You’ll recall from his first confession that Misskelley mistakenly said the victims were tied up with rope, when in fact they were bound by their own shoelaces.
DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Alright, who tied the boys up?
MISSKELLEY: Uh, Damien.
DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Did Damien just tie them all up or did anyone help Damien or
MISSKELLEY: Jason helped him.
DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Ok, and what did they use to tie them up?
MISSKELLEY: A rope.
Such a glaring discrepancy seemingly supports the “false confession” theory. However, there’s reason to believe that Misskelley, guilty or not, already knew the boys had been tied with shoelaces. Below is testimony from Kevin Johnson, a Search and Rescue worker who was an acquaintance of Misskelley’s:
STIDHAM: You tell the jury what you told Mr. Misskelley?
JOHNSON: Yes, I told him that–that one of the boys were beaten and caserated.
STIDHAM: You told him that one of the boys had been castrated?
JOHNSON: Yes, sir.
STIDHAM: What else did you tell him?
STIDHAM: Did you tell him anything else?
JOHNSON: Yes, that they, that - that they was tied with the shoestrings.
STIDHAM: Where did you get this information, Mr. Johnson?
JOHNSON: From the–heard it from the members of the Search and Rescue.
Johnson’s testimony lends credence to the non-supporter contention that Misskelley intentionally lied to the cops. And if he lied about the shoestrings maybe he lied about other details as well, such as what time he was in the woods. Jessie himself says as much in subsequent confessions. According to the incident report filed after his patrol car confession, “Jessie said he lied about the time and the rope to trick the police and to see if they were lying”.
The issue comes up again in the Bible confession:
STIDHAM: What did they tie them with?
MISSKELLEY: Shoe string.
STIDHAM: Why did you tell the officers it was a brown rope?
MISSKELLEY: I made it up.
STIDHAM: You don’t know why?
MISSKELLEY: Huh-uh. (Negatively indicating)
And yet again in the 2-17-94 confession:
DAVIS: Now you said before when the police asked you in their statement and asked you what they were tied up with. And you said they were tied up with rope.
MISSKELLEY: I made that up.
MISSKELLEY: Tried to get off, you know get ‘em off track.
Not surprisingly, Jessie offers a very different explanation for the rope/shoelace discrepancy when proclaiming his innocence in statements to Stidham and defense witnesses.
On 12-10-93 he says:
MISSKELLEY: He ask, they asked me was they tied up with, and I, I guessed, I just said, well, brown rope. And, uh, Ridge said no, it wasn’t, and then I tried to argue with him and say yes it was. And it was like they was arguing with me so I was going to argue with them back and say yes, it was.
WILKINS: “Jessie, was it a brown rope?” You know, you say, “No, it was a green rope.” And you said “no.”
MISSKELLEY: They was arguing with me so I was arguing with them back, saying it was a brown rope. He asked me how they was tied up and, I didn’t know. So I just guessed. I said from the front, and he said no, they wasn’t. So…
STIDHAM: …so you just kept guessing until you got it right? ‘
WILKINS: So you said okay and talked it back to them the next time around? `
MISSKELLEY: Yeah. I, I just guessed until I got it right, you know. I didn’t know how they was tied up.
And on 12-17-93 he says:
MISSKELLEY: That’s when they started asking me, uh, asking me questions about them boys.
OFSHE: Give me some examples of the kind of questions they asked you.
MISSKELLEY: (Pause) About what the boys was tied up with.
OFSHE: Did you know what the boys were tied up with?
MISSKELLEY: Huh-uh. (Negatively indicating)
OFSHE: What did you tell them?
MISSKELLEY: A rope.
OFSHE: What did they say?
MISSKELLEY: Uh, Gitchell shook his head, No - I mean, Ridge shook his head, no. Said it wasn’t a rope.
OFSHE: What did you do next?
MISSKELLEY: I told them it was a rope. They said, no it wasn’t a rope.
OFSHE: What made you think it was a rope?
MISSKELLEY: That’s what normally what people tie up people with a rope. So, I figured it had to be a rope.
Even here, Misskelley denies knowing about the shoelaces. What’s going on? I see three possibilities: 1) Kevin Johnson misremembered - despite his testimony he didn’t tell Misskelley how the boys were tied up, 2) Misskelley forgot what Johnson told him, or 3) Misskelley lied.
Number 2 seems unlikely (though still possible), given that Misskelley remembered Johnson telling him about another significant detail:
STIDHAM: Did you know what happened to the little boy?
MISSKELLEY: I heard that they - - they was cut up.
