by Max Brantley
Release of the West Memphis Three last week was prompted by a convergence of many factors, not the least changing opinion. The Arkansas Supreme Court, for example, after years of rote rubberstamping of lower court decisions dramatically reversed course last year with a decision that provided the road map to last week's release.
And speaking of changing opinions:
Mara Leveritt, "Devil's Knot" author and important advocate of the WM3 cause, sent a note this morning about the changed tone of a local commentator, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Philip Martin. He wrote today:
I’ll say, maybe for the last time, that I don’t know what happened in the woods outside West Memphis in 1993. I’ve heard nothing to convince me the men who were convicted were guilty. And while I understand that no one can be satisfied with the deal cut last week — that no one can call it justice — there are few things in our lives that turn out fair.
Mara has a longer memory:
As I wrote in Devil’s Knot: In a column in February 2001, Martin wrote that two juries had found the defendants guilty and he had seen no convincing evidence that their verdicts were wrong. He wrote: “It makes a good story—yokel cops crucify the misfit. It could sell some books. But it ignores the facts.” Rather than citing what “facts” had been ignored, he then explained that his own doubts about the case had been laid to rest by “a couple of back channel conversations” with people whom he trusted. Without divulging what in those conversation he had found so persuasive, he wrote: “Their word was good enough for me. The cops had the right guys.” He continued: “While I’m opposed to capital punishment, I don’t think Damien Echols is a particularly good argument against it. I could be wrong, but he seems thoroughly calculating and cynical about all this, he seems to be enjoying the attention. He seems evil.”