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December 9th, 2011
05:56 PM ET

Web Exclusive: John Grisham on West Memphis 3: “It was mishandled from the very beginning”

John Grisham, best-selling author of crime novels, is a guest on “Piers Morgan Tonight” this evening. In this web exclusive, Grisham tells Piers Morgan his thoughts on the infamous West Memphis 3 case. “If you look at what happened to those three defendants, it was mishandled from the very beginning,” says Grisham. “They rely on bogus confessions. They rely on jailhouse snitches.”

Grisham was living in the Memphis area when three young Cub Scouts were brutally murdered in 1993 in the town of West Memphis, Arkansas. Three teenage boys, who became known as the West Memphis 3, were convicted of the murders despite the lack of physical evidence. “There was this very sensational trial and the community wanted justice,” says Grisham. “They had some bad confessions to work on and these three guys get convicted, and they spend 18 years in prison.” The West Memphis 3 defendants were released in August.

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soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. James Kraskouskas

    Jane Fonda is afraid of the Republican candidates? She should be apologetic to the men who were suffering and being tourtured in the Hanoi Hilton while she posed for pictures just outside in an antiaircraft gun. She has no right to comment on U.S. politics, she is a traitor and should be treated as such.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Chris Hutchings

    Mishandled? Put it this way, if law enforcement were religion this would have been blasphemy..

    December 9, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Polly Murphy-Frye

    Thank you so very much, Mr. Grisham and Mr. Morgan. It is very good to hear the truth about the WM3 from respected voices such as yours. Hopefully one day the world will demand justice for these 3 young men and the 3 young lads who lost their lives whose lives are going to be forever intertwined. You know, shortly, when your show airs and word is out the stance you took, this area here is going to be bombarded with the comments of those who want these innocent young men put back in jail. Many supporters will answer back to them with the truth and will be attacked for it. When it is all said and done, your opinions mean a lot to those who are trying to keep the good fight going. Thank you so very much again and again.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fred J Walsh

    No wonder Grisham is a fiction writer. A "14-year-old" boy was held by police for hours - while his parents tried to get to him?

    While the elder Jessie was evidently not present at the station for his 17-year-old son's questioning, he knew exactly where the younger Jessie was - having fetched his son for police, himself, that morning - and later that morning signing a form giving the police permission to administer a polygraph.

    Police timelog for the day of JM's first confession:
    Misskelley Rights Waiver –
    Misskelley Polygraph Release Form –
    The truth of the supposed 12-hour interrogation –

    December 9, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • John Lowden

      Yes good call... In my watching of the case from afar ,and I do not know who killed those young boys,I do find it irritating trying to sort fact from fiction. People like this John person,sorry I don't remember his last name,only make the case more muddied. It would help all concerned if it was facts that were stated. Someone like this,on such a big world wide screen must get the simple facts right,even though he means well,he still should stick to facts,or don't say them at all.
      It is the oly way the killers can be caught. Misstating simple facts only lead to more confusion. For the record from afar I think the three were wrongly convicted,but again how much fact I know is not what I read and see and wrong stated facts like this don't help the case for anyone .

      December 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Super3

      Give it a rest Fred. You aren't ever going to win this argument bud. I'll give you a big E for effort though. lol

      December 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • John Lowden

        Lol. People still thought the world was flat for 100 years,,even when shown proof they still believed it was flat. why? Because they were told it was,so it must be fact. Instead of looking for holes in these boys stories,people should be looking and directing there energy to catching the bastar-s that committed this terrible crime.

        December 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
      • Fred J Walsh

        Let's review: I pointed out two errors in Grisham's statements - errors which contribute to the popular misconception that Jessie Misskelley's rights were violated, and give more credence to the "victims of injustice" narrative these convicted child murderers and their fans have been spinning since the 1990's.

        While we're talking popular lies about Misskelley, how about that reputed "72 IQ"?

        Jessie Miskelley's IQ is one of the many myths that both PL and the WM3 supporter movement had used to garner sympathy for The Three.


        This is the trial testimony of Dr. William Wilkins, an expert for the defense. If you scroll down to the cross examination (Davis asking the questions) you will see him admit:

        -Misskelley's IQ was tested at 75, not 72 or 70 as many claim
        -the year before, Jessie took an IQ test and scored 88 and 84 on the performance portion*
        -his more recent test results suggest he may have been malingering ie "making up stuff. Trying to present yourself as being ill when you’re not for some particular gain."


        It wasn't until his lawyer had told him he might avoid the death penalty if judged mentally challenged, that Misskelley started bombing, with the much-touted, supposed 72 score. The footage of his lawyer Stidham telling him about the benefit of being deemed mentally handicapped is in the original Paradise Lost.

