"PBS' 'Frontline' has made the alleged sexual abuse of children something of a crusade. Or anti-crusade, as the case may be. In the '80s, the United States saw a sudden surge in trials involving sexual abuse of children, many involving elements of alleged ritual Satanic abuse, day care centers and repressed or recovered memory.
'Frontline' devoted eight hours to such a case in Edenton, NC ... some of the finest television documentaries ever made ... Now the PBS series pursues a similar set of cases in Miami in 'The Child Terror,' only this time, transcripts and videos of therapists interviewing children were made by the therapists and were available. We can watch as the children are led to 'believe' a dubious story by repeated and aggressive suggestions ...
... 'Child Terror' is less successful in linking its worrisome findings to Attorney General Janet Reno, who was the top prosecutor in Miami at the time of the suspect trials. Although her office bore ultimate responsibility if innocent people were tried and convicted, the show has to strain to tie her in personally.
But it makes too many other important points, and makes them persuasively, for that shortcoming to detract. Grade: B+"
"'Frontline' returns tonight to the 1980's, when the nation was afflicted by an epidemic of accusations of child abuse. Here again are the bizarre charges, sensational headlines, anxious parents, zealous or gullible prosecutors and juries persuaded by the testimony of children led on by so called therapists. the one new element reported on tonight is the role of Janet Reno, who, when a state attorney in Miami, won a reputation for producing a method of getting convictions in a shaky cases."
"... In 'The Child Terror,' the PBS documentary series 'Frontline' reports that when Reno was the state attorney in Miami, her overly aggressive child-abuse prosecutions might have resulted in some grotesque miscarriages of justice.
Reno's noble intentions aren't questioned, just her approach. In the heated climate following a monstrous case of child molestation by a South Dade couple, Reno launched a jihad against alleged child abusers. In its tenacity and tunnel vision it was reminiscent of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's communist witch hunts ...
The Child Terror' concentrates on two cases, which amounted to inquisitions, to show how the system can be manipulated against the accused ...
The Child Terror' concludes on a chilling note. Her reputation as a take-no-prisoners prosecutor was instrumental in Reno being designated attorney general, 'Frontline' says. One of her first decisions in Washington was to use any means necessary to protect another group of children--in Waco, Texas."
"... The episode by producer-director Michael Kirk and correspondent Peter Boyer 'deconstructs' some celebrated 1980s cases in Miami and employs some sly phraseology like 'overheated press,' 'fevered community,' 'prosecutorial zeal,' etc. In some cases--like a reference to 'the prosecution's favorite TV reporter,' hinting at improper journalism--people who are impugned get no chance to rebut. The producers don't appear to have talked with any judges, jurors, police, parents or children.
The series also takes several shots at 'avowed advocate for children' Janet Reno, then-Florida state attorney and now U.S. attorney general. Boyer had written a critical Reno piece in New Yorker magazine ('Children of Waco') and later a 'Frontline' episode ('Waco: The Inside Story'), also sharply critical of her, on the firestorm that destroyed the Branch Davidian compound, including the children.
As the final point here, Boyer said Reno had brought 'her children's crusade' with her to Washington and, a month later, when Reno was told that the children in Waco maybe were being abused, she 'allowed the FBI to move in with tanks and tear gas.' There's no mistaking the correspondent's sentiment."