*SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING REESE WITHERSPOON AND COLIN FIRTH *
The West Memphis Three. Accused, convicted…and set free. Do you know their story?
In 2011, one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American legal history was set right when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were released after eighteen years in prison. Award-winning journalist Mara Leveritt’s The Devil’s Knot remains the most comprehensive, insightful reporting ever done on the investigation, trials, and convictions of three teenage boys who became known as the West Memphis Three.
For weeks in 1993, after the murders of three eight-year-old boys, police in West Memphis, Arkansas seemed stymied. Then suddenly, detectives charged three teenagers—alleged members of a satanic cult—with the killings. Despite the witch-hunt atmosphere of the trials, and a case which included stunning investigative blunders, a confession riddled with errors, and an absence of physical evidence linking any of the accused to the crime, the teenagers were convicted. Jurors sentenced Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley to life in prison and Damien Echols, the accused ringleader, to death. The guilty verdicts were popular in their home state—even upheld on appeal—and all three remained in prison until their unprecedented release in August 2011.
With close-up views of its key participants, this award-winning account unravels the many tangled knots of this endlessly shocking case, one which will shape the American legal landscape for years to come.
Arkansas investigative journalist Leveritt (The Boys on the Tracks) presents an affecting account of a controversial trial in the wake of three child murders in Arkansas. In May 1993, three eight-year-old boys were found mutilated and murdered in West Memphis, a small and tattered Arkansas town. The crime scene and forensic evidence were mishandled, but a probation officer directed the police toward Damien Echols, a youth with a troubled home life, antiauthoritarian attitudes and admiration for the "Goth" and Wiccan subcultures. Amid rumors of satanic cult activity, investigators browbeat Jesse Misskelley, a mentally challenged 16-year-old acquaintance of Echols, into providing a wildly inconsistent confession that he'd helped Echols and a third teen, Jason Baldwin, assault the boys. Leveritt meticulously reconstructs the clamorous investigation and two jury trials that followed. All three boys were convicted on the basis of Misskelley's dubious statements and such "evidence" as Echols's fondness for William Blake and Stephen King. Leveritt, who makes a strong argument that the convictions were a miscarriage of justice, also suggests an alternative suspect: one victim's stepfather, who had a history of domestic violence, yet was seemingly shielded by authorities because he was a drug informant for local investigators. Sure to be locally controversial, Leveritt's carefully researched book offers a riveting portrait of a down-at-the-heels, socially conservative rural town with more than its share of corruption and violence.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Well researched and informative - format problems on iBooks
Having just seen all three of the Paradise Lost documentaries about this case, I was interested in the topic but doubted id learn much that was new. However, the level of detail -- especially about the trials and about the backgrounds of the defendants and the families of the victims -- is very impressive. Lucidly written, with a wealth of notes providing even more pertinent facts. The many errors in the handling of the case, the corruption of justice, is laid out clearly, but the book never becomes a strident manifesto.
Unfortunately, the formatting of footnotes made it impossible to read in sequence with the text. The footnote numbers in the text link to the page with the note, but the notes are unnumbered and do not link back to the text. I can't believe the quality control on a best selling, $10 iBook doesn't notice this. From this and similar problems with other book downloads, I've concluded that there is no quality control, and if there was, it doesn't care.
I read Devil's Knot after reading Damien Echols Life after Death. I'm so horrified that there is this level of corruption, collusion, and incompetence in a position of power. Judge Burnett is the worst one of the entire justice group and that says a lot. Exoneration of these 3 men is the only option. Let's make sure our justice system can be relied upon. Based on this case, it isn't. God help us all.
Compelling and comprehensive
It's much easier to read this account knowing that the three of them are now free, but it's sad to think that they've lost 17 years of their lives because of this travesty. It's also sad to think that the actual killer(s) will never be brought to justice for the senseless killing of 3 little boys. All of that aside, a well written book, painstakingly researched, and a tremendous read. Right up there with In Cold Blood as far as true crime reporting goes.