Someone asked me today if any theme connected all my books. “Prosecutors and politics,” I blurted. Then: “And maybe a subtext of drugs.”
My first book, The Boys on the Tracks, is about a corrupt prosecutor who manipulated his position to derail the investigation of two teenagers whose bodies were found run over by a train. The mother of one of the murdered boys trusted him, as did everyone–but he betrayed them all.
Of course, Devil’s Knot examines one of the sleaziest prosecutions in American history, though no official in Arkansas has yet been willing to admit that. I hoped that by writing the book, readers would see how slyly the prosecutors (pictured) and the judge worked together to get juries to send each of the West Memphis Three to death.
Dark Spell focuses on Jason, partly because I simply find his story heroic. But there would have been no story if not for a couple of kill-’em prosecutors (shown) and a likeminded judge. Unlike Jessie, Jason had never confessed, and unlike Damien, he’d never speculated about the murders with the police, or even “dabbled in the occult.” When he was arrested, he was a pretty ordinary kid at the end of his junior year in high school, who had a job lined up at a grocery story that he was to start on the following Monday.
Then, after the convictions, prosecutors fought even the DNA tests that state law allowed and all three of the convicted men requested. The state resisted those tests even though supporters were willing to pay for them! That’s part of the reason the men’s “dark spell” in prison lasted so long.
I’ll end this post with three quotes that I placed at the front of Dark Spell:
A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice, that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence, and that special precautions are taken to prevent and to rectify the conviction of innocent persons.
~ American Bar Association
A prosecuting attorney “may prosecute with earnestness and vigor–indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.
~ Berger v. United States
A lawyer should avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
~ Arkansas Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct
What’s remarkable about the West Memphis case is how people around the world have noticed “the appearance of impropriety” while the state supreme court has seen none.