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Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three [Paperback]

Mara Leveritt
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 21 2003

The West Memphis Three. Accused, convicted…and set free. Do you know their story?

In 2011, one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American legal history was set right when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were released after eighteen years in prison. Award-winning journalist Mara Leveritt’s The Devil’s Knot remains the most comprehensive, insightful reporting ever done on the investigation, trials, and convictions of three teenage boys who became known as the West Memphis Three. 

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 the witch-hunt atmosphere of the trials, and a case which included 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 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.

With close-up views of its key participants, this award-winning account unravels the many tangled knots of this endlessly shocking case, one which will shape the American legal landscape for years to come.

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Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three + The Paradise Lost Trilogy (Collector's Edition) + Life After Death
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Arkansas investigative journalist Leveritt (The Boys on the Tracks) presents an affecting account of a controversial trial in the wake of three child murders in Arkansas. In May 1993, three eight-year-old boys were found mutilated and murdered in West Memphis, a small and tattered Arkansas town. The crime scene and forensic evidence were mishandled, but a probation officer directed the police toward Damien Echols, a youth with a troubled home life, antiauthoritarian attitudes and admiration for the "Goth" and Wiccan subcultures. Amid rumors of satanic cult activity, investigators browbeat Jesse Misskelley, a mentally challenged 16-year-old acquaintance of Echols, into providing a wildly inconsistent confession that he'd helped Echols and a third teen, Jason Baldwin, assault the boys. Leveritt meticulously reconstructs the clamorous investigation and two jury trials that followed. All three boys were convicted on the basis of Misskelley's dubious statements and such "evidence" as Echols's fondness for William Blake and Stephen King. Leveritt, who makes a strong argument that the convictions were a miscarriage of justice, also suggests an alternative suspect: one victim's stepfather, who had a history of domestic violence, yet was seemingly shielded by authorities because he was a drug informant for local investigators. Sure to be locally controversial, Leveritt's carefully researched book offers a riveting portrait of a down-at-the-heels, socially conservative rural town with more than its share of corruption and violence.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Arkansas Times investigative reporter Leveritt explores the 1993 West Memphis Three murder convictions, which have been the subject of two HBO documentaries. The book is arranged chronologically, from the crime through the trial, and dispassionately dissects the prosecution's case against three teens who were convicted of the grisly murders of three eight-year-old boys. Leveritt interviewed the principals, reviewed the police file and trial transcripts, and leads the reader to conclude from her exhaustive research (430 footnotes) that the case was botched, improperly based on a single confession from a retarded youth and the defendants' alleged ties to satanic rituals. Well written in descriptive language, the book is an indictment of a culture and legal system that failed to protect children as defendants or victims. Highly recommended.
Harry Charles, Attorney at Law, St. Louis
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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AT 7:41 P.M. ON MAY 5, 1993, a full moon rose behind the Memphis skyline. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Horrifying Book June 9 2004
By A Customer
This has to be the most disturbing book I have ever read. The crimes committed against three young West Memphis children were sickening. The guilty deserve no mercy. However, Devil's Knot demonstrates that we still do not know the identity of the guilty. Although three teens were arrested, tried and convicted in 1994, the story is far from over. In fact, more than ten years after the murders and arrests, there are still more questions than answers.
Here is an actual quote from the prosecutor of the three teens:
"There was a lack of physical evidence to tie anyone or anything to the crime scene." -John Fogleman, prosecutor

Maybe rather than debating whether or not we should take "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance the debate should be whether to remove "with liberty and justice for ALL." Read this account and see if you agree.

