The Mara Leveritt Blog

Mara has written extensively on criminal justice in Arkansas and America. Mara writes regularly about “cryptolaw,” a word she coined to explain how plain language is often distorted by members of the legal system to the detriment of public trust.

Chosen by the Southeast Region of the American Board of Trial Advocates in 2012, Mara was named Journalist of the Year, “in recognition of 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.”

Major topics on the Mara Leveritt Blog include the West Memphis Three case, the Tim Howard case, Abuse of Power by members of the legal system, the Death Penalty, the War on Drugs and much more. Use the list in the right hand column to explore them all.

A Georgia ruling highlights the civil rights abuses ingrained in the West Memphis case

Americans are supposed to be equal before the law. But in practice, racial discrimination was so systemic in this country—and particularly in the south—that it took the sit-ins and marches, beatings and bus rides, speeches and civil disobedience of the 1950s and ’60s  just to begin to curb it. For more than a century after […]

Eddie Vedder sings ‘Satellite’ for West Memphis prisoner’s wife

Eddie Vedder recently released a new album called Ukulele Songs, and that’s just what it is. Most fans will probably not realize that one of the songs, “Satellite,” was written for and from the perspective of Lorri Davis, wife of Damien Echols. One reviewer who did catch the reference wrote that among several love songs: “Satellite stands clear as the […]

A new rule that might have saved the West Memphis Three—and a plea to strengthen it

On May 26, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued an opinion stating that, “Whenever practical, a custodial interrogation at a jail, police station, or other similar place, should be electronically recorded.” The opinion proposes changes to the court’s Rules of Criminal Procedure and gives the public until June 30 to comment on what it has proposed. […]

Are ‘Voices for Justice’ heard?: A star-studded rally on behalf of the West Memphis Three prompts the delicate question

This article appears in the current issue of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review, Volume 33, Number 2.

The politics of death

Arkansas requires more training for drivers, cosmetologists and mold investigators than it does for coroners. In fact, the state requires nothing—no training, no testing, not even a background check—for county officials who investigate deaths. I raise this topic now because, presumably, according to Circuit Judge David Laser’s order, certain evidence from the case of the […]

How a man in Denmark, troubled by the case of the WM3, created an invaluable online archive of it

Christian Hansen, a laborer in Denmark, loves Clint Eastwood.  He admires the actor’s work so much that an online friend nicknamed him “Callahan” after Eastwood’s character in the “Dirty Harry” movies. He never imagined that the little website he formed as a repository for documents about the case of the West Memphis Three would become […]

Threatened again: Can the Arkansas Supreme Court hold me in contempt for complaining about shabby justice?

Last week I wrote a letter to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Committee of Professional Conduct, the body that is supposed to make sure that Arkansas attorneys are practicing law as they should. I asked the committee to investigate whether it was proper for Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to advocate on behalf of convictions that […]

Moral twilight zone: Complaint of ‘impropriety’ filed against Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel

Today, I sent the following letter to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Conduct. It asks the committee to investigate whether Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and his deputy attorney general, David Raupp, have violated their constitutional duties and the court’s rules of professional conduct for attorneys by continuing to support the jury verdicts in the trial […]

A juror’s affidavit: ‘Damien Echols seemed to me to be Satan walking alive’

‘Satan walking alive’ On June 7, 2004, one of the jurors in the trial of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin signed an affidavit that will become a key piece of evidence at the evidentiary hearing in December. The affidavit supports other evidence of juror misconduct at the men’s trial and illustrates the effectiveness of prosecutors’ […]

Arkansas attorney general to “rely” on statements by Jessie Misskelley

Arkansas Attorney General  Dustin McDaniel told Circuit Judge David Laser this month that prosecutors will “rely” on statements made by Jessie Misskelley, Jr., at the upcoming evidentiary hearing.  “By way of example,” McDaniel filed with the court a statement Misskelley made under oath after his conviction. Before, after and since his trial, Misskelley has given […]