Book Review: Devil’s Knot – The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt

Devils Knot1Apparently, modern day witch hunts do exist.  In case you haven’t heard the story of the West Memphis Three, now is your chance to read all about it before it is released as a movie later this year.

Back in 1993, three young boys were reported missing.  The next day, police found the dead bodies of the boys, submerged in the waters of a ditch in woods near the boys’ homes.  The boys were tied in an unusual position, stripped naked with their hands and feet bound together from the back.  For weeks after the murders, the police had little to go on and no suspects.  Then seemingly out of nowhere, police began targeting local three teenagers, supposedly belonging to a satanic cult: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley.  Due to the fact that these teenagers wore black band t-shirts and played Dungeons and Dragons, they were “obviously” into some dark stuff, including Devil worshipping.  Side note: if DND is all it takes to be labeled a murderer, my boyfriend better be on his best behavior.  The police believed without a shadow of a doubt that these boys were guilty, and aided Prosecutors in convincing the Jury of their guilt.  The jury, then, gave convictions of life in prison to Jessie and Jason, and the death penalty to Damien, the supposed leader of the group.  However, not everyone was as convinced of the boys’ guilt as the jury and police, seeing the case against them for what it was – riddled with more questions than answers.

Mara Leveritt, a journalist in search of the truth, was one such individual who questioned the “facts” of the case.  She compiled and wrote Devil’s Knot as an unbiased look into the investigation, highlighting inconsistencies among testimonies, holes in the investigation, shoddy police work, a lack of hard evidence, and a fervor to find someone, anyone, to pin the murders on, even if the facts didn’t necessarily support such accusations.  After all, America demanded justice for the shocking murder of these innocent children.  After reading this book, I find it terrifying how easily a case could be falsely built around anyone provided the right set of circumstances.  This is the kind of thing that makes a person lose faith in the people who are supposed to be protecting us from injustice, not helping to cause it.

Leveritt does an exceptional job of laying out the case.  In fact, the only thing I was left wishing for at the book’s conclusion was not something that the author could have actually helped.  That is, I wanted to know about the events leading up to the three being released from prison, obviously impossible since they were released in 2011 and this book was published in 2003.  Furthermore, based on Leveritt’s reporting, the facts seemed to point to the guilt of the stepfather of one of the murdered boys – but this could neither be confirmed nor disconfirmed at the time of publication.  However, since finishing the book, I realized that there are three documentaries about the case: one filmed during the investigation/trial (Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin
Hood Hills)
, another filmed while the three convicted boys were in prison (Paradise Lost: Revelations), and the third after new evidence was found and a new trial date set (Paradise Lost: Purgatory).  Right now they are at the top of my must watch list.  Hopefully they will be able to fill in the answers to some of my unresolved questions after finishing the book.

I highly recommend Devil’s Knot.  It was completely engrossing, and it’s good to know that the West Memphis Three were finally given the justice they deserved, although it can never take away the wrong that was done to them.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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