New trial for the West Memphis 3 “Killers”

The West Memphis 3 killed the cub scouts…

…or are the West Memphis 3 innocent?

Sunday, July 10th, marked the thirty-sixth birthday of Jessie Lloyd Misskelley, Jr. , who spent half his life in prison for as one of the alleged West Memphis 3 murderers. The advocates, believe he and his co-defendants, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols—now known collectively as the West Memphis 3—are innocent of the triple based on DNA evidence.

West Memphis 3 teens charged with murder

On May 6, 1993, news rocked West Memphis of the discovery of the mutilated bodies of 3 eight-year-old boys. Soon, word spread that boys were stabbed and raped. One boy’s genitals were severed from his body. Many of these rumors were based on inaccurate police assumptions. At noon the following day, police questioned their first suspect, Damien Echols. Several weeks later Jessie Misskelley, confessed to the murders, implicating his friends Echols and, Jason Baldwin. Following a confession by Misskelley, the West Memphis, the 3 teenagers were arrested and charged with the murders of James M. Moore, Steven E. Branch and Christopher M. Byers. They became known as the West Memphis killers.

The West Memphis citizens, relieved that the alleged monsters were apprehended, believed justice would be served. The rumors were augmented by “common knowledge” that West Memphis  3 committed this crime because they participated in a Satanic ritual. Details of their exploits were well known, but Memphis police gathered no viable evidence. The case was tried in local community papers, which fed the community’s blood-lust, with stories of Satanic abominations appearing on a regular basis.

On January 19, 1994, Wednesday 19 January 1994, Jessie Misskelley was tried. Two weeks later, the court found him guilty on one count of first degree capital murder and two counts of second degree capital murder. He was 17-years old when he was sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole.

The trial of Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were sentenced to three counts of capital murder. The court sentenced Jason, 16, to life imprisonment. Damien Echols was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Damien Echols claims he was found guilty by the press long before the trial began. The West Memphis community considered him “weird” because he practiced the Wicca religion and listened Satanic groups such as Metallica. Jason believes his confession was coerced: that he had told police whatever they had wanted so that they would let him go.

On July 18, 2011, 18 years after the original sentence of the West Memphis 3 an Arkansas police officer stated that new DNA refutes Damien Echols’, Jason Baldwin’s, and Jessie Misskelley’s guilt.

Captain Peck, co-founder of Arkansas Take Action, a civic group working to free the West Memphis  found evidence to the contrary. Peck stated This newly discovered DNA evidence that excludes Damien, Jason and Jessie, combined with all other evidence of their innocence, will hopefully lead to a new trial. A DNA status report was filed on Monday, July 25, in Craighead County Circuit Court in Jonesboro, Arkansas, linking the murders to two unidentified men. And additional hair was linked to a third, unidentified person.

Defense attorneys requested and received the following evidence collected at the scene:

  • All hair retrieved from the crime scene.
  • All remaining biological material, including “skin cuticles” from the ligatures.
  • All of the victims’ clothing, including shoes and shoelaces.
  • The non-ligature portion of the one black shoelace that was apparently cut in half.
  • All other physical evidence from the crime scene, including sheriff’s badge, bike reflector lights, bicycles, ice pick, cigarette packets and cigarette butts, child’s wallet, hook and rope, and all wooden sticks.
  • The wooden planks removed from the tree fort near the crime scene.
  • The white sheets in which the victims’ bodies were transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office, and the white paper on which the victims’ clothing was dried before being examined.

In July 2007, this new forensic evidence was presented in the case, including evidence that none of the DNA collected at the crime scene matched the defendants, but did match Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of one of the victims, as well as a friend of Hobbs’, with whom he had been with on the day of the murders. The State and the Defense team stated on July 17, 2007 that: Although most of the genetic material recovered from the scene was attributable to the victims of the offenses, some of it cannot be attributed to either the victims or the defendants.

Lonnie Soury with Arkansas Take Action stated, I’ve been following that case for 17 years. I cut out all the articles I see and I know those boys didn’t do it.. He noted the DNA evidence is further proof that they were not at the crime scene, nor were they involved in the murders.”

The Arkansas Supreme Court, in what legal experts said was a rare move, unanimously ordered a new evidentiary hearing in the case last November. The judge reversed the 1993 order and remanded all three defendants to determine whether new trials should be ordered. The Arkansas Attorney General said in June 2011 he won’t fight evidence of Juror Misconduct in the West Memphis 3 case.

