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Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three

(Justice Knot #1)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  9,028 ratings  ·  777 reviews
In 2011, one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American legal history was set right when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were released after eighteen years in prison. Award-winning journalist Mara Leveritt's The Devil's Knot remains the most comprehensive, insightful reporting ever done on the investigation, trials, and convictions of three tee ...more
Paperback, 419 pages
Published October 21st 2003 by Atria Books (first published October 8th 2002)
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May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am a prosecuting attorney (I put bad guys in jail), and I regularly work closely with the police on investigations. This book should be mandatory reading for anyone (judge, attorney, cop) involved in criminal investigations with life or death consequences. I think I read half the book with my mouth hanging open because I was so shocked at the conduct of the police and so incredibly disappointed at the prosecutors who presented the case in spite of such glaring issues.

There is always pressure
Johann (jobis89)
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
“This story is a children’s tragedy. The victims - and there were many - were all minors.”

If you like your books to leave you full of absolute rage at the criminal justice system and sincerely concerned about how people can get locked away on pretty much zero evidence, look no further than Devil’s Knot.

The case of the West Memphis Three is an incredibly popular one, and I think it resonates with a lot of my followers in particular, as quite a few of us like to wear black clothing or band tees an
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
Remind me not to wear a black t-shirt next time I'm in Arkansas. For those who have seen the two "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" documentaries, you should know that the films barely scratched the tip of the iceberg. For those unfamiliar with the case, in 1993 in the town of West Memphis, three 8-year-old boys were found murdered in a ditch near a truck stop. The unbelievable investigative and judicial shit-show that followed resulted in three teenagers being convicted, wit ...more
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime, crime, legal
[The prosecutor] is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer…
- Berger v. U.S., 295 U.S. 78,
Daniel Koehler
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I live in Little Rock and have met Mara several times. She is a terrific investigative journalist and writer of non-fiction. I read her "The Boys on the Tracks" about the suspicious deaths of two young boys for political expediency during the Clinton Administration in Arkansas. A marvelous and chilling book.

Devil's Knot is the story of the West Memphis Three, three Delta teenagers convicted of the ghastly murders of three third graders in 1992, The story is highlighted by gross incompetence on
jv poore
Want a book that will make you so mad you want to punch someone in the face? Detailing an almost deliberate, definitely despicable, miscarriage of justice DEVIL'S KNOT will either have you reaching out to help innocence projects or forever burying your head in the sand.
Lauren Wingate
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is phenomenal.

I have followed this case for so many years...I live in Memphis, so this happened about 20 miles from my house. I remember everything so vividly and this book is a dead on accurate RELEVANT gem.

If you don't know anything about the West Memphis Three...this book is an excellent starter.

on a side note, I got to meet Damien last month at a book signing in Oxford, MS. and he was a charming humble and very well spoken man. It was a pleasure to get to listen to him speak.

But I
Ellen Gail
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, non-fiction
A hefty wallop of a book, Devil's Knot will FUCK YOUR BRAIN UP and make you like it. It's true crime in the best sort of way; horrifically true and sad and it will grab you by the metaphorical balls and never let go.

BAM The Bibliomaniac
I just keep shaking my head at the absurdity of this court case. It's a total witch hunt with obvious hate mongers.
The murder of three eight-year old boys needed solving. It was a backwoods southern town that did not accept nonconformity. It had a high Christian population, so it expected everyone to believe in a blonde headed, blue eyed Christ. Country music ruled the airwaves. And there was no such thing as mental illness.
These three boys, because that's what they were, BOYS, were railroaded
Rheama Heather
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
* Long review. Not sorry. The book / topic are worthy. *

Devil's Knot is a crystal clear analysis of the West Memphis Three investigation and trial. An alphabetized index and four hundred fifty footnotes leave no room to question the integrity of Mara Leveritt's research. Every source is cited, a breath of fresh air in a case swamped in hearsay and gossip.

My thoughts …

Jessie Misskelley

Seeing his "confession" word for word on paper is painful. Every time Jessie's story doesn't fit the evidence (w
First I want to say that I am not a lawyer and nor am I connected to the case. Everything I have found is public knowledge via movies, books and the internet.

I knew very little about the brutal tragedy that struck West Memphis Arkansas. I had noticed this book listed under true crime and added it to my read list. I quickly forgot about it until last week when someone on a message board posted about unsolved crimes. This case was a huge debate on the thread. I quickly watched Devil's Knot and th
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I just finished my first book in a MONTH. I thought that this would be such a quick read since I already knew the story of the West Memphis 3...but that was NOT the case. This book upset me so much. Just knowing someone can be sentenced to death with no just turns my stomach. I was constantly stopping to creep the social media of every single person mentioned, and would frequently just have to put it away for the rest of the day after getting so angry reading. I’m so mad now just t ...more
May 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend everyone read this book.

First of all, the travesty of justice it describes is outrageous. It will make you angry. It will leave you virtually convinced that three teenage boys have been in prison for almost 20 years, one on death row, for a crime they didn't commit, while a savage, brutal killer goes free. But even IF you read this book and believe they still might have done it, the investigation and trial that put them in prison was clearly, irrevocably flawed. If this can s

On May 5th 1993, the bodies of three eight year old Arkansan boys -- Christopher Byers, Michael Moore, and Stevie Branch -- were found in a ditch in West Memphis. They were bound at the hands and feet, naked, scratched and mutilated. The justified sadness and outrage of their community followed, as did the pressure to find the person(s) who could have committed such a horrible crime against innocence.

