Even as he was fighting extradition for his client, Hollis Rawls was also trying to do what he could to ensure a fair trial. Which wasn't easy considering the dozens of newspaper stories coming out of Louisiana, all featuring photographs of Bobby with his loving parents. That the boy on the photographs didn't seem particularly enthused about being with his supposed family hardly seemed to matter to the public. Having the Dunbars claim him as their son proved to the public that William Cantwell Walters was guilty as charged and nothing that his defenders said or did seemed able to change that.
In the meantime, the entire case became a political hot potato with Louisiana's governor leaning on Governor Earl Hall of Mississippi to agree to Walters' extradition. Hall even took the remarkable step of hiring a private detective agency in Louisiana to look into the whole matter and they agreed that the Dunbars were mistaken. But Percy Dunbar was determined to settle any question about Bobby's identity and even arranged for the family physician to examine Bobby and write a letter to bolster his case for extradition. He also did his best to discredit Julia Anderson, the woman who was claiming to be the mother of the boy in question.
Unfortunately, many aspects of the woman's personal life raised red flags as far as her critics were concerned. Not only was she a single mother trying to raise her children in extreme poverty, but gossip concerning extramarital affairs seemed to follow her wherever she lived. She came to know William Cantwell Walters as a live-in domestic caring for his elderly parents. It likely didn't help that Julia wasn't entirely certain who Bruce's father was (the most likely candidate was William's brother, Bunt, who had skipped town on learning that she was pregnant). She went on to have several more pregnancies, including the birth of her daughter, Bernice (whose paternity was, again, unknown). Realizing that she couldn't care for her children on her own, she arranged for her youngest child, Bernice, to be adopted and entrusted Bruce to William since they had already become close.
On learning that William had been arrested and that Bruce had been effectively kidnapped, Julia then traveled to Louisiana hoping to settle the entire matter. The trip had been paid for by one of the newspapers covering the story though they warned her to keep a low profile when she arrived due to the animosity raised by the case. Percy Dunbar, after hearing that Julia was on her way, did everything in his power to keep Bruce/Bobby from being taken. What followed was a bizarre "test" arranged by Percy Dunbar in which Julia was expected to choose which of three similar-looking boys was her son. He also made certain that Bobby was not in room and that the room was kept deliberately dark.
As well, Julia hadn't seen her son in over a year and was likely apprehensive about how he would respond on seeing her. When faced with three unfamiliar children in a darkened room, she announced that none of the boys was her son. Percy then triumphantly announced that she had failed the test. Even when Julia finally managed to see Bruce and identify him as her son, she was publicly dismissed as a fraud. While the county officials who had been assured that they would conduct the test objected, they were overruled. Finally, facing threats of being arrested for her role in Bobby Dunbar's kidnapping, Julia Anderson left for New Orleans.
Despite the continuing controversy over how the identification had been conducted, the last barrier to William Cantwell Walters' extradition was out of the way. He was finally transferred to Louisiana to stand trial for kidnapping and the public animosity in the Dunbars' home town made this a nightmarish experience for him. To cover the costs of his legal defense, he was forced to put up his share of the family farm as collateral and also borrowed heavily to get the rest.
The trial began almost immediately and the newspaper coverage dominated headlines. Despite the evidence being presented by Walters and his defense team, public support was very much against them. The Dunbar family had invested considerable time and resources into hiring private detectives to follow up on every aspect of Walters's life and to discredit him and his alibi. More importantly, they kept up the public relations battle as well with Bobby being put on display at regular intervals. There was also the fact that the Dunbars came from a much higher social class than Walters and Julia Anderson (who was largely viewed as "tainted"). To add to the confusion, Bobby himself had spent weeks with the Dunbar family being treated as their son. As his memories of his earlier life began to fade, accepting his new name and life with a privileged family became much easier.
During the two weeks of testimony that followed, the prosecutor put forward the unique theory that Walters had somehow exchanged Bruce Anderson for Bobby Dunbar at some point in his travels and had likely had both boys in his possession for a time (what supposedly became of the real Bruce Anderson was never raised in court). Though witnesses testified that Walters had been in Mississippi when the kidnapping occurred, other witnesses presented by the prosecution confidently declared seeing him in Louisiana. Many theories were also raised publicly about other members of the Walters family having aided in the kidnapping somehow though nothing came of it. Julia Anderson tried her best in the courtroom, even going so far as to display her bare foot to show that two of her toes were fused together in the same way as Bobby/Bruce but, again, her status as a "scarlet woman" worked against her (newspapers never failed to refer to Bruce as her "illegitimate child.")
In the end, Walters probably didn't stand a chance of winning. Following two weeks of testimony, the case went to the jury and, on April 28, 1914, William Cantwell Walters was found guilty of kidnapping. While the jury's verdict spared him the death penalty, he was still sentenced to life in prison. Later that same evening, someone managed to enter his cell and beat him severely, likely giving him a foreshadowing about the kind of treatment he could expect in prison. Even when his lawyers filed for an immediate appeal, the request was rejected. Julia Anderson, devastated by the verdict and the way she had been treated during the trial, soon collapsed and spent weeks in a New Orleans charity hospital recovering.
As for Walters, he was sent to a federal penitentiary in New Orleans to serve his sentence. His lawyers and supporters continued to crusade for his release and Julia Anderson, having been released from hospital, moved to Mississippi to help with the legal effort. Finally, after two years of legal pressure, Walters' sentence was overturned on a technicality though the stigma of his conviction and the ordeal of his incarceration would mark him for the rest of his life.