Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Opinion: West Memphis Three, Outrage in Arkansas


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mara Leveritt. Also please see out feature story on the case: The West Memphis Three

While an ever-growing number of ordinary citizens—in Arkansas, across the U.S. and the world over—have been appalled by the case, and word about it has spread, no Arkansas official has yet voiced anything but support for its outcome. Recently, when the Arkansas Times, which has opposed the convictions for years, criticized them yet again, Attorney General McDaniel responded on the newspaper's blog.

"Do you really think they were convicted because they wore black?" McDaniel wrote. "Do you think their confessions, the knife that matched the wounds, their unique knowledge of the crime, the fiber evidence, and the eyewitnesses who saw them near the scene at the time of the murders should be ignored (then or now)?"

He added: "Logic is out the window for those who are obsessed with this case, but I am driven only by facts, evidence and justice."

Police Chief Bob Paudert
Police Chief Bob Paudert

Todd Moore, the father of one of the murdered children, is also satisfied that his son's killers are behind bars. And West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert agrees. In March, after Echols said in a televised interview filmed at his prison that the true murderer had never been caught, Paudert told a reporter: "Well, we haven't had any more child killings in West Memphis that's unsolved. The ones we have in custody are the ones who did it."

Yet, to the chagrin of some state officials, so much of what happened is public record—a record that's now available online—that there can be little dispute about what actually happened in this case. And most of it is shameful.

With attention now focused on the case, thousands of people now know that on the night the boys disappeared—but before their bodies were discovered—workers at a fast-food restaurant a few miles from the site of the bodies called police to report that a man with blood and mud on his clothes had come into their establishment and tried to clean up in the women's restroom. Yet, at trial, when defense attorneys asked a detective what happened to the paper towels and blood scrapings they'd collected from the restroom, the detective answered that that material was never sent to the crime lab. It had, he explained, been "lost."

Today, anyone can read transcripts of the two recorded portions of Jessie Misskelley's questioning by police. They can read for themselves Misskelley's statement:

  • that the boys were tied with "brown rope"—and compare it to the crime lab reports showing that they were tied with their own shoelaces—some black, some white;
  • that the eight-year-olds were beaten and stabbed while wearing their clothes, while crime lab reports show that the clothes were neither torn nor bloodstained;
  • that the attacks took place in the daytime, the victims having skipped school, and then look to police reports showing that the children, who'd been in school all day, were last seen at around dusk; and
  • that the boys had been raped, though the autopsy reports do not support that.
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