Interview with Greg Day

The book Untying The Knot: John Mark Byers and the West Wemphis Three by Greg Day came out in June 2012. (Before it came out, there was a common misconception that Byers himself was writing this book with Day as collaborator/ghostwriter. However, Greg Day is the sole author.) I read the book last week, then asked Day some questions by email.

DAVID KLEIN: Why does Mark Byers believe that the West Memphis Three were innocent and Terry Hobbs was the real killer? What changed his mind?

GREG DAY: When I started writing the book in August, 2005, Mark was convinced of the guilt of the WM3. In mid-2007 he began meeting with former FBI profiler John Douglas. It was Douglas who told Mark about the discovery of Hobbs’s (and David Jacoby’s) hair at the crime scene. As I said in the book, John Douglas can be a very persuasive man and he persuaded Mark that Hobbs killed his son. I spoke with Douglas several times and couldn’t tell you for sure if he believes his theory, or if it was what Lorri Davis wanted to hear (she was paying the freight after all).

Hobbs lied to Mark about his timeline the night of the murders. He told Mark that he, Terry, came over to Mark’s house at somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. when the facts point to Hobbs coming over at around 8:30 p.m. Even Hobbs’s own statements, made years afterwards, has him at David Jacoby’s during the 6:00-6:30 time frame.

Frankly, I have no trouble believing that 18 years later, Hobbs is unsure about his timeline. During his deposition in the Natalie Maines defamation suit, he repeatedly said that he “didn’t keep track of that type of thing” when it came to dates and times. Probably the toughest question that Hobbs cannot answer goes to why, during the four hours he was supposedly searching for Stevie, did he not tell Pam that the boy was still missing.

KLEIN: What’s your take? In the book, you seem to be less convinced of Terry Hobbs’s guilt.

DAY: I’m not at all convinced of Hobbs’s guilt. You have mtDNA on a single hair shaft and the poor memory of a distraught parent and not much else. The rest of the “evidence” is hearsay (the friends of Michael Hobbs, Jr., and Jamie Clark Ballard), or irrelevant.

KLEIN: To my mind, the campaign against Hobbs looks very similar to the old campaign against Byers. WM3 supporters spent a decade demonizing and framing one victim’s father, then switched to demonizing and framing a different victim’s stepfather, in order to distract from the case against Echols, Baldwin & Misskelley. Todd Moore, Dana Moore and Steve Branch Sr have never wavered from their belief in the WM3’s guilt and Terry Hobbs’s innocence. Does Mark Byers ever consider the possibility that he’s helping his child’s murderers slander another victim’s parent just like they slandered him for so many years? (I realize that you’re not Byers’ spokesman and that the two of you don’t necessarily share the same views.)

DAY: The simple answer is no, I don’t believe that Mark Byers ever considers that he may be wrong about Hobbs. That’s just the way he is. He held one view from 1993-2007, and a different one from then until now. And Mark isn’t alone; Hobbs’s own wife holds the same view, though she equivocates frequently. As far as Todd and Dana Moore and Steve Branch, Sr. go, they all refused to attend the private meeting held by the defense team in late October,2007, several days before the DNA press conference in Little Rock, where the attorneys and expert witnesses presented their case. This was the defense’s attempt to win over the victims’ families the press and the general public. Only Pam Hobbs and John Mark Byers attended.

But you also must realize that the success of the “Free the West Memphis Three” PR machine depends upon finding an alternate suspect. Who really killed Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore on May 5, 1993? This is the short list:

1. Mr. Bojangles
2. Mark Byers
3. Terry Hobbs
4. Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley
5. Somebody else

Byers could have and should have been eliminated immediately; the West Memphis Police did so. On May 19, two weeks after the murders, Byers gave police a 34 page statement to police; Mark has never been one to spare the details. His timeline was solid and irrefutable. Some have criticized police for waiting two weeks to interview Byers. Why did it take them 14 years to interview Hobbs?

KLEIN: I agree about the failure to interview Hobbs in May 1993. I’m not out to defend the WMPD or prosecutors on every point. Gitchell says they did check out Hobbs back then, but no one has ever found a record of that in the WMPD files (and those files have been scoured repeatedly).

DAY: Gitchell is lying. When first asked about it, Hobbs said no one talked to him. Then at the Maines deposition he said, it “seemed” like WMPD did talk to him. He may not really remember, but I don’t believe that for a minute. Gitchell’s lie has an obvious motive: he doesn’t want to admit to such an incompetent blunder.

