About Mara Leveritt

About Mara Leveritt
Mara’s Porter Prize acceptance speech

Mara Leveritt has reported for almost three decades on police, courts and prisons. She is a past Arkansas Journalist of the Year, Laman fellow, and winner of the prestigious Porter Prize.

A contributing editor to the Arkansas Times, Mara has written three nonfiction books about crime and public corruption.

The Boys on the Tracks (1998, St. Martin’s Press) explores murder and prosecutorial corruption in Saline County. It was awarded a Booker Worthen Prize.

Devil’s Knot (2002, Atria) details the deeply problematic trials of the teenagers who became known as the West Memphis Three. A feature film based on Devil’s Knot, starring Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, premiered in Toronto in October 2013. That book also won a Worthen Prize.

Dark Spell (2014, Bird Call Press) chronicled the post-conviction ordeal of Jason Baldwin, the youngest of the West Memphis Three.

In 2011, Mara filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Conduct over its policy of threatening to prosecute anyone who spoke or wrote of a complaint filed against an attorney. Mara contended that this restraint violated the First Amendment. In 2012, the state settled, agreeing to end the practice.

That year, Mara received a $10,000 Laman Writer’s Fellowship. The Southeast Region of the American Board of Trial Advocates also honored her “years of unbiased reporting of the facts and legal arguments in many high-profile court proceedings and her persistent efforts to explain to the public the reasoning underlying sometimes controversial court decisions.”

In May 2014, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock awarded Mara an honorary Ph.D., hooding her as a “doctor of humane letters.” She was subsequently awarded the Porter Fund Literary Prize in recognition of her “substantial and impressive body of work.”

As a result of her reporting experiences, Mara holds some strong opinions about what we call “criminal justice.” She believes that prosecutors who engage in official misconduct should not be immune to prosecution themselves. She thinks all custodial police interviews and all criminal trials should be electronically recorded. She hopes to see a drastic reduction in states’ use of plea bargains and solitary confinement. She opposes the death penalty.