        Stidham likes to say Misskelley "has the mind of a 5-yr-old," a claim he repeats in Paradise Lost 3. And co-director Joe Berlinger makes the same 5-yr-old claim — or at least, allows it to be voiced uncontested — on an NPR’s Leonard Lopate show, from October 2011.

        LOPATE: Jessie Misskelly, the third member of the group, uh, is mentally challenged, I don’t know how else to say it. They said he had–
        BERLINGER: An IQ of 72…
        LOPATE: …the mind of a 5-yr-old.
        BERLINGER: Yeah…

        That Misskelley's IQ has been significantly low-balled is evidenced by not only by his 84/88 previous performance scores - actually close to "average" 90-105 range, and certainly not "retarded" or even "borderline retarded" as the films say - but also by the audio of Misskelley's confessions, where his cognitive and verbal abilities can be judged by any listener as most certainly non-retarded.

        December 11, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sandy Skrinjaric

    Piers, thank you for once again bringing attention to this travesty, and thank you, John, for speaking the truth about this miscarriage of justice. With the help of people like yourselves, whose voices reach millions, those of us who are active in the WM3 supporter movement will pressure the Arkansas judicial and law enforcement systems until that the real killer(s) of Chris Byers, Stevie Branch, and Michael Moore are found, and until Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley are exonerated and their records and names justly cleared.
    As Polly said, there are a handfuk of misguided zealots who are so blinded by blood lust and hate that they will come to your site and attempt to spread lies about the West Memphis 3. Fred Welch is a typical example of the sort of intellectual laziness and complete lack of ethics that are characteristics of these zealots. He thinks that people are so stupid that they will believe that just because Jessie Misskelley's father knew where he was means that he somehow automatically knew what was being dome to him while being questioned by the WMPD. When I was 17 years old, my mother also knew where I was nearly every minute of every day, but she didn't know what I was doing and what was happening around me when I wasn't in her presence until after the fact. The same applies to the Misskelleys. Yet Fred has such little faith in the intelligence of others that he arrogantly believes that people will blindly accept his lies and exaggerations as fact. But we suporters of the WM3 know better.

    December 9, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • John Lowden

      Also a good call sandy ,,I think mate what we all have to remember is it's not believers against non believers,,it's all of us wanting to find the truth and the real's a bit annoying to read a lot of people saying that because celebrity,s have jumped on board it has swayed the case in the three,s favout. Truenwitut the support of the rich and famous they would most likely all be in jail still with no hope of getting to the truth,,but for mine I doubt it very much that they would want to see child killers set free , I think they are thinking now like most people,that the system was botched ,that the three were jailed on nothing ore than the police wanting to charge someone. It is clear to the world now that the west Memphis police force is nothing kore than a joke.. Imagine being the laughing stock of the world as a police force,,although it's by no means funny the fact that a child killer or killers are out there untouched leaves these muppetts with egg all over there faces. It's funny to watch these clowns try and justify themselves now with utter crap,all t rung to portray themselves as good guys that were just doing there job,,well they appear to have botched it big time and until this case is solved in one way or another they will remain a blight on police world wide,,everyone knows about it and there denials will be written in history as how not to solve a terrible murder by jailing people because of what they wear or what there tastes are... Mind you I think these people that both he'd the job should never work in any position again where there judgment is so biased,,,I feel shame for these clowns,sad sad case all round but the real injustice here is that the ppl of west Memphis had these imbosiles running there state. They have brought shame and mockery to the city of Memphis ,now infamous for all the wrong reasons,,meanwhile killers walk free somewhere,laughing at the world is.

      December 10, 2011 at 6:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Avser Bastian



    December 12, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. T-Money

    -his more recent test results suggest he may have been malingering ie "making up stuff.

    This is Fred's best

    February 15, 2013 at 12:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. T-Money

    To add, Jessie got the major facts completely wrong.And you can hear from the tape, that the only things he got right were what he was repeating from Inspector Gadget.The "37 confessions" is actually just one big continous false story, malingering ie making stuff up.Yet Jessie immediately recanted, he pled not guilty, he refused to lie on the stand against Damien and Jason, had no concept of his right to remain silent, and to this day vehemently sincerely acknowledges what was done to him during interrogation.It matches all the classic elements of psychologically forcing a scared teen to say what the intimidators want.I love how Jessie explained in one interview: "I already told em once but they just kept egging it on and egging on so I just made some stuff up" I've totally done this with my wife! hahaaa

    February 15, 2013 at 12:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
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