Until Paradise Lost premiered on HBO in June, 1996, Mark Byers wasn’t on anyone’s radar. I’ve been asked if I ever thought Mark was a viable suspect, and I always laugh. I can’t believe that anyone would take his “performances” seriously. I also never thought that the killer would be as high-profile as Mark was. He was an attention-hog, and in many ways still is. Why else would he join in Pam Hicks’s court action to have access to their sons’ belongings which are still being held as evidence?

KLEIN: Here’s my big criticism of your book. You do a great job examining the bogus accusations that Mark murdered the three boys (possibly with Melissa’s help) and the accusations that Mark murdered Melissa. But when you discuss the case against Echols, Baldwin & Misskelley, your willingness to separate myth from fact and examine the evidence in detail disappears.

For example, discussing Misskelley’s original June 3, 1993, confession, you write: “But Jessie soon recanted his confession ….” That’s not true. Misskelley continued to confess and maintain his guilt to his defense lawyers until late September. Stidham and Crow both stated as much as the Rule 37 hearings. We now have documented confessions by Misskelley to his defense lawyers on June 11, 1993, and August 19, 1993.

DAY: Sorry, but it is true that Misskelley recanted his confession. Had he not done so, he would not have been able to plead not guilty. There was a suppression hearing re: the admissibility of the confession held on January 13, 1994. That amounts to a recantation. Just because he recanted doesn’t mean he was telling the truth. The first order of business for any defense attorney in this situation is have his client recant any confession made, and next, to suppress any introduction of said confession into evidence. My book fully exposes and analyzes all four of Misskelley’s confessions.

KLEIN: I objected to your statement that Misskelley “soon” recanted his confession. He recanted 16 weeks after his 6/3/93 confession, after making several more confessions in private meetings with his defense lawyers, after plea bargain negotiations had broken down. That doesn’t count as “soon” in my book.

And you gloss over Misskelley’s February 1994 confessions in a footnote. You write that the February 8 Bible confession “was still riddled with inconsistencies and lacked the sound of authenticity”. There certainly were inconsistencies, but overall his many confessions are remarkably consistent. You dismiss the February 17 confession as Misskelley “apparently looking for a deal through which he would testify for a reduced sentence”. No discussion of what Misskelley actually said in these long, highly-detailed confessions. Why not?

DAY: I didn’t gloss over anything. It was a 406 word endnote (#34), not a footnote, and the placement was an editorial decision. The book was about JMB and his impact on the case. I cut more than 160,000 words at the publisher’s insistence and really, the case for the guilt—or innocence for that matter—of the WM3 was not the focus of the book (though it is the focus of my next book). It would have been very easy to stray from the central thesis of the book, and it was tempting.

The following is the entire endnote relating to the Misskelley confessions. I think the book was pretty clear that Misskelley equivocated repeatedly regarding his involvement in the murders.

[Endnote #34 referenced on pg. 30] Jessie actually gave four statements regarding the events of May 5. His first was to police at the West Memphis Police Department on June 3, leading to his arrest, along with those of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin. After his conviction on February 4, 1994, Jessie allegedly confessed again to the sheriff ’s department deputies who were transporting him from the county jail to the state prison at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. No recording was made of this statement. Jessie gave a third, post-conviction statement to Dan Stidham at attorney Joe Calvin’s office on February 8, 1994. Prosecutors were trying to make a deal with Jessie to testify in the upcoming Echols/Baldwin trial, and Stidham forced Jessie to make this statement with his hand on a Bible (this would become known as the “Bible confession”). Misskelley tried to rehabilitate himself from earlier statements—for example, correcting himself by saying the boys had been tied up with shoelaces, not “brown rope” as he had earlier stated—but the statement was still riddled with inconsistencies and lacked the sound of authenticity. Finally, and against the advice of his attorneys, Jessie made a fourth statement on the eve of the Echols/Baldwin trial, apparently looking for a deal through which he would testify for a reduced sentence. All four statements were similar in style, though some of the details varied. It is very difficult, if not impossible, based on these statements, to determine whether Jessie Misskelley was ever at the crime scene and what, if anything, he saw or did. It is interesting to note, however, that although Jessie agreed to go to the scene with the police to point out the exact location of the murders, he was never taken to Robin Hood Hills. Inspector Gary Gitchell cited “security” concerns as the reason the trip was never made.

