by Christian on Mar.24, 2013
Rather than rehashing issues of exculpatory evidence and procedural travesties in the still-unsolved triple-child-homicide and triple-wrongful-conviction that is the case of of West Memphis
Three Six, Joyelle’s and Johannes’s recent essays chart some interesting new territory — see “Metallica, The West Memphis Three, and the Narcissism of the Law” and “‘Paradise Lost’: Violent Femmes, Hysterical Masculinity and the Threat of Art (pt 1).” In a future post, I’d like to engage Joyelle’s observations — specifically “Art’s occult movements, its paradoxically linked power and obscurity,” and the ability of Narrative to “exercise a ‘real’ force” not only on the historical record but on the bodies of its “characters” — via an examination of the power of Magic(k)al Narratives, in the absence of inculpatory evidence, to secure from spell-bound juries what Marianne Moore might have called “real convictions for imaginary crimes.” The following touches on those ideas, but only in my attempt to discuss the “strange sexuality” that Johannes sees in the West Memphis case, as well his notion of “the threat of Violent Femme,” both of which I examine in the context of the imagined sexual violence in the case as well as Prosecutors’ (conjoined-) twin obsessions with inversions of religious rites and perversions of sexuality — obsessions that are by no means limited to the not-so-metaphorical witch trial in West Memphis, of course, but that enjoy a history of at least a couple thousand years even in the narrow context of persecution / prosecution.
I should also note that Joyelle and Johannes both tend to write from the perspective of discussing Art / Literature, while I am presently doomed to see everything in terms of the plodding banality of crime; the only Art I discuss anymore, or so it seems, being the aforementioned Prosecutorial Magic, and the only “literature” the most depressing collection of nonfiction tomes on crime, particularly sex crimes, as well as (or, rather, including) our species’ long history of persecuting those among us whom we believe are “beyond redemption,” etc.
1. ACTUAL TRIPLE HOMICIDE V. THE SPECTRE OF” SATANIC HOMOSEXUAL CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT AND MUTILATION
Joyelle refers to the mutilation of the murdered children, and Johannes notes a seeming “obsession” with the idea that one child had his penis “removed,” so I want to note briefly, before saying anything else: re-examination of the evidence in the years after the trial appears to indicate that none of the children was sexually mutilated or mutilated in any manner by a human being, but that genital injuries and alleged human bitemarks were the result of reptile, rather than human, predation — specifically turtles in the drainage ditch.
That said, however, the idea that the boys were sexually violated — both raped and mutilated — loomed large in the prosecution’s original narrative, and I would suggest that the idea of horrific sexual violence against children carried more narrative weight, with jurors and with the public in general, than the alleged (though also nonexistent) “occult trappings” of the crime(s).
Johannes also notes “a strange sexuality involved in this as well: a lot of attention to how [Damien] and his co-defendants are going to get raped in jail. ‘Jessie, we’re going to mail you a skirt!’ shout the parents of one of the victims into the camera.” Leaving aside the notion that “rape is never funny” unless one is laughing about a criminal defendant, even a teenage one, being raped in prison — at which point, apparently, it becomes fucking hilarious — and leaving aside as well the predilections of, and the misinformation supplied by, local newspapers and local authorities in West Memphis, there can be no doubt that the crime scene was easily interpreted as suggesting a sexual component to the murders. As Leveritt notes, in discussing one of the child victims:
The boy had been tied with shoelaces. The bindings left the body in a dramatically vulnerable pose. The boy’s nakedness, the unnatural arch of the back, and the vulnerability of his undeveloped sexual organs, both to the front and to the back, suggested something sexual about the crime. (Leveritt 11)
Thus, too, we might forgive West Memphis investigators for operating under the assumption that the crime was sexual in nature, in addition to being, you know, Satanic and stuff. Nor can their be any doubt about the (real) effects of the (fictional) narrative — the narrative that arose “implicitly” from the crime scene, and that was augmented by the imaginings of hell-bent prosecutors in a religious town — on the minds/bodies of the victims’ loved ones. 
