The West Memphis Three Trial: Questions for Discussion

1.  What are the factors that contributed to the wrongful convictions in these two trials?  What factors do you think were most important, and why?

2.  What mistaken assumptions by investigators contributed to the arrests of the three boys?  If Damien had never dabbled in witchcraft, is there any chance he would have been prosecuted in this case?

3.  Can you think of examples of police "tunnel vision"?

4.  Do you think any of the actions of police or prosecutors constituted misconduct?  Which ones?

5.  What strategic errors by defense attorneys might have made convictions more likely?

6.  What rulings by Judge Barnett might have sealed one or more of the defendant's fates?

7.  Would a jury drawn from other parts of the country been as likely to convict?

8.  How many trials should there have been?

9.  Why do people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit?  What warning signs of a false confession did police ignore?

10.  Why might the two girls at the softball game have become witnesses for the prosecution?

11.  Why was virtually every official in the state of Arkansas unwilling to admit for so long that there might be a problem with the verdicts?

12.  What do you think of the idea of "crowd sourcing" investigations into possible wrongful convictions?

13.  Why do prosecutors so often turn to "jailhouse snitches"?  Do you think the prosecutor knew Michael Carson was lying about Jason's alleged confession?

14.  What would have been your strategy if you were defending Jesse Misskelley?  Damien Echols?  Jason Baldwin?

15.  Are there any heroes in this tragic story?