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New evidence is heaping even more doubt on the already dubious case against the West Memphis Three, the three teenage boys convicted of mutilating and killing three eight-year-old boys in 1994. Prosecutors offered no DNA evidence linking the boys to the murder, and the convictions—which resulted in two life sentences and one seat on death row—were based largely on a confession full of factual errors. Two HBO documentaries have made the case a cause celebre for railroaded justice.

Now defense attorneys have introduced actual physical evidence, which suggests that animals were responsible for the mutilations — and that at least one other person was present at the scene of the crime.

Through it all, prosecutors have stood by their case. The boys are just too appealing as suspects. They were outcasts, read Stephen King, and listened to heavy metal. Obvious proof of cult membership.

The case reminds me of the mind-blowing extent to which average Americans fear teenagers who listen to goth and metal. What is it? The Satanism? The potential of turning kids gay? Most of the metalheads I knew in high school were pretty dweeby. They were into poetry and philosophy and Star Wars. They weren’t exactly joiners, and they cultivated the whole depression thing. Some were cutters. (Actually, the worst cutter I knew was a Mormon girl who used to make out with a life-sized poster of Bon Jovi.) I didn’t know any who were even remotely violent. I did know a few jocks, though, who listened to nice, parent-friendly bands like the Eagles, who beat up my friends and not-gray-raped cheerleaders. The fact that some of the shooters in recent school tragedies listened to heavy metal — a point always noted as synonymous with violent tendencies — to me just underscores the fact that some high schools are highly intolerant places.

I almost thought this Web site was for real.