Quote from Joe Hutchison, Damien Echols father: “It’s like a nightmare you can’t wake up from. Our son is innocent. We intend to prove it.”
Quote from Mara Leveritt: “Children don’t write their own tragedies. That is the work of adults.”
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication: October 21, 2003 (first printing edition)
Page Number: 432 pages
A person can be at the wrong place at the wrong time when it comes to felony crimes such as murder, rape, and robbery. Individuals who were convicted for crimes they didn’t do and then released from prison after biological evidence doesn’t place them at the scene of a crime can become big news. The same can be said of certain interview methods, where crossing the line into bad investigative work occurs and can lead to erroneous convictions. A person’s testimony is usually less reliant than biological evidence. There are people who were not found guilty that clearly should’ve been, but throughout the process from arrest to trial, there were either huge mistakes made or a great legal team was hired. This is what is offered to us, those who sit on couches or in my case, a futon, watching it play out from afar.
This real life story of the tragic and horrible murders of three young boys in 1993 led to the arrest of three male teenagers based on a confession, witness testimony, and hysteria into their activities. There was nothing keeping these now labeled sadistic and cold-hearted murderers away from the criminal justice system limelight as Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley Jr. were found guilty of capital murder where Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life and Echols a death sentence under Arkansas law.
Leveritt covers in-depth the investigation, trial, sentencing, and counsel of the arrested suspects. She goes deep into the ways this triple murder was bungled from the start, but from as objective a voice possible. From an investigative and moral standpoint, Leveritt seeks to push those with the power to right a wrong. I read this book quite a while ago, but it’s been interesting to glance at it again from where I’m sitting now. It reminded me of the ways in which police departments and court systems vary across the United States. Yet, there’s a constant and that is a criminal trial can’t have two victors. Someone always has to get the short stick, and in this case it was clear who was holding it. While I wasn’t surprised the way it ended because of its geographic location and small town culture, I wondered if the trial would’ve ended in guilty verdicts in a large city.
This wasn’t the reality the three teenagers, now men, had the luxury of wishing for as they served eighteen years already and had many more to go. As quickly as they were arrested, convicted, and thrown into the prison system in 1994, all three were released on an Alford plea in 2011. While many things were exposed during this trial, the fact remains that three young boys will forever remain eight despite whether you believe the three men are guilty or not. I’m waiting for the day when these murders are solved 99.99% with accuracy and hope I’m still alive if it does happen.