It should also be noted that the notorious “twelve-hour interrogation” is something of a misnomer perpetuated by supporters and the media. Misskelley was brought into the station sometime around 10:00 a.m. and questioned prior to being considered a suspect. He was given a polygraph at 12:40 p.m. Given the time it must have taken to interpret the results, report back to Gitchell, and put Jessie under interrogation, it was probably no sooner than 1:00 p.m. that Misskelley was questioned in earnest. The time of the first part of the taped confession was 2:44 p.m., making the total time less than two hours.

26 thoughts on “Interview with Greg Day”

  1. “DAY: Sorry, but it is true that Misskelley recanted his confession. Had he not done so, he would not have been able to plead not guilty. ”

    Day appears to know about as much about law as he does this case.

    I have give or take a couple hundred hours of training in law enforcement and criminal procedure of which a third is specific to the State of Arkansas and the “Arkansas Code Annotated” inclusive of the “Rules of Criminal Procedure”.

    A defendant can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. There is no bar in the A..C.A. or anywhere else for a defendant who has made admissible, inculpatory statements, from also making a not guilty plea. There is no requirement that they repudiate or recant or even dispute the statements they may have previously made or even may make subsequently.

    Defendants not only make statements elsewhere but may do so with a grant of use immunity or general immunity so that testimony in other criminal matters is not useful against them individually, even if those statements may address their own criminal acts.

    As to the balance of Greg’s statements I have only a few comments.

    I knew Mark before the book was written and knew him when he talked about it eventually being written. Mark lost interest in the book because he had a very successful enterprise. But he drank, smoked and gambled and eventually lost his drivers license. I think his health issues may also have figured in but at the end of it all Mark lost his business. This is the point at which his opinion changed (I read it not long after and considerably before John Douglas began his usual hired gun antics).

    Mark started posting regularly on Stuart’s board not long after. I suspect part of this is because he couldn’t go anywhere on his own and also because he likes to drink, get stoned and post.

    Is Terry a plausible suspect? Only if you adopt (as Greg seems to) very flexible standards. Mark found Christopher on his belly in the middle of a busy street. Did Mark take Christopher with him to municipal court? No, he left him on the porch. That snapshot in time is as valid for Mark as it is for Terry. It is a point of reference.

    When Pam went to work she already knew that Stevie wasn’t back. She was the one who told him to return before she had to leave. For the twenty years prior to this crime in West Memphis eight year old kids who were missing normally turned up a few hours later. What reason did Terry have to believe this would be any different? Why would it be ‘news’ for him to go tell Pam “Hey, Stevie isn’t home yet.”

    They were both wage earners, one of the few jobs Pam ever held in her life before being granted permanent disability. Pam did, in fact, close up early that night. I asked the guy who owned “Catfish Island” (Several of them as a matter of fact) in 1998. She called him to tell him she was closing up early, a responsibility she had only assumed weeks before the murders.

    I am convinced of this much and that is John Douglas probably collaborated with Mark Byers up to a point.

    Listening to the taped conversations that Mark had with Terry it is clear that John gave him guidance on what to say and what buttons to push. Mark lacks the intellectual capacity to have thought that far ahead or to organize the scripting of the call without that kind of oversight and direction. I guess you could say this has so much of John’s handwriting on it that it’s his “signature”.

    Twenty years ago I really thought John Douglas was something. That was before I got to know more about the profiling field generally and FBI agents in particular. But John has a huge character flaw and that is his ego. He has never accepted responsibility for the damage he did in Green River nor has he truthfully owned up to the role he played in Guy Paul Morin.

    There are a handful of FBI agents, retired and active, that I still have a good deal of respect for but John Douglas is no longer one of them. If you pay it, he will say it.

    1. Shaun,

      What does this paragraph mean:

      “Is Terry a plausible suspect? Only if you adopt (as Greg seems to) very flexible standards. Mark found Christopher on his belly in the middle of a busy street. Did Mark take Christopher with him to municipal court? No, he left him on the porch. That snapshot in time is as valid for Mark as it is for Terry. It is a point of reference.”

      Can you clear up what you’re trying to say. Thanks.

