Devil's Knot

Devil's Knot

The True Story of the West Memphis Three

Book - 2002
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On the evening of May 5, 1993, in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, three eight-year-old boys disappeared. The next afternoon, the naked bodies of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore were found submerged in a nearby stream. The boys had been bound from ankle to wrist with their own shoelaces and severely beaten. Christopher had been castrated. The crime scene had yielded few clues, and despite Christopher's castration, there was a remarkable absence of blood. The police were stymied, and citizens' alarm mounted as weeks passed without an arrest. Finally, a month after the murders, detectives announced three arrests -- and a startling theory of the crime: that the children had been killed by members of a satanic cult. Detectives attributed their break in the case to a former special education student, seventeen-year-old Jessie Misskelley Jr. Although Jessie insisted he knew nothing of the crime, after eight hours of questioning, police announced that he had implicated himself and accused two other teenagers, eighteen-year-old Damien Echols and sixteen-year-old Jason Baldwin. Damien and Jason both denied Jessie's account, and Jessie himself recanted it within hours, but by then all three had been charged with the murders. With no physical evidence connecting anyone to the crime, prosecutors contended that the murders bore signs of "the occult" and that the three accused teenagers possessed a "state of mind" that pointed to them as the killers. As proof of the defendants' mental states, they introduced items taken from their rooms -- such as books by Anne Rice and album posters for the rock group Metallica. Jurors found all three teenagers guilty. Jessie and Jason were sentenced to life in prison. Damien was sentenced to death. While the verdicts were popular in Arkansas, an HBO documentary raised questions about the lack of evidence in the case, and a Web site was formed to support the inmates, now known as "The West Memphis Three." When the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the verdicts, state officials insisted that anyone who questioned the trials simply did not know "the facts." Now, for the first time, an award-winning investigative reporter examines that official stand. In riveting narrative, Devil's Knot draws readers into the drama of a modern-day courtroom dominated by references to Satan. In laying out "the facts" of this still-unfolding case, it offers a frightening look into America's system of justice.
Publisher: New York : Atria Books, c2002.
ISBN: 9780743417594
Characteristics: 417 p., [8] p. of plates :,ill., map ;,24 cm.
Alternative Title: West Memphis Three


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Jan 24, 2019

This poignantly shocking tale of Woe/Whoa! strongly resonates me with as, for all intents and (cross) purposes, being the same age and of similarly winsome albeit misunderstood musical proclivities (i.e. metal or death, mofo!) as Jason Baldwin, it could very well have been me jammed in that crusty, depressing and celeritous life-ruiner of a def.'s box...A friggin' excellent read no-how, whether you're a true blue, dyed-in-the-cool metal head, or simply, erudite, diligent and sagacious crusader/seeker of justice.

*p.s. I believe it was Robert Beck a.k.a. Iceberg Slim (not the Lettuce) who said Lady J. wears a bandanna as her eyeballs shine $ symbowls.

(felicitously gregarious/fist-pumpin' emoj, here please...or else!).


Sep 18, 2014

I did not hear about this case until very recently, and I'm not really into true crime novels, but this case caught my attention. Leveritt did an outstanding job of researching documents, interviewing key players, and presenting the facts in an logical order that made the information easy to access. It was a very interesting read, and I actually enjoyed reading the many pages of sources and additional notes.

While the last note states that the three were released in 2011, readers are still left with the question of who committed these horrible acts. The author lays out the numerous errors in the case, but there is no resolution as to who IS guilty. I'm left shaking my head with sadness.

Jun 24, 2014

Probably the definitive book about this situation. Very well written and well documented. Since it was written in 2002, there is nothing about any developments since that time (that's what Wikipedia is for). Although I was not really shocked by the shoddy police work and the rush to judgement on the part of the juries, what really amazed me was the incredible unfairness of the judicial reviews. In some cases, the judge that heard the original case was also hearing reviews, which often included questions about his decisions or conduct (seriously?). The whole story is a real eye-opener. I gave the book 4 stars instead of 5 for the following "mechanical" reasons: (1) The print of the text is very small and my eyes got tired after only a few pages of reading at a time; and (2) although there are extensive end notes and they are clearly referenced in the text, it would have been helpful if the notes had been marked by either page number or divided and identified by chapter.

mariednguyen Sep 25, 2013

For weeks in 1993, after the grisly 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 that included stunning investigative blunders, the teenagers, who became known as the West Memphis Three, 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. In Devil’s Knot, award-winning investigative journalist Mara Leveritt presents the most comprehensive, insightful reporting ever done on this story—one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American legal history. In-depth research, meticulous reconstruction of the investigation, and close-up views of its key participants unravel the many tangled knots of this endlessly shocking case. Acclaimed as “an indictment of a culture and legal system” (Library Journal) and “the best blow-by-blow account available of the investigations and trials” (The Memphis Commercial Appeal), this award-winning account will shape the American legal landscape for years to come. - See more at:

Jun 19, 2013

Was inspired to read this book after seeing the documentary about the case, "Paradise Lost." The more I read about true crime cases and our country's legal system, the less a mystery it is to me how innocent people serve time for things they didn't do, and how guilty ones can get off scott free.

Jul 19, 2012

This book, in conjunction with the HBO documentary Paradise Lost, does show how our judicial system can really mess up. The judge in this case was biased towards the prosecution and makes one realize that when it comes time for voting on local judges, we better do our homework.

Nov 10, 2011

A sad true story of how corrupt the legal system is and how narrow-minded some people are... The book was a bit too drawn out and repetitive, was hard not to loss interest and force yourself to read it through to the end...

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