He never hurt anybody. He had a gentle, loving, and giving heart. And they crucified him in those woods. And they humiliated his little body. They took his little manhood before he even knew what it was. (Paradise Lost I)
said one boy’s mother, who, after a few more years of debilitating grief and desperate substance abuse, would die without ever learning that her son had not been raped, had not been sacrificed to Satan.
But I would also suggest that the investigation went far afield not because of the sex-crime angle, but because of the perceived homo-sexual violence of the crimes.
Upon this perception, of course, no facts or probabilities would intrude: that the kind of extreme violence imagined to have been perpetrated against these children is abhorrent to most people, regardless of their sexual orientation, and, rather than being “perversion,” is the province of psychopathy of a sort which, among our total population can only generously described as “rare” (mercifully, a child’s risk of being killed by a sexually predatory stranger (1 in 1,264,000) is on par with being killed by lightning (1 in 1,170,000) (NOAA.gov; Lancaster 77)) although the event’s guaranteed focus in major media makes it appear common); and that the likelihood of finding this rarity not in one but three boys at the same time and place, who are also Satanists…. — Well, suffice it to say this angle was probably not the first one that detectives should have investigated.
That said, for the literal-minded/illiterate in West Memphis the fantasy of a consummate breed of homosexual male violence carried at least as much Biblical fear/hatred as that text’s injunctions against occult arts, and was every bit as potent as the Satanic Panic among West Memphis jurors in 1993.
II. THE TIMELESS PASSION OF THE PERVERSION POLICE
In the context of the crimes (both real and imagined), the “gothic femininity” of the teenage Damien, his “interest in fashion…, his feminine, pretty features, is not seen as opposite of masculine; it suggests a hidden ultra-violent, ultra ‘masculinity,’ if we believe that masculinity is represented by violence,” writes Johannes, who suggests a useful term for the perceived threat of Damien: the threat of the “Violent Femme.”
I think the key here is: the violent femme is perceived as violent, the ‘feminine’ — at least in men — is not the opposite of ‘masculinity,’ but is rather in cohort with it.
In discussing the threat of the Violent Femme, I’d also like to suggest that it may prove useful, inasmuch as “masculinity” and “femininity” are themselves at all useful, to knowingly conflate male homosexuality with femininity, given that the conflation remains culturally entrenched among “certain populations,” and therein, the idea of violent homosexual male is enigma or anathema or both. For West Memphis prosecutors, the manifold threat of homosexuality mixed with diabolism, child rape, and sexual mutilation meant, of course, their narrative of the crime would carry the day in that neighborhood. At trial, lead prosecutor John Fogleman (since elevated to a judge) needed no evidence, only a vague theory and a shadowy outline of a motive, to convince the jury of the threat of three teenage Diabolist-Pervert Violent Femmes.
“The motive here,” Fogleman told the jury “is something that inconceivable…. This satanic stuff…. It doesn’t matter whether I believe it or the defense attorney believes it…. The only thing that matters is what these defendants believe.” (Leveritt 261)
Of course it matters far more what a jury can be made to believe, and Fogleman’s lurid fiction was tried and true, dating from well before the time of juries; Fogleman’s narrative has been winning hearts and minds set against the accused since before Christianity itself. Then as now, the narrative not only hews to its own genre conventions, but also fulfills a number of needs beyond securing convictions, not the least of which is slaking prosecutors’ own thirst for stories featuring the inversion of the so-called sacred, and the perversion of traditional gender roles and sex acts.
West Memphis prosecutors’ terrifying tales in the gay-satanic genre were certainly found to satisfy, if not to please, the Court, specifically Judge David Burnett (now State Senator) — just as it had satisfied Detective Gitchell and the good ol’ boys who, through hours of heated interrogation, managed to elicit from Jessie his entirely fictional but nonetheless graphic tales of child sexual assault, from forced oral copulation to anal rape. Leveritt captures so well the spirit of the occasion, it bears quoting here:
Gitchell asked about several forms of sex. Jessie said that, in addition to raping them, Damien and Jason had had oral sex with two of the boys or, as he put it, “They stuck their thang in their mouth.”
