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 question of discretion

Last year, after the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered an evidentiary hearing in the case of the West Memphis Three, state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel responded that his office “intends to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to defend the jury verdicts in this case.” At a panel discussion shortly after that, a professor of law seemed to […]

IMO: Arkansas Supreme Court oversteps in attempt to squelch citizen concerns

An official letter warns me of punishment ‘by fine or jail’ [private]An office of the Arkansas Supreme Court has instructed me not to report what I reported here last week, in a piece titled “A matter of trust.” The court’s Office of Professional Conduct notified me by letter that a grievance I submitted concerning a […]

‘Evidence that points the finger’

Judge to consider whether ‘non-match’ DNA would ’cause a careful person to pause’ [private]In the pre-hearing brief that lawyers for Damien Echols filed last week, they centered their argument for why he and his accused accomplices, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., deserve a new trial. It was all about “reasonable doubt.” As succinctly explained […]

New appeal blasts Burnett’s ‘bias’ in Misskelley case due to judge’s ‘politicking’ and professional censure of a witness

Attorneys list 11 points in appeal to state supreme court for a new Rule 37 hearing. [private]Jeff Rosenzweig, an attorney for Jessie Misskelley, Jr., filed an appeal on Friday with the Arkansas Supreme Court in which he argued that Judge David Burnett violated the U.S. Constitution, the Arkansas Constitution and the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct […]

‘Guideposts’ and a ‘razor thin’ case—Part 1

Lawyers for the WM3 outline expectations for the evidentiary hearing; the state mainly resists. [private]Attorneys for the West Memphis Three described the case against their clients as “razor thin” in 60-plus pages of briefs that were submitted to Arkansas Circuit Judge David N. Laser’s court yesterday. The filings outlined what one called an “entire new […]

IMO: It’s a matter of trust

Arkansas’s legal profession is allowed to be self-governing. But who’s minding the store? [private]If the West Memphis Three are ever freed from prison, the Arkansas judiciary will have to face serious questions as to how such a travesty was allowed to happen in the first place and how it was allowed to continue for so long. […]

Lorri Davis and I to speak about media and the WM3 at The University of Memphis on Mar. 24

Lorri Davis and I will be part of a panel to be held at The University of Memphis on the evening of March 24. Chelsea Leigh Boozer, president of the university’s Society of Professional Journalists, posted the following announcement and poster on Facebook. (The comments are getting interesting.)  “The Media’s Role in the West Memphis Three […]

Michale Graves to bring ‘angels’ and ‘the blackness’ to Little Rock

If you’re anywhere near Little Rock, come join me at Juanita’s at 8:30 on Friday, March 18 to hear—and thank—punk rocker Michale Graves. As many of you know, Graves is a longtime supporter of the WM3. He recently put together a short film entitled “The Blackness and the Forest” that told the story of his “Almost Home Campaign” to raise […]

Surviving by magick—Part 2

Damien Echols recalls his ‘horrific’ introduction to prison as having been ‘almost a blessing’ [private]Late on a Saturday afternoon, in March 1994, Damien Echols stood in a courtroom and heard himself sentenced to death. Within hours, he was delivered, cuffed and shackled, to an Arkansas prison, there to be held in “safe-keeping” until his appeals were over and his […]

What ‘items that were not requested’ did the attorney general have DNA tested?

AG Dustin McDaniel acknowledged–but did not explain–state’s additional DNA testing [private]In 1993, after Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., were charged with a triple-murder in West Memphis, Prosecuting Attorney John Fogleman took the unusual step of pursuing his own investigation. Prosecutors normally rely on results of the police investigation. For months after the […]