      1. At most it’s a ten to fifteen minute drive from Mark’s house to traffic court.

        When Mark left to pick Ryan up that would give somebody no less than twenty minutes and no more than thirty assuming no other factors.

        Dana Moore was at home and Todd was not working a predictable route. In any case neither Terry or Mark knew what his dispatcher scheduled him for.

        For however impaired Mark is he knows Terry didn’t do it and so does Greg. I appreciate that Greg has probably got his butt in a crack, put entirely too much time into this and now he’s trying to recoup some of his losses. But it’s kind of stupid to ignore the fact that Amy Berg and Peter Jackson are paying off everybody from Amanda to Pam to engage in exactly the kind of witch hunt they say Damien was subjected to.

        Dana would have recognized Terry on sight. Everybody would have recognized Mark on sight.

        Yet it took almost sixteen years to ‘find’ a witness who never stepped up and never knew that somebody else was convicted? Who the hell are they kidding?

  2. As usual, Wheeler is just an argumentarian. Unless a statement is prefaced by “Hail Wheeler” he disagree with it. His years of “training law enforcement and criminal procedure” has qualified him to be a landlord and little else.

    “Day appears to know about as much about law as he does this case” is simply a euphemism for not agreeing with Wheeler. 12 years of careful research and hundreds of hours with principals (not just Byers) entitles me to my own perspective, regardless of whether it has Wheeler’s blessing or not.

    I will not respond to Wheeler’s personal attacks on Byers except to say that I don’t know where he gets his information that Mark lost interest in the book project.

    1. Greg,

      The 6th Amendment guarantees the right to any criminal defend a jury trial if they choose.

      There is no clause, no condition, no fine print. It means just what it says. Criminal charge = jury trial for anybody who wants one.

      Who goes to trial? Defendants who plead not guilty. Who can plead not guilty? Anybody.

      5th Amendment – The State cannot compel you to give testimony against yourself, whether at trial or during questioning. This includes recanting a previous statement.

      I do not know any way to make this more clear to you. David tried. I have tried.

      Whatever your life choices are, Greg, you would do well to pick something other than writing about crime.

      1. I think he was talking more for practical purposes. It’s difficult to plead and be ruled not guilty after you confess if you do not recant.

      2. Crazy how you don’t bring up Jessie Jr’s
        violated rights in the back of that cop car.
        The juror misconduct issue either.
        You’ve never been and never will be for any
        rights the WM3 had. Don’t quit your day job.
        It was Byers’ kid that was killed, not yours.

  3. “This was the defense’s attempt to win over the victims’ families the press and the general public.”

    Let me expound on that if I may:

    “This was the opening salvo in an extremely cynical yet well coordinated plan to convince the public of what is not factually correct: DNA evidence exonerates the WM3.”

    Sadly, every half-wit supporter believes this.

    Every half-wit supporter believes this, of course.

  4. Greg, I hate to throw a flag on a good pissing match but will do so here. There is absolutely no requirement whatsoever to recant a confession prior to entering a plea of not guilty. Ask any defense attorney how many times he has entered a “guilty” plea at an arraignment although his client has confessed and never recanted. If you find one whose answer is more than “zero” I will be shocked. A recantation simply isn’t required prior to the entry of a “not guilty” plea at any stage of a criminal proceeding. I chose the arraignment because that brings into focus how wrong this assertion is.

    I’ll step back and watch the urination now.

    1. Not much of a contest.

      Greg does not live thirty minutes from Mark. My son and I do. Greg did not help do construction work with Mark in 2005 or 2006 or any other time. My son did.

      I doubt that Greg went gambling with Mark or even played cards with him. My son has gone gambling with Mark and I’ve gone to play cards with him and his wife a couple of times. I doubt that Greg has ever had to drive Mark to or from a casino because he was drinking. My son has done just that.

      I suppose I could provide more details but it’s clear that Greg would rather compare our relative endowments without citing any of his ‘qualifications’. I mean, other than “living with his wife in Northern Virginia”.

      While I applaud and commend Greg for living with his wife and certainly in this day and age that’s a remarkable achievement, most would say it isn’t much of resume for 12 years of ‘careful research’.

  5. Let me make that a bit clearer. Ask any defense attorney how many times he has entered a “guilty” plea at an arraignment BECAUSE his client has confessed and never recanted. The answer uniformly likely will be “zero.”