At one point, Gitchell rose from his seat, apologizing to Jessie. “Okay. All right,” he said. “Hold on just a minute.” There was a pause, during which Gitchell left the room. When the chief detective returned he explained, “I’m sorry I keep coming back and forth, but I got people that want me to ask you some other questions…” When the questioning resumed, he asked, “Did anyone go down on the boys and maybe sucked theirs or something?” (Leveritt 89-90)
On its face, this obsession with homosexuality, if not with oral sex between boys specifically, may seem at odds with the traditional association of witch-hunting with women-hunting, but it was the witch’s alleged perversions more than her biological sex, that were the focus of prosecutors. Discussing New England’s witchy women, historian Carol Karlsen does not explicitly address homosexuality but notes “an erotic dimension was often implicit in witches’ seduction of other females” and “descriptions of witches successful in luring women into their ranks sometimes implied that they accomplished this end by appealing to other women’s licentiousness.” Moreover, authorities were grievously enflamed that “the procreative, nurturing, and nursing roles of women were perverted by witches” (italics in original), and testimony against the accused implied “that these women were dissatisfied with — indeed had no respect for — their society’s rules governing sexual behavior.” Clergy obsessed over “that filthie sinne of the Communitie of Woemen” and feared that these women “gave birth to and suckled demons [read: future gays] instead of children.” Of course hetero witches accounted for the largest number of accused; standard “harlots … laden with diverse lusts” who, like all bored hausfraus, enjoyed “all promiscuus and filthie cominge togeather of men and Woemen without Distinction or Relation of Marriage” (136-144).
“The ‘threat’ of Damien Echols,” writes Johannes, “existed long before the crime,” and I would add, chicken-or-egg style, that the threat has existed precisely as long as there has been a group of a people who felt threatened by it, or titillated by it, or who wished merely to use it to their personal or political advantage. Witch-hunts begin not with a witch but with a hunter. Moreover, as historian Norman Cohn was at pains to document in his masterwork, Europe’s Inner Demons, the “specific fantasy” at the heart of hunters has a rich history dating back well before witches proper, at least to the 2nd century, when to all but his small group of followers Jesus was perceived as just another dead magician — and his followers were on the other end, so to speak, of these fantastic fictions — as pagan Greeks and Romans targeted
small Christian communities … [and accused them of] holding meetings at which babies or small children were ritually slaughtered, … also of holding erotic orgies at which every form of intercourse, including incest between parents and children, was freely practiced; also of worshipping a strange divinity in the form of an animal. (xiii)
By the time of the Inquisition a thousand-plus years later, having developed at roughly at the same speed as the rest of Christian theology, the plot of the above murderous orgy had changed not a jot. The narrative served as a template onto which the updated accusers copied the updated names of the accused (to say nothing of updating that “strange divinity in the form of an animal”). This template would continue to serve not only throughout the centuries of the European Hunt, and not only in Salem, and not only in the 1980s, and not only in West Memphis in 1993, but serves rightfuckingnow.
Reading trial proceedings from the European Hunt, however, one senses that it was during this time that Christians first felt the full delight of teasing out the details of the”confessed” narratives; by which I mean, not the ageless delight of torturing the accused, but the vicarious thrill to be found in co-authoring Ritual Abuse Porn in which “incest and homosexual intercourse were encouraged” and Satan himself would copulate, “painfully, it was generally reported” with “every man, woman, and child” as “mothers yielded to Satan before their daughters’ eyes and initiated them into sexual service to the diabolical master” (Klaits 52-53). Indeed, it’s during the Great Hunt in Europe that sexual perversion becomes central to the idea of the witch, and this obsession, it will surprise few readers here, came from above rather than from below: the typical villager might have had their suspicious aroused against a neighbor as a result of a failed crop or ailing cow, but it was generally the authorities, the secular and ecclesiastical witch hunters, who banged-on about the sexual component, and “the charge of sexual abuse became a normal component of a witchcraft indictment” (Klaits 51).
