Unjust Justice Systems;A comparison of the West Memphis Three and The CrucibleImagine sitting at home one night and having police officers show up at your hose and arrest you for a crime you had no idea was committed. Three teenage boys in West Memphis, Arkansas and over thirty-nine characters in The Crucible went through exactly that. The West memphis three is the trial of three teenage boys who were charged with killing two eight-year-old oys in the woods and leading a hate group. The trial portrayed in The Crucible are based on the real life Salem Witch Trials, the accused in the play were charged with witchcraft. Evidence in both cases was insufficient and mostly eye witnessed.
Both crimes committed were abstract and referred to as the devils work. All accused in both trials were doomed from the beginning. In The Crucible to save oneself if accused one must confess to something they didnt do and then name people that did do it, basically if they wanted to live thy had to lie and accuse other innocent people. The West Memphis three had to go through the court system with corrupt people lying and no way to prove themselves innocent.
Arthur Miller portrayed the evidence in The Crucible as only eye witness accounts and petty reasoning, such as the ability to fake a faint. The characters that danced in the woods were considered reliable and what they said was all that was needed to convict the people of witchcraft. In the real life accounts of the West Memphis three, the evidence used against the teenagers were black Metallica shirts, the confession that didnt match the incident, and peers that told the police that they overheard one of the teenagers say they were going to kill two boys. The peers story later changed when under oath but the judge reffered back to the first story to help convict the accused. In both cases the accusers could not counter argue the evidence because it was their word against the witnesses.
Before the West Memphis trials the police had a confession from all three teenage boys. t was used against them in court. The reason for the confession, some argue, is a condition called Satanic Panic. Someone who has Satanic Panic creates false memories that place themselves at the scene of the crime they were accused of. The crime normally is devil related, for example rape, magic, and voodoo are all known as the work of the devil. People who are diagnosed with Satanic Panic are normally also diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder. The witches in The Crucible were charged with harming others with magic. They had to confess themselves to keep themselves from being hanged. This is an example of how Satanic Panic is described. When Mary Warren says, Its not a trick! I-I used to faint because I-I thought I saw spirits. (miller 47) she is describing Hysteria, or Satanic Panic; she created the spirits because the other girls saw the.
In The Crucible Hale, an expert in the area of witchcraft, played a large role in the courtroom. In the trial of the teenagers there was a doctor who was an expert in the area of stanic panic. Being experts in such areas are hard to prove, the doctor of satanic panic did not have a degree or any proof that he studied such a subject. He merely stated that he has worked with patients claiming to do things because the devil told them to. In the play Hale simply forces people to confess to save their lives, which is not the work of a doctor but more of a persuader. Both men later on reviewed the case, the accused, and the evidence and wanted to save the innocent people. Hale describes his change of opinion by saying, Let you not mistake your duty as I mistook my own. (miller 58) THey also were unsuccessful.
Both crimes are abstract, meaning that there is no evidence attainable for a just conviction, but both crimes have serious consequences. In The Crucible the people who denied being a witch were sentenced to be hanged. Two of the teenagers were sentenced to be hanged. Two of the teenagers were sentenced to life in prison and the last was sentenced to death by injection. Is that fair? The teenagers still had a full life in front of them but because they were used as scapegoats, it was cut short. Can you call a justice system that convicts people for such crimes just?The 1994 case of the West Memphis three and the 1953 play The Crucible have similarities.
Abstract convictions, false accusations, and unjust executions are all part of both trials. Neither account is something to be proud of, nor should such times be repeated. When you look at such similar occures, which are separated by four decades, you begin to wonder if humans really learn from their mistakes. Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin, the West Memphis three, are sitting in jail; they have been there for 5220 days and awaiting their death. Spreading knowledge of this hideous case and raising support could help get them and appeal and save three innocent people.