    The only problem I can envision with a client who has confessed and never recanted would be if the defendant decided to take the stand. The defense counsel would have to emphasize to the client the confession would be used to impeach. If the client indicated the confession was in fact true, the defense counsel could not put his client on the stand and lead him through a direct examination that would contradict what was said in private. This obviously isn’t the entry of a “not guilty” plea but does go to when a confession without recantation might present an issue.

  6. I’ll preface this by saying, I have no intention of getting into a war of guilt/innocence regarding anyone (though I of course have my opinions), and am not saying I think Jessie is guilty based on the following question….. I am purely just very curious. Has there been no theory explored that Jessie could have been there and participated in the murders, just like he said, but Damien and Jason were not there? I’ve searched online to find opinions/thoughts/discussions on this, but can’t seem to find anything. Just something I’ve always wonder about, why it was never discussed by supporters or non supporters. Unless perhaps it was and I just couldn’t find it.

    1. As far as I know, I’ve never seen this theory explored. But what the hell… we can explore it now.

      Let’s look at what we’ve got:

      1. Jessie confessing (multiple times) that it was him, Damien, and Jason that did it.

      2. Damien and Jessie didn’t have an alibi. Jason didn’t put one forth.

      3. Damien and Jessie failed their polygraphs.

      4. All 3 confessed at one time or the other (all pointed out by wm3truth to our left).

      5. Witnesses seeing Damien near the crime scene on the night in question.

      6. The fiber evidence tying Damien and Jason to the crime scene.

      Taking this into account I have to say I don’t believe the theory that Jessie was there but Damien and Jason weren’t holds much water.

      1. I think Jason tried to use Hubert Bartoush as an alibi witness. There is nothing else which explains how he came to be interviewed by Bryn Ridge.

        Where I think that alibi fell apart is when Jason tried to build an alibi with Damien only a week or two after the murders with Domini in tow. It’s possible that Domini was just a convenient way for both of them to get to Bartoush’s house. But another possibility is that Domini knew more about the crime than anybody has been willing to let on.

        Maybe it really was her that Narlene Hollingsworth saw by the side of the road that night?

    2. I think if the three had gone to trial rather than pled, and Misskelley had turned state witness, this very well could have been a plausible defense. I read some WM3 supporters advance this very theory prior to the pleas.

    3. That would be impossible since Jessie Jr really
      did have an alibi that he was at a wrestling practice.
      There are no sightings of Jessie Jr anywhere that
      night, other than wrestling practice.

      He wasn’t in those woods, obviously. Hobbs was
      though. He was right there at the very time the
      prosecution claims the murders were being committed
      and by his own admission. He no longer has an alibi.
      Now, no one can explain how Hobbs COULDN’T have done it.
      Love to see Wheeler try though, just for laughs.

  7. No, EJ. The lawyer just can’t put his client on the stand and let the defendant proclaim innocence while on direct examination under those circumstances. This is why you never or almost never hear anyone enter a guilty plea at arraignment regardless of what the client told the defense attorney. I see why this is confusing but Mr. Day is wrong on this point. I haven’t read his book to give this some context so it may be a minor error.

  8. Have you seen the footage of Damien Echols blowing a kiss to one of the victims mothers on his way into the courtroom during his trial? If not, it’s on a YouTube clip of the old Geraldo talk show discussing the wm3, it’s the first video around 3:00.
    I don’t understand why someone who proffesed their innocense would act like that.

  9. This just in –

    Mark and Jacki have gone their separate ways. This apparently took place in August of this year. Jacki is alleged to have abandoned the trailer she owned which she shared with Mark and her daughter. Given the language in the announcement it seems more likely than not that she has had all she cares to with this case and with Mark. I can’t help but wonder if the pending FOIA litigation didn’t have at least something to do with it?

    The one lingering question that she might be able to answer and which I’m keen to confirm is whether or not John Douglas coached Mark prior to his phone calls to Terry Hobbs. The calls (which he taped and are on Youtube) have John’s “signature” all over them, but I’d really like that last bit of confirmation since it seems unlikely that Greg Day knows and even less likely that Mark would admit to it.

    Supporters are already doing damage control since Mark remains (as long as he stays in their court) a valuable ASSet.

    1. Oh yeah, that picture of Damien on Hobbs’ couch.
      It never existed. Hobbs claimed it did.
      Byers tricked him, regardless. Good job, too.

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