Sara links a story that reminds me why, all in all, suburban New Jersey was a fine place to grow up. The “West Memphis Three” are a trio of teenagers who’ve been in prison for over six years—one on death row—for the gruesome slayings of three young boys. It sure looks as though they probably didn’t do it, and there was clearly “reasonable doubt” at the very least. The key pieces of evidence are some teenage gossip, an inconsistency-riddled “confession” from one of them, a semi-retarded teenager, under police interrogation, and (most importantly, one suspects) the fact that they were goth weirdos in a small Bible Belt town.
Now, if you’ve met me in the last few years, depending on the circumstance, I probably looked either corporate or like a wannabe resident of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Before that, I even did a stint as a blonde hippie. But around 12 or 13, I wore lots of black and listened to Nine Inch Nails and Tool and the Dead Kennedys. I scrawled anarchist circle-As on my notebooks, which were taken by peers to be some sort of occult symbol, and I would even cop, if asked, to being an atheist, which a surprising number of eighth graders seemed to have trouble distinguishing from “devil worshipper.” I’ve never quite been able to get my head around how someone who doesn’t believe in a God can be a Satanist, but that’s what some of ’em apparently thought.
I was reminded of the trial scene in Camus’s The Stranger when I glanced over the trial details in the WM3 case: among the things entered into evidence were the fact that one of the boys had actually purchased books on Wicca, which the jurors also apparently had trouble distinguishing from Satanism. I wonder what the police in that particular backwater would’ve made of my books on Aleister Crowley? Anyway, the guy on death row has a motion for a new trial pending, and with any luck, DNA evidence will be able to exonerate him. Or perhaps it won’t, but at least there’s a chance there will be an actual trial, rather than a literal witch-hunt.