The Truth About the West Memphis 3

The West Memphis Three were guilty. That’s the truth.

On May 5, 1993, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley (ages 18, 16 & 17 at the time) killed Michael Moore, Steve Branch and Christopher Byers (all age 8). They beat them with fists, then beat them sticks, hogtied them, sexually assaulted them, tortured Branch and Byers with a knife, cut off Byers’ genitals, then dumped their bodies in a ditch. The killers were arrested a month later and convicted in early 1994.

Thousands of people have watched Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and come away convinced that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were victims of a gross miscarriage of justice. Many then read Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt, watched Paradise Lost 2, browsed some “Free the WM3″ websites, heard a celebrity proclaiming the WM3′s innocence, or saw a TV documentary proclaiming their innocence, and became further convinced. When I first saw Paradise Lost, I figured the three teenagers had to be innocent. Maybe you did too.

Don’t believe the hype. Paradise Lost is an outstanding piece of propaganda — turning thugs who raped, tortured and killed second-graders into beloved folk heroes is no mean feat — but it’s not an accurate account of the case. The “Free the West Memphis 3″ movement is a massive fraud. The evidence is overwhelming that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were guilty as charged.

The standard pro-WM3 story goes: Police couldn’t find the real killers, so they decided to frame some local weird kids. Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were targeted because they looked different, dressed in black, listened to heavy metal music and read Stephen King novels. The cops bullied a mentally retarded kid into making a false confession. There was no evidence tying Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley to the crime. The Bible Belt community was swept up in “Satanic panic”, and the investigation and trial were a modern-day witch hunt.

That story is 100% bullshit. Misskelley, Echols and Baldwin were not arrested because of they way they looked or dressed or acted, the music they listened to or the books they read or the beliefs they espoused. They were arrested because they did the crime. The police caught the murderers through solid police work, and prosecutors built an honest case against them. Two juries unanimously found them guilty because they were obviously guilty.

>> The Case Against the West Memphis 3
The main section of lays out the evidence against Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley and debunks the misinformation spread by WM3 supporters.

A few people already know this case inside out. Partisans have spent nearly two decades furiously debating the case in online forums, divided between “supporters” (who think the WM3 were innocent) and “nons” (non-supporters who think the WM3 were guilty). The old-timers will find little new here.

A much larger number of people have a casual familiarity with the case, primarily from watching Paradise Lost and hearing WM3 supporters talk about the case. Many just assume the WM3 were innocent because that’s the only story they hear. Many might be tempted to donate money to the “free the WM3″ movement because it sounds like a good cause. This site is addressed to that latter group.

Don’t take my word for it. This is one of the most thoroughly documented criminal cases ever, thanks to the excellent archive at If you prefer to read up on your own, start there.