Episode 180: West Memphis Three: Bad Justice

On this episode of The Sofa King Podcast, we discuss a fan-voted favorite topic, which is the murders and conviction of three men called The West Memphis Three. This case was made famous by the HBO documentaries called Paradise Lost. On May 5, 1993, three eight year old boys named Steve Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers went missing.

They were found murdered and hog tied, naked, in a muddy creek. Three teenagers who were known for listening to heavy metal, wearing goth clothing, and spray painting bridges, were blamed for the crimes. Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin were all arrested based on pretty frail evidence while in the grip of the infamous Satanic Panic of the early 1990s.

Misskelley gave a confession to the police that they had chased the boys down and murdered them after raping them, all as part of a Satanic ritual. However, experts for the decades since have used this as a textbook example of police coercion. Misskelley, after all, was a minor, was mentally impaired, and was questioned for 12 hours with no break, no lawyer, and no parents present. So, based on virtually no evidence, the three were give variations of life in prison or the death penalty. The documentary, though, brought a lot of the flaws of the case to the public eye, raised funds, and helped the West Memphis Three get re-examined.

So, if they didn’t do it, as many supporters claim, who did? Was it two other teens from the area who bailed a few days after the murders and left to California? Was it the mysterious “Mr. Bojangles” who staggered into a restaurant covered in blood? Was it the stepfather of Stevie Branch, a man named Terry Hobbs? And what did the Dixie Chicks have to do with it? This case is crazy, and it involves Satanism, Metallica, religious zealots, faulty police work, and a whole lot of mullets.

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