Mara Leveritt tells a nightmare of a story that contains jaw-dropping shocks on nearly every page. A highly recommended book - just prepare to sleep with your light on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The bravest kind of investigative journalism May 8 2004
I came to this book with a great deal of hesitation, for I am one of those who read Mara Leveritt's previous book, "The Boys on the Tracks" and disliked it, a lot. Therefore I didn't expect much fro this book on the West Memphis Three, particularly because it is such a well-publicized case, to tell the truth i expected a hack rehash of the scary story from Paradise Lost. Was I ever surprised! I'm glad I gave the book another chance. Some have complained that the book is kind of "dry," but I think that's the only way that Leveritt could have written it, for if she put all her emotion and passion into every paragraph, it would have been overkill. Besides, all you have to do is read between the lines and, in a brave exemplum of investigative reporting at its best, she practically names the real killer and just stops short of handing down a new indictment. Surely nobody who reads this book will doubt the identity of the real killer of those poor three little victims. The only question remains, why? How could one human being be so evil, or if you don't believe in "evil," how could he be so depraved--"psychopathic"? And how can we protect ourselves not only from the individual psychopath, but from the system of checks and balances that resulted in this massive miscarriage of justice?
DEVIL'S KNOT is an atmospheric book as well. You will feel as though you're living in the shadow of the wooded area they call "Robin Hood."
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I read this book from cover to cover the first night I had it and walked away with a sick feeling that justice was never properly served and that we are indeed vunerable to the whims of ignorance and hysteria that cost three young men thier freedom simply because they were "Different". It makes me both sad and angry that someone can be picked up and arrested just because of thier musical, clothing and religious preferences. That is certainly the case here. Paradise Lost and Revelations may have raised the questions about the questionable convictions but Devil's Knot rips away the lies, deceit and corruption and exposes the ugly truth,which is that the local law enforcement agencies did not know how to do the job that they were paid to do and at the same time, knew exactly what they were doing. In my opinion, and sorry Mario, I don't buy your dumb claims at all, they(The WMPD ) just played on the emotions of the people in the community and fed them a story that they would believe.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly Disturbing Dec 2 2003
I suppose there are hundreds of cases such as this hidden away in American history justice files - sensational crimes, creating mass hysteria, law enforcement officials desperate to catch a break and solve terribly violent murders. What is most profoundly disturbing about "Devil's Knot - The True Story of the West Memphis Three," a well-researched and eye-opening account by Mara Leveritt, is there is no comfortable resolution to this case.
If the three teenagers who were convicted in the slayings of three eight-year-old boys in 1993 are truly guilty - as the juries found them - then it is a sad testament to the ever-decreasing humanity existing within the interstate wasteland of faceless trailer parks, strip malls and fast food dives. However, if these three anti-social teens were railroaded simply because they were counterculture, adorned in black listening to Metallica and Black Sabbath while perusing Anne Rice, then this morbid tale is an example of a modern-day witch-hunt akin to the Salem Witch Trails hundreds of years ago.
Has justice been served in West Memphis, Arkansas - a small, faceless Southern town near the banks of the Mississippi River? Someone murdered those three innocent boys in or near the woods outside of town. But is that someone truly behind bars?
When reading "Devil's Knot," it is abundantly clear these law enforcement officials had little experience dealing with a violent case such as this. The crime scene was contaminated, officers didn't follow leads, interviews were not recorded, evidence was lost, witnesses were threatened, body conditions leaked to the press.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Read
I have been researching The West Memphis Three for several years now, but none of my research has illustrated such detail as Leveritt's work. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Graduate Student
5.0 out of 5 stars Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three
This book is extremely well written. The writer is unbiased and reports the facts as they really are. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2011 by Joann Bidgood
5.0 out of 5 stars Unreal
This story is the polar opposite of the OJ simpson case and in my opinion, far more disturbing. Two young boys sentenced to life in prison and one to death with NO EVIDENCE???? Read more
Published on June 14 2004 by Glenn A. Naughton
5.0 out of 5 stars Not only well-researched, but also a fine read
I've followed the case from the start, as I was living in AR when the murders happened. Having seen both documentaries and read the earlier Blood of Innocents, my initial concern... Read more
Published on June 11 2004 by Angelic Rodgers
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth will set them free
I found this book as well as the Blood of Innocents to be a fair and concise report on the case. I hope the young men are set free before more innocent boys die in a misguided... Read more
Published on March 8 2004 by Linda Blain
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh the poor satanists .. gimme a break
They are satanists and they are murderers. They did it. This book is satanist-friendly; that is the only reason why the author says they are innocent. Read more
Published on March 6 2004 by Mario J. Machado
5.0 out of 5 stars For those not possessing an idle-mind, this is a must read!
This is a matter-of-fact book (though we do feel the author's opinion) which does not lack any detail. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2004 by Legaya
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
For true crime fans, this is a dandy. I knew nothing of the case before I read the book, just stumbled on it at the bookstore. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Justice Undone
This is one of the most thorough, well-written books I have ever read. I read it twice interrupted only by reading Mara Levertt's other masterpiece "The Boys on the... Read more
Published on Dec 14 2003 by Joe Foust
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