Gullible Journalists

America’s most beloved mass murderer published his second memoir, and it made the New York Times bestseller chart in its first week. The chart blurb states that the author was “released last year after serving 17 years on a wrongful conviction” — no cautious words like “alleged” or “controversial”, just a flatout assertion that the conviction was wrongful.

This case has been a low point in American journalism. Again and again and again, journalists just regurgitate the mythical tale of the West Memphis Three presented in the Paradise Lost films, without the slightest bit of skepticism or fact-checking. There’s no excuse for this laziness, since the West Memphis child massacre is the most accessibly documented criminal case ever (with the possible exception of the JFK assassination) thanks to the Callahan archive.

Some recent examples:

Janet Maslin, New York Times: “It was Mr. Echols’s teenage taste for the occult, heavy metal and black clothing — a look inspired by Mr. Depp in Edward Scissorhands, he says — that initially made him a target for the vindictive and provincial police in West Memphis, Ark.”

That’s the myth. In the real world, West Memphis police initially suspected Echols because of his history of violent assaults and threats; well-documented psychosis, psychopathy and homicidal fantasies; and three psychiatric institutionalizations after violent incidents in the year before the murders. Their suspicions were heightened when eyewitnesses reported seeing him walking near the crime scene covered in mud hours after the victims went missing. That’s not vindictive and provincial, that’s just ordinary police work.

Eliot Spitzer, Slate: “Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three told of the horrors of spending 18 years on death row, wrongly convicted because of a town’s anger and need for vengeance. … As the Echols case makes so clear, coerced interrogations continue to be the bane of fair trials. Here too, technology has an answer. As one who was a prosecutor for many years, I can tell you that having a tape recording of interrogations would help everybody.”

I agree with Spitzer on the value of recording interrogations. The WMPD should have started taping Jessie Misskelley’s interrogation at 12:40 pm on June 3, 1993. They also should have taped the interrogation of Damien Echols on May 10, 1993. That said, there’s no evidence that either interrogation was “coerced”. Many of the claims made by pro-WM3 activists, like the alleged 12-hour interrogation of Misskelley, are obvious lies that can be easily checked. The Arkansas Supreme Court reviewed questions of coercion vs voluntariness on appeal and rejected the defense’s claims. Anyone who still insists Misskelley was “coerced” should read that decision and explain where the ASC got it wrong. But lazy journalists prefer to keep repeating the movie version of events rather than do even minimal research.

And there’s no guarantee that recorded confessions will make any difference for someone like Spitzer who prefers myth over facts. We now have transcripts of tape-recorded confessions made by Jessie Misskelley in private meetings with his defense lawyer on August 19, 1993 (PDF) (eleven weeks after his arrest) and February 8, 1994 (after his conviction). The tape-recording of Misskelley’s February 17, 1994 confession has long been available for anyone to listen to. Did Spitzer read/listen to them before doing a TV segment and writing a column about the case?

American journalists don’t routinely parrot the pro-defense line when covering high-profile murder cases. The conventional wisdom holds O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, Scott Peterson and Drew Peterson guilty, even though the evidence against them is much weaker than the evidence against Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley. So what is it about this case?

54 thoughts on “Gullible Journalists”

  1. Make that “advocate journalists” and this is an otherwise excellent takedown of the sorry state of media coverage of this case. To be fair, the pressure on publications to conform to the WM3 propaganda machine is huge. Recently the Commercial Appeal ran an otherwise sympathetic review of Damien Echols’ most recent screed. The reporter had the audacity to focus on what Echols left out: his mental health problems, courtroom antics, and other activities that helped push him onto death row. The spin machine relentlessly attacked the Commercial Appeal over it, and one of the directors of the ethically challenged Paradise Long franchise, which conveniently left out the serious issue of Echols’ psychoses, had the sheer audacity to refer to the article as “trash.” The WM3 movement is built on a house of cards comprised of lies. Every little glimmer of sunlight has to be plugged, but eventually the house will collapse and the truth will be known.

