63. Devil’s Knot – Mara Leveritt
As a long time metal listener who wore a lot of black while pissed off in high school and who always will, I was very concerned about this case when I first heard of it. To me, it was clearly a witch-hunt and nothing else. The clear mishandling, superstitions believed over facts, and ignorance on display added weight to a lot of stereotypes about the south and certainly influenced my own views before I lived there. It’s easy to lump all of the southern states together, and in the case of West Memphis, I’m sure there are still many people who don’t know that it’s in Arkansas and not Tennessee…there’s a whole Mississippi River in between West Memphis and Memphis, and when three teenagers get locked up for a crime that involves a lot of forethought like the murders of those three boys, it’s easy to make sweeping generalizations.
Devil’s Knot is a very thorough examination of the murders, the trial, and the evidence that makes an excellent companion piece to the Paradise Lost documentaries and that holds the region, the people involved – except for maybe Mr. Byers, and the evidence at a pretty objective arm’s length, which I appreciated since I read it after moving back up. I can’t say that I didn’t find any ignorance during the years that I spent driving up and down I-55, which does take you through West Memphis and past the wooded area where the boys were murdered, I can say that I found it in both directions and one side is just a tad more self-righteous about it and that still annoys me. The bureaucratic process doesn’t seem to be all that helpful for most poor people, regardless of where they’re from or currently living, so, really, ignorance and agendas that harm the poor abound across this great land – and that bureaucratic bullshit was egregiously on display in relation to this case. I can say that I was very happy to read this knowing that the West Memphis Three were already free, even though the state refuses to acknowledge how horribly they mishandled the whole case and that does not help any of the families involved.
Leveritt has also combined forces with Jason Baldwin to write a sequel to Devil’s Knot called Dark Spell, I’m looking forward to reading that one.