Questions regarding the guilt or innocence of the West Memphis 3 continues to generate celebrity activism. Last summer, Patti Smith, Johnny Depp, Black Flag, and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder appeared at a benefit for the West Memphis 3 in Little Rock.

Craighead County Court Judge David N. Laser, who was not the original trial judge, banned cameras in the courtroom. There is an online petition drive to allow cameras. We would certainly support any effort to have cameras in the courtroom and the hearing being available to the public, Soury said. This trial needs to be as transparent as possible.

We want to know what you think about the latest news for the West Memphis 3. Are they innocent or guilty?

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Posted by on July 29, 2011. Filed under Commentary,Crime,News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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9 Responses to New trial for the West Memphis 3 “Killers”

  1. Holte Ender

    July 29, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Welcome to MMA Wendy Addams.

    An interesting and provocative first post, I don’t know if they are innocent or not, but after nearly 20 years, and the doubt that is continuing to mount, it makes one think.

  2. Williewill

    July 29, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    These people have suffered at the hands of American justice for years, for goodness sake lets put the full force of the courts behind them and serve them right.

  3. Vicky S. Kingsley

    July 29, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I think at this point the evidence is so overwhelming, it would be impossible to find them anything but innocent. It disgusts me that things like this can still happen in America. Innocent until “PROVEN” guilty anyone?

  4. rightrobert

    July 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    For goodness sake how many trials do you want until you get the verdict you desire. Trust American justice and move on.

  5. Bradley scott

    July 30, 2011 at 12:07 am

    The American justice system precludes a guilty verdict in the presence of ‘reasonable doubt.’ None of the defendants DNA present in evidence, yet DNA matching others with whom the victims were associated is not only reasonable doubt, and grounds for appeal, another right guaranteed by American justice, but overturning of a verdict that is insupportable by factual evidence. Your ‘guilty because the State says so,’ without provision for the State to wrong sounds more like Chinese justice. Why don’t you move there? They’ve been prosectuting and executing the innocent for years, AND now they have Wal-Mart! You should feel right at home. Yeah, yeah, I know. Get off your lawn!

  6. lazersedge

    July 30, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    I started following this case when it first happened. I did not think these boys did it then and I still don’t think they did. They were tried not on the basis of evidence but on the basis of pretrial publicity and fear mongering by the state. It is one of those “dare to be different and we will kill you for it in Arkansas” things.

  7. Dorothy Anderson

    July 30, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    For goodness sake, how can you trust American “justice” if new evidence is presented to the courts that wasn’t available 20 years ago?

    In America, new evidence means new trial. You may be Right by you’re not right. I suggest a remedial political science class. You desperately need one.

  8. Morgan Sheridan

    July 31, 2011 at 11:59 am

    The older I get, the more I see how unbalanced and corrupt the American justice system is. We’ve all heard the waggish comment, “It’s the best justice money can buy!” and it becomes truer every day.

    Sensational murders (and/or other sensational crimes) bring out the ‘villagers with their torches and pitchforks’ clamoring “get the monsters”, the district attorneys pander to public by making promises of swift justice/retribution and bring to trial any suspect(s) the police put before them. The police (who often work against incredible odds) unfortunately often settle on a suspect or set of suspects and sadly many use questionable and even deceiving tactic to force implicating statements or confessions. These are behaviors that all derive from the “gotta pin it on someone” mentality instead of a culture that truly presumes innocent until proven guilty.

    When I read about exonerated death row inmates, one typical pattern that repeats itself again and again is that in the rush to judgement, evidence of different perpetrators has existed, and that there is a pattern of that evidence being overlooked, not followed up on, or dismissed because of the irrational *belief* that the police ‘got their guy(s)’. Beliefs are not factual knowledge – beliefs are based on emotional feelings including dislikes and prejudices and they seldom have any rational foundation.

    I don’t see things improving anytime soon.. and think they will worsen severely as the Tea Party secures their political stranglehold throughout the country at the state and federal levels.

  9. Sandra Powell

    July 31, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I hope this will be televised with the high profile acquittal of Casey Anthony people should see th@ the justice system can be wrong but, can be corrected This has been a tragedy on many levels there has been no justice 4 any involved. I hope people will contact TRU tv & CNN,HLN 2 cover this. May some sort of justice be served here