A Book I Read: Devil’s Knot

I admit that reading this book was a change of pace from my normal fare.  While the phenomenon of the West Memphis Three case has swept over the entire country, a smaller, more vocal, group is completely obsessed with all things WM3.

However, my interests are two fold.  First, I grew up in the same county where the killings and subsequent events took place.  Places I see every day are mentioned in the accounts of the trial. People I work with every day were characters involved. Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were familiar names to people I knew growing up. So the story is fascinating to me in that regard.

Second, the most popular view of the case is that a grave injustice took place. Three innocent boys were tried and convicted based on books they read and shirts they wore.  Small-minded, ignorant and intolerant Mayberry-ites willingly participated in a worse-than-lynching because they loved hard rock music and wore black clothes.  That theme rings true to me as a person and a defense lawyer.

Honestly, the trial evidence amounted to a bit more than shirts and books, but was still paltry for a triple homicide. Nothing was introduced in the way of traditional damning forensic evidence. Some proof consisted of shaky testimony and a even shakier confession by a borderline retarded Misskelly who had been sequestered from his lawyer in one of the most unethical aspects of the case (or any case, for that matter).

I do not have the space or skill for a full review of the evidence so I will try to limit my comments to the book as a whole.

Other than scholarly works I read in college (or was supposed to read), Mara Leveritt supplied more footnotes authenticating her account than any other book I have ever read.  Full disclosure is that I do not tackle many historical account books.

I thought the book was a thrilling read and enjoyable for anyone who is interested in legal themed documentaries or legal drama and fiction.

A weird dynamic is no book tells the story from the perspective that the Court got the verdict right. I am open to any view, but the only researched view I can find on the internet or in print is the view a colossal and embarrassing injustice took place due to both ignorance and willful disregard of the law.

The reason I mention it is because of a conversation I had with a local judge who told me Mara Leveritt is a liar who will write anything for profit.  Even if that is is true, and I have no idea, my problem with tossing the whole book out based on his view (and I respect him very much professionally) is there is no other account. There is no published alternative view.  (The author noted certain elements of the story that make her premise less believable. In doing so, she gained some credibility with me.)

All things being equal (which they are not or this book would never have been written), I would recommend this book.


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