Unfortunately, that pressure resulted in no justice done for the boys and three further you
Ashley Marie
Throughout my time spent reading this book, I hardly knew what to think of the officers and authority figures in West Memphis, Arkansas. It puts a bit of a strain on my view of former President Clinton as well, since he was governor at the time of the incident. Leveritt appeared to stay true to her word in the beginning of the book, that she would remain as impartial as possible as she investigated the case, and would release her findings regardless of the outcome. The general public is lucky, a ...more
Feb 24, 2020 marked it as to-read
DNFed on page 72. This case is just so infuriating, and I'm not in the right headspace for this right now. Perhaps I will return to it at another time, but for now I need something that's more entertaining and induces less rage.
"I didn't think there was no possible way they could find us guilty when we didn't do it. Not in America. It's not what I was raised to believe would happen in America." - Jason Baldwin.

You might hold the same beliefs as Jason - I know I had always held to the notion that 'the truth will out' and believed that the justice system would ensure that people accused of crimes would be considered 'innocent until proven guilty', with evidence being a major consideration when investigating crimes. I cou
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
After eighteen years in prison, in 2011 one of the greatest miscarriages of justice was righted when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were released from prison. In 1993, three eight-year-old boys were found brutally murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. The case was sparse on clues as to who may have committed these crimes. After weeks of dead end investigative work, police suddenly charged three teenagers believed to be members of a satanic cult as the murderers. The trial can ...more
Liz Barnsley
Truth really can be stranger and more twisted than fiction! Fascinating case, excellent book covering all aspects. Really enjoyed.
Oct 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Leveritt's book offers a mound of information concerning the case that was necessarily left out by the brief Paradise Lost documentaries of Sinofsky and Berlinger, and her comprehensive focus allows her work to exonerate Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley the way the films could not, the one flaw I see in Devil's Knot is its lack of revelation about the personal qualities of the teenagers, with the possible exception of Jason Baldwin, who is shown to be strong and loyal. Devil's Knot also lack ...more
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is such a difficult book to review. I am giving it four stars because it is well-researched and though the details of the case were reiterated over and over, it didn't seem repetitive. I felt like it was an unbiased representation of events that transpired that resulted in the convictions of three young men for the murders of three 8-year-old boys despite there being no evidence to tie them to the crime scene and no plausible reason for them to have committed said murders.

I did a heck of a
Suzanne Flohr
Oct 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was great I couldn't put it down.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fuck the police, and fuck creepy stepfathers who desperately cling to their pathetic religious beliefs to impede justice- and cover their own asses.

This account is completely infuriating and very troubling.
j e w e l s
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am horrified, I am appalled, I am shocked, I am dismayed and this is despite the fact that I have read similar tales of incorrect conviction and unfair trials. I have seen the shoddy police work in books, in articles, in movies. Yet reading this book I just couldn't believe at the worst work done by police, the investigators, the prosecutors, the defence team least of all the judge.

This is an excellent and important book which will depress you but it's necessary to know such cases so that we
Laurie Gray
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Journalist Mara Leveritt documents the investigation, trials and appeals of the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.) for the murder of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, on May 5, 1993. With more than 50 pages of endnotes, the events are well-researched and the account well-written, if not neutral. Despite the judge’s rulings, the juries’ verdicts, and the appellate courts affirming the convictions, Leveritt is convinced beyond a reasona ...more
Sep 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
it's hard for me to be proud to be an arkansan after reading this book. the examination of corruption--lots of it--revolving around the investigation and trials of the 1993 killings of 3 west memphis 8 year olds is center stage. and it's ugly.
in light of the west memphis three's release in august, i can only think that if i had read this book while they were still in prison, i'd be raising all kinds of hell. it's disgusting and shameful how matters were handled. leveritt has done a tremendous j
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shocking and infuriating.
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
The Story begins in West Memphis, Arkansas, on May 5th 1993, when three 8 year old boys were found brutally murdered. In the very beginning the police started to look into the possibility that these were 'satanic ritual killings', and as one defence lawyer later said, the police got a 'Damien Echols tunnel vision'.

Damien Echols was a 18 year old boy living in poverty (white trash as he himself has said), with a history of mental illness and more importantly, liked Stepehn King novels, wore black
Madly Jane

I've made a lot of notes reading this book. It's an excellent book though flawed. But it has great notes and sources which are invaluable to studying the West Memphis 3 Murder Case. I need a new copy. I've marked it so much now, it's not readable. lol

The best story on the West Memphis Three, Very complex and it's not what it appears, not simple, and I believe most people, even those looking for social justice are not looking at the story correctly.

Adding on reread. I'd like to s
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Mara Leveritt is an Arkansas reporter best known as the author of Devil’s Knot (Atria 2002) and Dark Spell, (Bird Call Press 2013), the first books of her intended Justice Knot Trilogy about three Cub Scouts who were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas and the case of the three teenagers who were convicted of the murders and then, 18 years later--and after pleading guilty--were abruptly set free. A ...more

Other books in the series

Justice Knot (2 books)
  • Dark Spell: Surviving the Sentence

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