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In "The Child Terror," FRONTLINE correspondent Peter J. Boyer travels to Dade County, Florida to explore the impassioned roots and controversial consequences of the nation's 15-year legal battle against child sexual abuse. During the 1980s, Miami became ground zero in the crusade to prosecute child molesters. Many high-profile cases were prosecuted by the office of then-chief prosecutor Janet Reno who pioneered a national effort to bring child molesters to justice. Now, however, some of these cases are unraveling. In this report, FRONTLINE deconstructs two of the them, probing what went wrong.
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The Child Terror

In the midst of a sudden willingness to believe that children were being ritually abused in day-care centers during the 1980s, parents, police, prosecutors, and the press turned Miami, Florida, into ground zero for a new way of convicting alleged child molesters.
Led by Floridas then-prosecuting attorney, Janet Reno, alleged abusers were relentlessly pursued and convicted with a zeal unmatched in the nation. Today, as some of Renos celebrated cases seem to be unraveling, FRONTLINE correspondent Peter J. Boyer examines the convictions that were a stunning triumph for the crusading prosecuting attorney and created an emerging political model that would be emulated by prosecutors across the country.

published oct. 1998