    1. Soon there will be a book published with all the dirt and the real case files. What was the real evidence that convicted the three of them. They will wait till the hype goes away . Most of the fame fades . Then they will poop out with the book. It will sell and make best seller list . Because of the fact it will not be another book of the three of them being victims . There is way to many of those of right now .

  2. Pretty random question, but how did Misskelley’s private conversations with his attorneys become public? Isn’t that HIGHLY illegal? How is Stidham still practicing law(isn’t he even a judge now?)? Why isn’t Misskelley furious over these leaks? I’ve heard of lawyers getting dis-barred(or whatever the word is) after telling people about conversations they had with clients that are now deceased, much less clients that are trying to get out of jail on appeal.

    1. Misskelley filed a Rule 37 appeal, which is a request for a new trial because his original lawyers were incompetent. The judge granted a hearing, which was held in 2008-09. As part of discovery, prosecutors got access to Stidham’s files from the original trials. Stidham’s notes from 6/11/93 and his tape-recordings from 8/19/93 and 2/8/94 came out during Stidham’s testimony and became part of the Rule 37 trial transcript.

  3. So the media hasn’t bothered to check all the facts in this story, makes you wonder what other stories they’ve not bothered to research.

    1. Frank,
      A lot of the case didn’t make the papers . The PR agent gave them what to print . I don’t think there was one reporter that looked at the case .

    2. Most so-called journalists aren’t legitimate journalists. They’re simply propagandists regurgitating the typical media spin.

  4. It seems that the “journalist” who started the trend of parroting the defense PR materials was Erin Moriarity of 48 Hours. The trial transcripts, pleadings and appellate opinions were easily available online, yet she never bothered to confirm the defense’s claims of “no evidence.” Echols and Co. aren’t the first killers she’s helped, though. Her career of helping murderers get out of prison started in Alabama when she supported the man who killed Karen Tipton, in spite of the presence of DNA evidence from Mrs. Tipton’s killer in her home.

    1. Lisa ,
      I agree with you. Most of the cases she looks over are ones that has some importance . There is a film called Reckless Indifference a documentary for someone that never made it in Hollywood .The child that was killed who was a drug dealer and a police officers child. Brandon Hein had a friend that was a bouncer who protected him to sell his drugs outside the parents house. This case has been over looked . Where the State sent 5 boys to prison for life for a fight that got out of hand. Only one of the boys took a pocket knife out and stabbed the Brandon Hein . Who died latter on the way to the hospital .

      When there is people with backing and money people seem to change the truth. When there is real injustice is done they turn a blind eye.

      1. Wow, this big whole paragraph about how Brandon Hein was killed and no one cares. You link to the Wiki article that states in the very first few words that he was sentenced to life, and still claim he was the one who was killed. Now I understand why you are so adamant that the 3 are guilty.

  5. Today from The Pitch News: “A 2007 DNA analysis eventually ruled out Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley as the killers..”
    Don’t know how many times I’ve seen misstatements such as this. Is it lazy journalism or stupidity?

    1. Tom,
      It is called a good PR agents . Lots of money and lots of pull with Journalist . Even the worst books can make the number one spot with the right people backing you up. I don’t worry to much these days because soon people will get sick of hearing about it . I know in Chicago not many even know about the case or care . I know in my heart I have no doubt that they killed those children . Echols got what he wanted to be known for something . Now he gets a bit of taste of fame . I wonder how he will feel when it is all gone . People will just walk by him just like he is no one . Just like one hit wonder . It is better to not have something then to lose what you had . Today Echols is a star and tomorrow on one will care . Every movie star or rock star have their day in the spot light . Then it fades away. Even Depp loves one more day in the spot light . So don’t be upset he is getting his wish . This wish doesn’t last long .

      1. You know little of what you speak of. Anyone at all that knows the least bit about Johnny depp knows he is a humble and gracious person and doesn’t seek the spotlight. He is one of the more intelligent megastars, and he doesn’t exploit himself or his family. You, miss, need to learn before you post.

