“Free the West Memphis Three!” - maybe you’ve heard the phrase, but do you know why their story is so alarming? Do you know the facts?
The guilty verdicts handed out to three Arkansas teens in a horrific capital murder case were popular in their home state - even upheld on appeal. But after two HBO documentaries called attention to the witch-hunt atmosphere at the trials, artists and other supporters raised concerns about the accompanying lack of evidence. Now, award-winning journalist Mara Leveritt provides the most comprehensive look yet into this endlessly shocking case.
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 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 tried and convicted. Jurors sentenced Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley to life in prison. They sentenced Damien Echols, the accused ringleader, to death. Ten years later, all three remain in prison. Here, Leveritt unravels this seemingly medieval case and offers close-up views of its key participants - including one with an uncanny knack for evading the law.
Mara Leveritt has won several awards for investigative journalism, including Arkansas’s Booker Worthen Prize for her book The Boys on the Tracks. A contributing editor to the Arkansas Times, she lives in Little Rock.
©2002 Mara Leveritt (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Devil’s Knot…leaves you wondering what new sick dread might be lying in wait on the next page, one of those that telegraphs the frustration and fear of its characters through the cover like a chunk of iron struck with a mallet. The monster Leveritt reveals in the end, however, is more terrifying than even the fork-tailed bogeymen conjured by West Memphis police and prosecutors to fit their crime. What Leveritt reveals to us is the most horrible fiend a rational person can imagine when matters of life and death are at stake: the Specter of Doubt.” (Arkansas Times)
Having greatly enjoyed, and been strongly affected by, all 3 HBO documentaries about this disturbing case, I was expecting the book to shed new light. Instead, it largely recapitulates what we already now from the documentaries (perhaps inevitable, since together they span 9+ hours), and trots out the same kind of baseless speculation and nearly libellous "maybe X did it," or "maybe Y did it," kinds of claims, without offering any compelling evidence for those accusations. I would watch the movies rather than read this book -- they're much more illuminating.
Final footnote: the performance left a great deal to be desired. Why do female narrators so often feel compelled to deepen their voices in a patently ridiculous fashion whenever a man is talking? (Given the fact that virtually everyone in this book is male, this is a *big* liability).
Also: I'm not entirely sure why the narrator also felt the need to do extremely unconvincing Arkansas accents for every single player in this story -- virtually all of whom are from Arkansas. Either find a narrator with an appropriate accent, or JUST READ NORMALLY. I beg you.
Say something about yourself!
Yes, this book should be read by everyone to understand how arbitrary at best and corrupt at worst our criminal judicial system is. It was eye opening to see how far the prosecutors went to convict their chosen parties and to be right and how a case can be built from the top down.
I can not think of one I have heard that I would compare this book to. But I am certain the legal system is ripe with similar tales of corruption and lies.
That wouldn't be nice.
When the young men would not turn on the other boys in order to gain their freedom. They had more integrity than the educated idiots prosecuting them! Shows how intelligence does not correlate with character!
Listen to this book and you will know that justice is ofttimes a four letter word! Also, narrator voice is better suited for sing songy books of love and poetry not for a book so powerful.
Phenomenal book which must be read by anyone concerned about the flaws of the criminal justice system in our country.
This book is about the West Memphis Three, who were teenagers at the time of their wrongful interrogations, wrongful trial, and wrongful convictions! Law enforcement, prosecuting attorneys, and even the judge broke every cardinal rule. All they cared about was getting a conviction for a horrendous crime, but it would have been nice if they had not sacrificed the lives of three innocent teenage boys in the process.
The three were released from prison in 2011 under a bizarre "prosecution covers their ass" deal where the three admit guilt, but are still released. They are currently fighting for a complete exoneration.
There is a movie in production based on the book, but I recommend reading the book FIRST so that you are prepared for this shocking and graphic story!
This is a fascinating story, and I had followed it over the past 10 years or so via the series of 3 excellent film documentaries (i.e. "Paradist Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"). I was hoping this book would fill in some of the missing details that a short-form filmed documentary simply can't cover, or at least retell the story in a more nuanced way. But I'm 3 hours into the audiobook and it just hasn't given me a reason to keep listening.
