan cases off with the assertion that “the Jordan youngsters accused their parents of murdering babies.”  In fact, the police interviewed seventy children, thirty-two of whom were named in at least one criminal indictment. Five children eventually made fantastic statements about killing babies; sixty-five never did.

The article also reveals how history professor Philip Jenkins, who apparently did not conduct original research, conflated two children in the case, attributing statements made by a boy (J.B.) who made murder allegations to a boy (J.O.) with the same first initial, but who was earliest in the case and never made any such claims. Jenkins dismissed J.O. and virtually all of the other children in the case for little apparent reason. The article documents significant and overlooked evidence of abuse in the case.

The Jordan cases were a dual tragedy: people were charged who should not have been, and children were not vindicated who should have been. But the witch-hunt narrative remembers only one of those stories.