      2. You sound so bitter and ugly and jealous in all of your comments. I get that people think the 3 are guilty, and don’t have a problem with that (I myself have been a long- time supporter based on articles I had read [didn’t even see the documentaries until late last year] but am now on the fence after having started reading the actual documents of the case), but to sit here and talk all this immature shit about Echols is so pathetic. Echols has said himself that people don’t recognize him in NYC and he likes it that way. And Depp is NOT a spotlight-grubber. You are so sad and pitiful. And guess what, I think Echols is a tool after having listened to the audiobook version of his book, so no I am not a little groupie who’s butthurt that you’re talking smack. You just sound pathetic, period.

  6. Yeah, Echols is guilty and it’s bad that he’s been let out and the media has been crowing him a hero for it, but you gotta admit; he writes the most entertaining tweets.

    1. Pol,
      Echols tweets just prove he is out of his mind . Jason is going back to school and making something of his life . That no one can take away from him . I love that Echol’s is getting his wish come true . When it fades away it will hurt more then never having it . Echols writing is sloppy and very boring . If he wasn’t writing about himself and with his fiction accounts of things .What else could he write about . NOTHING ! That does take talent and no one can help you with imagination and the gift of really writing .Everyone wants to hear what you have to say when you are in the spotlight . When it fades no one will care . Depp is loves this because this gives him a little more of a step in the spotlight . I love the fact that he separated himself from things that are real. Like his family ,his son and of Jason and Jessie . When he falls it is a long way down and lonely . Watch out for what you wish for . This will be harder to take then spending time in prison.

    1. Scott ,
      Sorry I would rather not give him the time of day. I dont care what a child killer has to say. I rather ignore him . Even bad press is better then no press . Echols loves nothing more then you to read and care what he has to say.

      1. Heh. You know his tweets prove him out of his mind, but you don’t read them because you don’t care what he has to say.

        1. Keese,
          I don’t read his tweets . I belong to a FB club that laughs at Echols 🙂 No, we don’t care what Echols has to say hahaha .I would be embarrassed to have Echols on my tweeter page . lmao

          1. You sure spend a hell of a lot of energy on Echols for someone who would rather ignore him. Obsessed much??

        2. Keese ,
          You should join it . Some of the people are really funny . Like when Echols thought he was Harry Potter and found his magic wand rotfl. Come on Keese you know Echol’s is a nutcase . Found his wand classic .

          1. Um, no thanks. Joining a fan club made up of people who claim to neither read nor care about Echols’ tweets (the uh, tweets made fun of) sounds like a circle jerk of nuts to me.

  7. This is the PR agent hard at work . They contact the press to do interviews. To put out only what they want to hit the paper. If there is a interview face to face . They can only ask the question that the PR agent allows them to. The PR agent then works on their responses for the questions. Just like the movie they leave everything out . They already seen what could happen when Echols and Jason and Jessie talk on their own. One interview when Echols was in prison he admit to telling the children that he killed the 3 children and said it was just a joke. Much different what he said in court . Big slip ups .

  8. I would also like to thank the blog owner for putting so much information out there . The links to callahan . So people can research the case . The supporters will still argue points in the case don’t matter in the files . They wont look at the whole picture . They look at people that recant their statements as liars not people that are scared to come forward . Look what happened to Mr. Hobbs and Mr. Byers . Mr. Byers would rather go along with the supporters now then go up against them .They even was accused him of murdering his wife . He likes the deals he is being offered and knows what happens to people that do against them.

  9. David, while journalism in general has lost all integrity, so says you there is no evidence of coercion. Many, many people who have read the original confession find otherwise.

  10. Damien is living the psychopaths dream. Not only did he get to live out his fantasy of slaughtering 3 people (children in this case) but then have movies made about him, then be released as time served, exonerated(at least in the court of public opinion), be able to laugh at night about fooling everybody, then pal around with famous movie stars and directors and have your memoirs turned into a movie, make money off your “ordeal” , oh it also got him married. Psychopaths are very narcissistic and any psycho killer out there would love to be able to be damien echols he is living the true psychopaths dream. He should start a infomercial and sell dvds

  11. Donna, Brandon Hein was one of the teens involved in the robbery and homicide, not the victim. Every state has a law that provides that if a death occurs as the result of or during the commission of a felony, the persons who committed the underlying crime are all equally guilty of murder, whether they intended to cause the victim’s death. That means that muggers have gone to prison for murder when because they knocked down a victim who subsequently died from their injuries.