If you have never heard the story of the West Memphis 3 you might find this book fascinating because the story and characters are so compelling. It's a mind-blowing human drama, to say the least. But for someone who has seen the documentaries this audiobook had very little to offer, at least for me. The narration was pretty good, although her voice sometimes got grating. To be honest, I can't tell if the narration suffered a bit because of the storytelling or if the story suffered because of the narration, but the net effect was to cause an interested reader to walk away from the audiobook halfway through.
Tell us about yourself! I love to escape into a good book.
This is a highly detailed account of the disturbing 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. As well as the subsequent trials of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr, Jason Baldwin. The tragedy of this case is that no thorough investigation was taken at the time of the crime, further compounded by the judicial system which failed to render a just outcome.
These three teenage boys were railroaded, condemned and convicted without any real evidence. The West Memphis Three reached a deal with prosecutors, on August 19, 2011, they entered Alford pleas, which allow them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Judge David Laser accepted the pleas and sentenced the three to time served. They were released with ten-year suspended sentences, having served 18 years and 78 days in prison. To this day they are fighting to exonerate their names.
The most chilling aspect of this case is that the real murderer is still out there.
No justice for the children no justice for the West Memphis three.
I am the same age as Damien Echolls and I remember when this case first appeared, the time of Satanic Panic, and I've watched all 3documentaries. this book delves deeper into the court cases and some of the evidence for an alternate killer, but cannot make any conclusion as to the real perpatrator(s). it is the biggest tragedy that here, as in Hae Min Lee's murder that has recently been reexamine, the police settled on the easiest suspect and fabricated a motive and pulled a conviction out of thin air. and these cases are absolutely not the only examples of this. I only hope that Adnan Syed gets to walk out of jail as Echols, Baldwin and Miskelley did.
Tops for this category. I don't generally compare across categories.
Inflection and tone.
Several actually. The brazen bias of the judge was absolutely contemptible.
I wish there had been a more current update following release of the "three."
I have seen the movie Paradise Lost and still have a lot of questions about what really happened to those three boys. This book however, is a simple case of seeing only one side of the case. It is clear from the very beginning of the book that this is not an objective, rationale investigation of the case. I would not recommend this book if you want the evidence and a chance to determine for yourself what really happened. The are many questions that are not only not answered by this book, they are simply ignored. Confessions and evidence are ignore completely.
Actually look at all the facts and present them all without the obvious hatred and disdain for the police.
Somehow I missed this entire newsline, documentaries, etc. Never heard about this case until I stumbled upon the audio book. I was engrossed from page 1! I enjoy true crime books in general but have always had a general rule not to read stories that involve children because they are too hard for me to stomach. I will keep that rule going forward because this book will haunt me for the rest of my life. 3 murder victims and 3 wrongly convicted victims of a warped society and a huge sinkhole in our judicial system.
(The narrator is awesome. I thought she did such a great job!)
The authors outline of this case kept me completely enthralled. I watched the documentaries online and learned as much about this travesty as I could.
There are not shameful enough words to describe the injustices that all of these kids experienced. The murder victims were not sought justice for and the Judge and Prosecutor of this case are disgraceful at best. The three innocent kids sent to prisonand brutalized and treated like animals for the next 18 years while the killer walked free and probably got off on that too.
The epilogue of this book has a great summary of how insanely unfair this is and really shocking that this happened in AMERICA. Americans allowed three all American boys to be treated unfairly and unjustly in a heartbreaking way. The epilogue says something along the lines of boys who were not old enough to buy a lottery ticket were questioned for hours on end by armed police officers without the presence of an attorney or parent. That actually happened. And they were convicted based on the information obtained during that interrogation. It doesn't remind us that the boy who gave a false confession had an IQ of about 72. Unimaginable. Makes my skin crawl thinking about it.
Prayers were answered the day those 3 were set free. However, the murder victims still have no justice as nobody is searching for the true killer/s.
The person who did this walks free every day, among all of us.
My heartfelt sympathies to Chris Byers' brother Ryan and the families and loved ones of all three murder victims, to Damien, Jason and Jessie and their families and loved ones. Bless Jessie's father's heart.
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