Author Mara Leveritt
Publication Date October 21, 2003
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.
This book made me angry, I found there to be six victims in this story not three, and a vast miscarriage of justice. The West Memphis Three as they have been dubbed were guilty the minute they walked into the courtroom due to a biased jury and judge. Misskelley, who clearly has some learning disabilities was coerced into a false confession dragging Echols and Baldwin (unintentionally) down with him. After reading further on the case, past the 2002 publication of this book, see that there is no evidence that clearly points to these three boys and instead have seen suspicions and mismatched stories could have one believing that Terry Hobbs, Stevie Branch’s step-father to be connected, although I should mention that this is just my opinion. This non-fiction novel was written nine years after their incarceration; in 2011 eighteen years after their conviction, The West Memphis Three were released under the Alfred Plea Deal.
I was disgusted while reading this book not only because of the heinous crimes themselves but also its aftermath, putting a foul taste in my mouth that lasted long after I turned the last page. Although, I think that is what made this book so readable, giving the reader a novel of just the facts, leaving them to decided the verdict.