Mara Leveritt, recipient of several prestigious writers awards, will be the featured speaker at Old Independence Regional Museum’s Annual Meeting on Sunday, September 14, at 2 p.m. She is a contributing editor to the Arkansas Times and past Arkansas Journalist of the Year. Leveritt has reported for almost three decades on police, courts and prisons, besides being the author of three non-fiction books.

 In 2013, she was inducted into the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame. Last year the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, her alma mater, awarded her an honorary doctorate of human letters, and she was named winner of Arkansas’ prestigious Porter Prize.

Leveritt is the author of The Boys on the Tracks, published by St. Martin’s Press in 1998, about murder and prosecutorial corruption in Arkansas. Her 2002 book Devil’s Knot is about the deeply problematic trials of the teenagers who became known as the West Memphis Three. A feature film based on this book was released in 2014, starring Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, and Stephen Moyer. These two of her books were awarded Arkansas’s prestigious Booker Worthen Prize.

Museum board president, Mary Ann Marshall said, “I first knew of Leveritt’s work when I read her “Boys on the Tracks” about a case in Saline County, but I really began to appreciate her work when I read “Devil’s Knot” about the West Memphis Three.  She appeared in several documentaries about the case.  I understand that in Justice Knot she will include perspectives on the Alford plea that freed the West Memphis Three in 2012.”

Another of Leveritt’s books, titled Dark Spell, was published this year by Bird Call Press, and is about Jason Baldwin’s post-conviction ordeal. In 2012, the Laman Library awarded Leveritt a fellowship to continue work on Justice Knot, the last book in her trilogy about the West Memphis case, and the Southeast Region of the American Board of Trial Advocates named her its Journalist of the Year.

In 2011, Leveritt sued the Arkansas Supreme Court over its policy of threatening to prosecute persons who reported complaints against attorneys if they publicly disclosed their complaints. Her federal civil rights lawsuit contended that this restraint violated the nation’s First Amendment. The lawsuit was settled a year later when the court agreed to end the practice.

Barrett Moore, a local attorney and museum board member stated, “I’m excited to have this well-known author at the Museum.  Ms. Leveritt’s work on the West Memphis 3 story led to numerous legal challenges, debates about our justice system, and even a widely released Hollywood movie.  Our system is designed to prevent imprisonment of the innocent.  Yet wrongfully convicted persons are released every year around the United States.  This should be a great, relevant presentation.”

Museum director Amelia Bowman added, “This program should be interesting to those who have an interest in the law, the justice system, the West Memphis case, and those who want to write for publication.”

The museum’s Annual Meeting and program will begin with its election of board members and officers, plus a brief report. After the Leveritt program, the museum will celebrate its 16th year of existence with refreshments for all who are present.

The program will be free and open to the public.  Normal museum hours are: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sundays.  Admission is $3.00 for adults, $2.00 for seniors and $1.00 for children.  The museum is located at 380 South 9th street, between Boswell and Vine Streets in Batesville.

Old Independence is a regional museum serving a 12-county area: Baxter, Cleburne, Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Marion, Poinsett, Sharp, Stone, White, and Woodruff.  Parts of these present-day counties comprised the original Independence County in 1820’s Arkansas territory.

Be sure and mark your calendars ahead of time to attend the Museum’s special program with Mara Leveritt, who presents an inside look at the notorious West Memphis 3 case. See you there!  Ginger