Then as now, the WitchFemme remains the WitchFemme whether s/he kneels before the Hetero Devil or the Faggy Goth Lord or the Dykey Witch Goddess or “Other.” Wherever the threat of the WitchFemme finds its way out of the fantasies of accusers and into a courtroom, oddly the court then proceeds via ritual inversion/perversion of the presumption of innocence, and the triers of fact are to deliberate their verdicts by way of irony: for all the juicy details swirling around the WitchFemmes alleged crimes, the details don’t matter. The WitchFemme is always guilty — res ipsa loquitur: it speaks for itself.
III. CULTY GOODNESS
What sets the WM3 case apart from the routine nature of wrongful felony convictions in the US, each having gone unquestioned by media, is the unrelenting violence done to the State’s Official Narrative, via Joe Berlinger’s and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost documentaries; via the investigative journalism of Mara Leveritt, both in her excellent pre-DNA book of the case, Devil’s Knot, and in her subsequent reporting at the Arkansas Times; and, as I write this, via Amy Berg’s & Peter Jackson’s currently-showing West of Memphis, co-produced by Damien himself.
“The femme can become overly male, the overly male can become feminine. That mixing,” writes Johannes, “that connection seems to be what makes it so threatening.”
At the risk of noting the obvious, and inasmuch as Damien proved not-so Violent, it may be worth noting that among this ever-threatening, if not “killer,” cohort — that of the Violent Femme — we find any number of Damn√©d Artists who “support” the WM3. To wit: “overly-male” Femmes from Natalie Maines to Patti Smith to Lucinda Williams, along with lady-hair male rockers from Nick Cave to Marilyn Manson to Pearl Jam to Renaissance-Femme Johnny “Tonto’s Giant Nuts” Depp, among countless metalheads, goths, freaks, geeks, and sundry loners, Violent Femmes one and all, drawn to the narrative of the West Memphis Witch Hunt.
To the horror of an unflagging contingent of Believers in the guilt of the WM3, of course, all of this is proof of nothing less than a Hollywood-Scripted Nationwide Satanic Conspiracy.
That mixing, that connection seems to be what makes it so threatening.
Indeed. What Bible-Belt Breeder doesn’t fear the charms of that burly-but-sensitive ambivert, Henry Rollins, another long-time WM3 supporter, whose lifestyle choices — an indiscriminate embrace of both hard-core punk rock and poetry — has recruited more than one generation of curious teens into the Cult of the Violent Femme.
If there is good news in this case, then — beyond Damien, Jason, and Jessie walking out of prison — it is that legions of Femmes can see the wide support for the WM3 and know, down to their cloven Femme toes: Our witchcult grows.
 Proceeding at least in part from historian Frederick Cryer’s suggestion, that the ability of magical narratives to “inspire terror and awe in their readers and hearers” makes them key to “that revaluation or re-inscription of any actual use of magic that is the psychological basis of its success,” I’d like to examine how, in the consecrated space of the courtroom, the magical narrative may be used to redefine non-evidence or “otherwise prosaic ingredients” as materia magica at the same time that “marvellous” illusions as well as rituals of cleansing and healing are enacted through the prosecution and punishment of the accused. (See Cryer, Frederick H. “Magic in Ancient Syria-Palestine and in the Old Testament.” Magic and Witchcraft in Europe: Biblical and Pagan Societies. Ankarloo, Bengt, and Stuart Clark. Philadelphia: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001. 118. Print.)
 Readers who were flabbergasted by the prosecution’s mail-order-degree “occult expert” Dale Griffis should not rest easy thinking the WM3 case was Griffis’s only contribution to bunko investigations and subsequent wrongful convictions. Scratching the surface of any number of “Satanic” cases both before and after the WM3 case, particularly in the Toledo, OH, area will uncover Griffis’s occult hand at work.
Don’t miss Griffis’s foray into literature, either: Secret Weapons: Two Sisters’ Terrifying True Story of Sex, Spies and Sabotage, by Cheryl and Lynn Hersha with Dale Griffis, Ph D. and Ted Schwartz (New Horizon Press). Raves Publishers Weekly: “Credibility collapses, as improbabilities are piled on inconsistencies, and the truth is buried beneath simplistic, pulp-adventure prose…. An elaborate disclaimer about the ‘presumed thoughts and imagined words of the participants’ will lead many readers to ponder just how much real events have been fictionalized.”
