The West Memphis Three

Below you’ll find my essays and posts on the West Memphis Three, Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, and Jessie Misskelley; the victims of the 1993 murders, Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore; the victims’ parents, Pam (Hobbs) Hicks, Mark Byers, Dana and Todd Moore; and the attorneys, officials, suspects, and witnesses involved in 1993 or today, including John Fogleman, Gary Gitchell, LG Hollingsworth, David Jacoby, Buddy Lucas, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington, Mayor of West Memphis William H. Johnson, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, and West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oakes.

West Memphis Three, Witch Hunters, and the Cult of the Violent Femme

Leaving aside as well the predilections of, and the misinformation supplied by, local newspapers and local authorities in West Memphis, there's no doubt the crime scene was easily interpreted as suggesting a sexual component to the murders. But I would also suggest that the investigation went far afield not because of the sex-crime angle, but because of the perceived homo-sexual violence of the crimes. For the literal-minded/illiterate in West Memphis the fantasy of a consummate breed of homosexual male violence carried at least as much Biblical fear/hatred as that text's injunctions against occult arts, and was every bit as potent as the Satanic Panic among West Memphis jurors in 1993....

The “Other” West Memphis Three (part 4): Attorney Scott Ellington and the New Doomed Generation

Pam Hicks (originally Pam Hobbs) filed suit in June, when West Memphis authorities denied her initial requests to view records and evidence related to the murder of her child, Stevie Branch, nearly 20 years ago -- one of three children murdered in a case made famous by Arkansas’ wrongful conviction of the so-called West Memphis Three – a case that remains, as a result of Arkansas’ botched investigation and prosecution, unsolved. Hicks as well as John Mark Byers, father of murdered Christopher Byers, so far have met with stonewalling from the authorities now being sued in a third, amended version of the original suit: West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oakes; Mayor of West Memphis, William H. Johnson; and Congressional hopeful and current Prosecuting Attorney for the Second Judicial District of Arkansas, Scott Ellington.

Literally Cursed: Marc Perrusquia’s Frightening Two-Decade Obsession with Damien Echols

It appears that Memphis Commercial Appeal journalist Marc Perrusquia is still suffering from The Blood of Innocents, his co-authored mass-market failure from 1995, which had hoped to profit from the State of Arkansas's fictional case against the West Memphis Three. Readers might reasonably expect that Perrusquia would have politely ignored the recent publication of Damien Echols' memoir, Life After Death -- or that Perrusquia might have even used the occasion to apologize for getting the case so wrong. Instead, as if cornered, flying in the face of reason, Perrusquia decided to attack. To take one last swipe at the man who lost 18 years to Perrusquia's satanic fiction, but survived, and then had the gall to write about it.

The “Other” West Memphis Three (part 3): Loser Occult

That which is kept in darkness is occult. The story of three little boys left naked, hogtied, dead in a ditch--remains in darkness. Damien Echols, who suffered half his life on a very real Death Row for the crimes that Atom Egoyan now intends to "fictionalize," is clear on the distinction between Mara Leveritt's 2002 book and the 2013 Hollywood fiction, Tweeting Egoyan's film as "Devil's Knob."

The “Other” West Memphis Three (part 2):The Chosen Few

Among the chosen few who can understand all but one aspect of Pam Hicks’s grief are the parents of the other two boys murdered that night in 1993: Mark Byers, the father of Christopher Byers, and Todd and Dana Moore, the parents of Michael Moore. While Hicks and Byers stopped believing the State’s “official” story years ago, Dana and Todd Moore continued to hold tight, understandably, if heartbreakingly, to the small comfort offered by that fiction. On 19 August 2011, Dana and Todd Moore experienced something beyond their imagining: watching in sickness and horror as the State of Arkansas informed them and the rest of the world that the three men tried, convicted, and imprisoned for the murder of their child and his two friends, were about walk out of prison, free. Moreover, the convicts were being released from prison not because they had served their sentences—which ranged from life in prison to death row—but due to some confusing legal wrangling that even the State found difficult to explain with any accuracy, especially to Dana and Todd. The convicts were being released at the same time that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, either out of ignorance or contempt for his responsibility to the state he serves, was telling the media that "Since the day of their original convictions, the Attorney General’s Office has been committed to defending the guilty verdicts in this case."

The “Other” West Memphis Three (part 1): Ain’t No Thing

Pam Hicks’ lawsuit is latest evidence of the patience of parents of West Memphis victims in the face of decades-old unsolved murders. The lawsuit does not concern itself with West Memphis and Arkansas authorities’ devastating mishandling of her son’s murder investigation. Pam (Hobbs) Hicks asks only to see her deceased son’s possessions, which were seized as evidence after his murder in 1993, and which remain locked away by West Memphis Police although the case is, according to the State, “closed.”

The “Other” West Memphis Three: Background: West Memphis Today

On August 19, 2011, following numerous appeals, documentaries, books, and a host of celebrity support, Damien, Jason, and Jesse were allowed to enter what is called an Alford Plea, by which the accused may assert their innocence while acknowledging that the State believes it has a case against them. Alford pleas are filed as guilty pleas, however, to satisfy the necessary paperwork for the State. As a result of this plea agreement, the three teenagers, who were now men in their mid- to late- thirties, were re-sentenced to "time served" (19 years, which Damien had spent on Death Row) and were released from prison with the remainder of their sentences suspended. For its part, the State of Arkansas retained the legal (if not moral) ability to point to these convictions and assert that the 1993 triple child-homicide remains a closed case. As a result, West Memphis and Arkansas authorities have, to date, done precisely nothing to find the actual killer(s) of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore.

The Hope of a Generation: Freeing the West Memphis Three

All signs indicate that today, 19 August 2011, is a day more than eighteen years in the making. The so-called West Memphis Three -- Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, and Jessie Misskelley -- will finally go home, after serving more than eighteen years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

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