The West Memphis Three And Labelling Theory

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The West Memphis Three and Labelling Theory
On May 5, 1993, three eight year old boys named Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, were reported missing in West Memphis, Arkansas. The following day, their bodies were found in Robin Hood woods, tied and mutilated. In early 1994, three suspects named Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were convicted of murdering the three boys. Damien, Jason and Jessie were referred to as the “West Memphis Three”.
West Memphis was a very hard core fundamentalist conservative town. Those who did not fit the town’s ideology based upon aspects such as appearance, behaviour or beliefs were seen as outcasts (Couric 2014). The West Memphis Three often wore black clothing and listened
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The boys often partook in criminal acts such as vandalism and shoplifting, consequently labelling them criminals (Truth About the West Memphis Three 2011). As a result of their primary deviance, the combination of the boy’s prior known association with criminal acts, class and their physical appearance made them targets. With increased media attention on the case, came a greater strain on the West Memphis police to find the murderer(s). The crime scene found was blank, which meant that many scenarios on how the boys were murdered could be created. Unable to find reasonable suspects The West Memphis Three were seen as easy targets because they were already labelled as criminals, due to their inability to conform to society. The boys came from poor dysfunctional families. In West Memphis’ hard core Christian society, the boys were looked down upon because they did not come form families that followed traditional guidelines for a good Christian family. In West Memphis, an inability to follow Christian beliefs was directly linked with satanism. The murderers were pinned on the three boys, labelling them as criminally violent satanic …show more content…
The emotions and media attention shadowed the public’s judgement, so when the boys were labelled as murders, everyone believed they were. The majority of West Memphis shared similar Christian beliefs, condemning those who believe in the occult and commit deviance against their society. Due to the town’s social cohesion, most believed the boys were guilty. Damien was seen as a poverty stricken white trash young father. For most, it was easy to connect labels such as murder and criminal to an individual like Damien. This also created bias judgement from the judge, David Burnett, who continuously denied innocence of suspects, although strong supporting evidence was present. One of the evidence found was a piece of hair on one of the boy’s shoe lances. With use of advanced DNA technology, the hair was tested and a connection was made with one of the stepfathers, Terry Hobbs. Hobbs told the cops that he had not seen any of the boys that day, but a witness from his neighbourhood contradicted his statement. Due to the bias judgement of the police officers during the investigation, no one took time to question Hobbs’ neighbours to support his statement, but inevitably took his word for it. Terry Hobbs is labelled as a working white father who supports Christian beliefs by being a church member in middle class society. Hobbs is able to conform to the West Memphis society and was seen

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