Lately I’ve been wondering what, if any, part Griffis may have played in the wrongful conviction of Reverend Gerald Robinson, an Ohio priest who will likely die in prison for a murder that he didn’t commit, a murder also erroneously labled “occult-related.” See also “Sins of our Fathers” at ShadowWraiths.net
 cf. “Creepy” Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Marc Perrusquia, whose “true-“crime pulp disaster, The Blood of Innocents, was little more than a regurgitation of the prosecution fiction, and thus got the case all wrong. Perrusquia is profiled in-depth in Fr. Torquatus’s essay at Tarpaulin Sky, “Literally Cursed: Reviewing Marc Perrusquia’s Frightening Two-Decade Obsession with Damien Echols.”
 As ever, largely uncritical regional media only reinforced the prosecution’s fictional narrative. Beginning as it would continue — leading the pack with inaccurate but sensational reportage — early in the investigation the Memphis Commercial Appeal (see Marc Perrusquia footnote, above) reported incorrectly that all three boys had been “sexually mutilated,” that their “genitals had been removed.” (Leveritt 3, 16) In the opening moments of the first Paradise Lost documentary, we hear television news picking up the story, wherein Jessie has “confessed” to police that he watched Damien and Jason “brutalize the children with a club and a knife,” that Damien and Jason “raped one of the boys and sexually mutilated another as part of a cult ritual,” etc.
Come the trials, the local medical examiner “explained” the post-mortem photos to the jury: “Here we can see that the skin of the penis has been literally removed or carved off. . . . And what we have here is the shaft of the penis without the skin on it. And all around it we have all these cutting, gouging wounds. The scrotal sac and testes are missing.” (Leveritt 222) The examiner had also believed there was urine in the two of the three children’s stomachs and no small number of other “findings” that were not corroborated by further tests; findings that Peretti floated to investigators, only to let them drop, or to change them, later. (Leveritt 111-112)
 One example of the sort of tragic alchemy that I hope to discuss in a follow-up post.
 Melissa Byers, mother of Christopher Byers, interviewed in Paradise Lost.
even among especially among today’s favored boogeyman, the pedophile, as his very label suggests — or that among pedophiles, forced rape is the least common act (anal, oral, and vaginal rape together accounting for less than 25% of abuses (Berliner 219)), and becomes incrementally less common the younger the child (US Dept. Health & Human Services in Nathan 75). (See Nathan, Debbie, and Michael Snedeker. Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt. New York: Basic Books, 1996. Print. And Berliner, Lucy. “Child Sexual Abuse: Definitions, Prevalence, and Consequences.” The APSAC Handbook on Child Maltreatment. 3rd Ed. Myers, John E.B. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2010. Print.)
 Although the Bible does contain a several verses exhorting readers to shun all magicians (except for Moses and Solomon and Jesus, etc.), and exhorting men not to lie with men, and never to eat shellfish or mock the deaf or trip the blind etc. (Lev.), the story most often interpreted as “God hate fags,” that of Sodom & Gomorrah, makes clear only that rape is OK with the Lord, provided females are the victims, as Lot tells all the men and boys of Sodom:
I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please… (Gen. 19:6-8)
That the Lord prefers the rape of females is certainly the only reading based on plausible events in the narrative, given that the rest is fleshed out with details such as angels, magical blindness, salt pillars, and Sodom’s supposed 100% homosexuality rate among its male citizens, as well as Sodom’s near-army of that otherwise statistically anomalous species: the battering-rapist gay male of the non-self-hating, non-closeted variety.
In the story that immediately follows, readers are also to believe that a drunken Lot did not rape his own daughters either, but that the girls fed him the drinks and then seduced him in order to “preserve his seed” after the salt-pillar death of their mother (Gen. 19:30-36). But that’s another story indeed.