STIDHAM: Who told you that?
MISSKELLEY: Kevin, that same day the, uh, they paged him - - the thing was cut - - thing was cut.
WILKINS: Who’s Kevin?
WILKINS: Who’s he?
MISSKELLEY: He’s a search and rescue.
WILKINS: Oh, and he lives behind you?
MISSKELLEY: Uh-huh. (Affirmatively indicating.)
OFSHE: How did you learn that one of the boys had been cut on his penis? How did you come to know that?
MISSKELLEY: Because one of my friends, he works at Search and Rescue. And, I guess he seen the boys cause he told me about how they was cut up and all that.
OFSHE: Who was that?
MISSKELLEY: Kevin Johnson.
OFSHE: When did he tell you that?
MISSKELLEY: I’d say about couple days later.
OFSHE: After the killings?
MISSKELLEY: (no audible response)
OFSHE: So you already knew that one of the boys had been mutilated, that just penis cut up?
MISSKELLEY: That’s what Kevin said. You know, I didn’t know.
OFSHE: Well, you had that information and you had the information from Kevin?
If Misskelley remembered Johnson telling him how the boys were cut up he’d probably remember Johnson telling him how they were tied up. So, if we eliminate number 2, we’re left with two possibilities: either Johnson, contrary to his testimony, didn’t tell Jessie, or he did and Jessie lied about it.
Let’s assume Jessie lied about the shoelaces. Questions for supporters and non-supporters alike:
1) If he’s innocent, why would Jessie lie to the cops about the shoelaces?
If he’s innocent, then Jessie’s confession is a complete fabrication and we’re left with an entirely different question: why is this innocent man confessing? That Jessie said the boys were bound by rope is just another lie in a sea of lies, is it not? But if the confession amounts to nothing more than Jessie telling the cops “what they wanted to hear” so they’d stop “hollering” at him and let him go home (as he maintained to Ofshe), then why tell them the boys had been bound by rope, which is decidedly not what the cops wanted to hear? If he knew the boys had been tied up with shoelaces, and if as he claims he was only telling the cops what they wanted to hear, then he should have told them that the boys were tied up with shoelaces. Lying defeats the stated purpose of Jessie’s confession.
2) If he’s innocent, why would Jessie lie to Stidham, Wilkins and Ofshe about the shoelaces?
If he’s innocent, why not say, “Kevin Johnson not only told me how the boys were cut up, he also told me how they were tied up, but I lied to the cops about the latter because….” He’s got nothing to hide, so why bother lying to his defense team about it?
3) If he’s guilty, why would Jessie lie to the cops about the shoelaces?
If Jessie was remorseful and voluntarily confessed, why would he lie about the shoelaces, or anything else for that matter? Why “trick the police” and “get ‘em off track” in a supposedly voluntary confession. To what end? To…”get off”? If he wanted to confess, why try to “get off”? If he wanted to “get off”, why willingly confess in the first place? If somehow he inadvertently confessed and then wanted/tried to get himself out of trouble, why make up barefaced lies to “throw off” the cops rather than just, ya know, retract his earlier admission of guilt?
And why tell the cops what Kevin Johnson said about how the boys were cut up but not what he said about how they were tied up?
4) If he’s guilty, why would Jessie lie to Stidham, Wilkins and Ofshe about the shoelaces?
If Jessie admitted that “Kevin Johnson not only told me how the boys were cut up, he also told me how they were tied up, but I lied to the cops about the latter”, the first thing he’d be asked is “Why?” What would he say? He can’t tell Ofshe et al that he was trying to throw off the cops - that statement is reserved for his confessions. He can’t say he was telling the cops what they wanted to hear - because, ya know, he wasn’t. He’d have to make up some other bullshit. It’s simply easier on Jessie to deny knowing about the shoelaces, for it avoids the inevitable “why?” question. Guilty men falsely proclaiming their innocence don’t like “why” questions. The fewer whys the better. Am I right?
Kevin Johnson’s testimony about the shoelaces is the kind of detail you won’t find in West of Memphis or the Paradise Lost films. You’ll find it only through independent research. I bring it up not to draw from it any definitive conclusions about Lil J’s confession, but to offer an example of an interesting detail which adds complexity (and perplexity) to the case. Perhaps it doesn’t mean much from an overall perspective. But sometimes the minutia reveals secrets. ‘tis better to delve deep into an ocean of minutia and come up empty-handed than to prematurely pluck a false conclusion from surface details.
Remember, the devil is in the details - unless, of course, the WM3 are innocent, in which case “The Devil” is not in the details.