Mara Leveritt, author of “Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three,” will speak Feb. 13 on the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith campus.
Leveritt’s talk is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in the Reynolds Room of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center. It is free and open to the public. A question-and-answer session and a book signing will follow. Her book is the basis of a feature film by the same name which stars Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon.
Leveritt will discuss her research regarding the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old children and the subsequent trials of three teenagers -- dubbed the West Memphis Three -- who were charged with and convicted of the crimes. The three teens were suddenly released from prison in 2011 after serving almost 18 years, pleading guilty but stating they did not commit the crime. The plea was accepted by the state and they were sentenced to time served.
Prior to the Feb. 13 talk by Leveritt, UAFS has also scheduled three free viewings of the HBO documentary, “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.” The viewings are set for 2 p.m. Feb. 7, with two times on Feb. 12 -- 1 and 4 p.m. -- in the Reynolds Room.
The documentary spends about 45 minutes recapping the events that occurred in earlier documentaries about the murders and convictions before presenting details developed in more recent times.
Leveritt, who has been a contributing editor and journalist for Arkansas Times, is completing her third book, “Justice Knot,” which continues her examination of the legal processes which mark the haunting history of the West Memphis Three and the murdered children. The third book is a shared effort with Jason Baldwin, one of the three convicted of the crime.
Leveritt said she plans to focus her talk specifically to the Fort Smith audience, sharing how ordinary citizens helped free the West Memphis Three.
“This is a theme that runs throughout the book I am currently writing,” said Leveritt, “so I’ll be interested in what the audience asks or has to say.”
She is also the author of “The Boys on the Tracks,” which was published in 1998 and is about murder and prosecutorial corruption in Saline County. Leveritt has also contributed to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review and speaks regularly on legal topics. Her reporting experience has led her to advocate electronic recording of all custodial police interviews and criminal trials.
Leveritt’s talk on the UAFS campus is sponsored by the University’s chapter of the American Democracy Project, a national initiative designed to foster responsible citizenship at all levels. Dr. Amy Jordan of Fort Smith, chair of the American Democracy Project at UAFS, said she is thrilled that the ADP can bring someone like Leveritt to campus.
“She is an award-winning author and is consistently being recognized as someone who digs deep in her research,” said Jordan. “Mara Leveritt has stated that she is committed to bringing greater transparency and accountability into Arkansas’s legal system. It is important for all of us, as citizens, to hear what she has to say.”
For more information, contact Jordan at 479-788-7295.