    Hein and his friends had committed at least one (and maybe as many as two or three) other robberies during that day. That they all claim they only intended to buy pot is a self-serving attempt to distance themselves from the underlying felony, which was the robbery of the drug dealer.

  12. Who is this Donna women? Is she in some way affiliated with this blog? If she is some kind of contributor, may I suggest she rein herself in a little. Her aggressive and poorly written responses really detract from the credibility of the information on this site. It’s hard to get an unbias picture of the whole thing when someone seems to be harbouring such a raging personal agenda… Just sayin.

    1. I agree Gemma, the website does provide great information from all angles of the case, but this Donna person, for someone to continue to use LMAO over and over again, just shows how ignorant and immature she must be! Maybe stick too just commenting on Justin Beibers statuses Donna!

  13. “The conventional wisdom holds O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, Scott Peterson and Drew Peterson guilty, even though the evidence against them is much weaker than the evidence against Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley.”

    What? Really?

    O.J. had pretty damning DNA evidence that linked him to the crime. Can you say the same about the WM3?

    1. Did OJ give six detailed confessions, all available on the internet for anyone to read, explaining exactly how he committed the murders?

      1. Six detailed confessions that contridicted not only the physical evidence but contradicted each previous confession by the same individual. He didn’t get facts correct until led into them by his interrogators…

  14. This column is where you lost me. To disregard physical evidence such as had by the Casey Anthony and o j Simpson cases, in favor of a child questioned outside his parents presence for hours, an obviously uneducated limited intelligence child, by professional manipulators, is reckless and chilling.

    There was no “overwhelming” evidence of anything except police misconduct.

    Appeals courts very often disregard new evidence, they prefer to look at judicial missteps.

    And ftr, I have not seen any documentaries on this case, I am a reader and have read both devils knot and the 93 book, most of what I read is Internet related. I came across this case through “the innocence project” archives, and trust they, and their stable of brainiacs, to do their due diligence before supporting a case through appeals.

  15. A great book that presents all the case files indicating the truth of this case is William Ramsey ‘s Abomination. I am reading it on kindle and I am shocked that so many can support the alleged innocence of the WM3. As a long time Eddie Veddar fan, this has even made me look at his music differently even though this has nothing to do with it. At first I swallowed the WM3 propaganda pill till I examined the facts they would rather hide.

      1. Interesting site William, I am sorry I do not espouse to your NWO theories, but I do not doubt your knowledge on the occult.

  16. Sorry to be nit picky here, but it takes 4 murders in the same period of time to qualify as a mass killing, so even if the three are guilty they are still not mass murderers and defining them as such adds an air of sensationalism which is hard to take seriously. That’s unfortunate because while I tend to believe in their innocence I absolutely believe that PL is not the whole story. I came here looking for different opinions, but what I found just seems to be a hate group that bogs itself down in name calling and hearsay, which calls all of your info into question including the stuff that is genuine and informative. Perhaps people like me would be more open to your arguments if you presented them as arguments not attacks.

    1. “Sorry to be nit picky here, but it takes 4 murders in the same period of time to qualify as a mass killing.”

      You’re the second person to make this point. Do you have a citation? I’m a stickler for correct language usage, but I’ve never heard this “minimum of four” rule before.

      If you’ve read this site and found only “name calling and hearsay”, you haven’t looked very hard.

      1. OK, I found this FBI document which states: “Generally, mass murder was described as a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders.”

        So you’re right. Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley murdered three boys, but technically they did not commit “mass murder”.

        1. The supporters appear to finally be making progress, because this is the first time I’ve actually seen wm3truth “discredited”.

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