 Although the sensational trash and utter frauds (Michelle Remembers, et al) that helped create the Panic are, in many ways, my favorites, there is also is no shortage of excellent scholarly books and articles on the Satanic Panic ca. 1980s. Below are a few (in order of my preference):
* Nathan, Debbie, and Michael Snedeker. Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt. New York: Basic Books, 1996.
* Richardson, James T., et al. The Satanism Scare. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine De Gruyter, 1991. Print.
* Victor, Jeffrey. Satanic Panic. Chicago: Open Court Publishing, 1993. Print.
* La Fontaine, Jean. Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
* — “Satanism and Satanic Mythology.” Magic and Witchcraft in Europe: The Twentieth Century. Ankarloo, Bengt, and Stuart Clark.Philadelphia: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999. Print.
* Ellis, Bill. Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2000. Print.
* Wood, James W., et al. “Child Sexual Abuse Investigations: Lessons Learned from the McMartin and Other Daycare Cases.” Children as Victims, Witnesses, and Offenders: Psychological Science and the Law. Bette L. Bottoms, et al. New York: The Guilford Press, 2009. Print.
 Fogleman went on to provide one of the trial’s more memorable, ironic bits of revisionist history. “Look at hundreds [sic] of years of religious history,” said Fogleman, who may also believe the earth is only slightly older than these “hundreds” of years. “There have been hundreds [sic] of people killed in the name of religion. It’s a motivating force,” he concluded, apparently unaware of what seems common knowledge to many people: that these millions upon millions of murders in war and in civilian life, as well as via legal executions, have been carried out not by alleged Satanists but by followers of State Cults: specifically The Big Three.
 As evidenced in the chief guidebook of the 15th century, Kramer’s and Sprenger’s Malleus Maleficarum, “notable for the “flat-out, unblinking misogyny in which the entire work is drenched” (Demos 66), which explains that women are weak by nature and thus given to witchcraft, and which seeks to answer, among other things, “How in Modern Times Witches perform the Carnal Act with Incubus Devils”; “How, as it were, they Deprive Man of his Virile Member”; “Whether the Relations of an Incubus Devil with a Witch are always accompanied by the Injection of Semen,” etc. (See Demos, John. The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print. And Kramer, Heinrich, and James Sprenger. Malleus Maleficarum. Trans. Montague Summers. New York: Dover Publications, 1971.)
 Popular pagan wisdom held that Christian worshipped a donkey. Seriously. (Cohn is the best place to start reading about magic, witchcraft, or religion.)
 To pick just one: Wrongfully-convicted Fran Keller still sits in priosn thanks to a conviction for “ritual abuse” of a 3-year-old girl. See the recent article at Austin Chronicle: “Appeal Filed for Fran Keller: The Oak Hill Daycare ‘Ritual Abuse’ Fiasco”
 See Dysgenics on Judy Byington, for a look at one the newer and more repugnant authors in the genre.
 Like Fran Keller, above, wrongfully-convicted lesbian Elizabeth Ramirez and her lesbian friends also still sit in prison. See the recent New York Times article: “A Growing Battle for Exoneration”
 For my money, Johnny Depp’s contribution to the West of Memphis soundtrack, is the best song on the album.
 A popular website for those who refuse a clue. Not to be confused, however, with present-day Arkansas offcials who know the WM3 are innocent, but whose paychecks and politican aspirations depend on playing “pretend.” (cf. my essay “The Other West Memphis Three: Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington, and the New Doomed Generation”
 Electric Wizard. “Witchcult Today.”
Cohn, Norman. Europe’s Inner Demons. New York: Meridian/New American Library, 1975. Print.
Goransson, Johannes. “‘Paradise Lost’: Violent Femmes, Hysterical Masculinity and the Threat of Art (pt 1).” Montevidayo. Web. 31 Jan 2013.
Karlsen, Carol F. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print.
Klaits, Joseph. Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985. Print.
Lancaster, Roger N. Sex Panic and the Punitive State. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. Print.
Leveritt, Mara. Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three. New York: Atria, 2003. Print.
McSweeney, Joyelle. “Metallica, The West Memphis Three, and the Narcissism of the Law.” Montevidayo. Web. 25 Jan 2013.
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. Dir. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. HBO Films, 1996. DVD.