Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The West Memphis Three

Cult Cop

In order to prove pre-meditation and motive for Jason and Damien's trial, the State called on the testimony of Dr. Dale Griffis. Griffis had received his doctorate from Columbia Pacific University in 1984 after studying by correspondence for four years. Since that time he had proclaimed himself as a "Cult-Cop" and gave lectures and seminars on the dangers of adolescent involvement in Satanic activities. It is difficult to determine his qualification for the term "expert," as according to the F.B.I there is very little evidence to substantiate stories about Satanic ritual murders in the United States. It seems that Judge Burnett, while questioning the validity of the discipline of social psychology as studied by Dr. Ofshe, did not have any problems with the rather dubious credentials of Dr. Griffis and allowed his testimony to be admitted.

The basis of Dr. Griffis's testimony was that the crime scene "Bore the trappings of occultism." In his opinion, the most salient points in this crime which suggested to him that the murders were Satanic in nature were:

  1. That they were carried out on a date close to a pagan holiday and on a full moon.
  2. That young children were often sought for sacrifice because they provided a "better... life force."
  3. The number of victims reflected the significance of the number three in occultism.
  4. The age of the victims reflected the significance of the number eight as a witch's number
  5. Sacrifices were often performed near water for a baptism-type ritual or just to wash the blood away
  6. The manner in which the victims were tied was significant as being tied ankle to wrist exposed the genitalia
  7. The removal of Christopher Byers's testicles was significant as they are removed in Satanic rituals for the semen
  8. The absence of blood at the scene was significant because cult members often store blood for future services at which time they would drink or bathe in the blood
  9. The "overkill" or multiple cuts could reflect occult overtones
  10. The significance of most of the injuries being on the left side of the victim's bodies was that people who practice occultism use the midline theory, the right side is related to those things synonymous with Christianity while the left side is that of Satanism
  11. The cleared area on the bank could be consistent with a ceremony

During cross-examination, Dr. Griffis admitted that if he had been asked by the State to testify to conditions opposite to the conditions described it could still be related to Satanic activity. He also conceded that his original testimony had not included the blood traits. He had included them only after learning that morning, that Michael Carson would be testifying that Jason Baldwin had confessed to sucking blood from Christopher Byers's penis.

It would be interesting to know what scientific and empirical data Dr. Griffis based his opinions on as much of his information is incorrect, according to the Ontario Conference on Religious Tolerance. Apparently there is a Neo-Pagan festival held on the first of May, but it is only celebrated on that day, not four days later and Satanists do not hold rituals on a full or new moon. No evidence has been found that any children have been ritually murdered in the past century in the United States by the followers of any religion. The number three has no particular significance in any pagan religions, Christianity places more significance on this number because of its belief in a Triune God. The number eight has no significance in the Wiccan or any other pagan religions. Baptism is a Christian ritual which is not shared by any pagan religions and certainly not Satanists. The statement regarding the collection of semen from the testicles reveals a lack of biological knowledge as semen is not stored in the testes and is not produced at all until adolescence. The idea that Satanists drink blood has been claimed since the 16th Century although not verified. It would be expected that in the case of a Satanic ritual there would be evidence of other ritual tools, such as an altar, a circle on the ground and candle wax.

Dr. Griffis's testimony, although highly questionable, was a repetition of the many myths and fears surrounding witchcraft and Satanism which were widely known by the West Memphis community already. Dr. Griffis's words would have spoken deeply to the superstitions and fears of the jury and any attempt to refute them would probably have fallen on deaf ears.

In Jessie Misskelley's trial there was very little emphasis placed on the supposedly Satanic nature of the murders. To show pre-meditation the testimony of Melissa Byers, Christopher's mother, that Christopher had told her six weeks before his death that a man wearing black clothing had taken his photograph. This testimony had been given after it had been widely known that Damien was a suspect and was not substantiated by any other evidence, nor was there any proof that Damien was in fact the man in black.

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