- CRITTER TALK
Big news in the West Memphis 3 case is expected in circuit court in Jonesboro Friday morning. Judge David Laser will hold a hearing—just announced today—on the West Memphis 3. Families of defendants and victims are expected to be in court, which presupposes more than just a routine hearing. The previous judge, David Burnett, is now a state senator.
As MMA contributor, Wendy Addams, reported in her New Trial for the West Memphis 3 “killers” Damien Echols in on death row for his alleged participation in the murders. Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. are serving life sentence. The three men were convicted in the 1993 of slaying of three West Memphis children. The trials were tarnished through spurious claims of the defendants’ practicing Satanism and what many feel was an inferior investigation.
All interested parties’ lawyers are under a gag order and only state to the press those interested in the case will want to be present. In an Arkansas Times blog, reporter Max Brantley began to make calls early this morning when a local attorney tipped him off about dramatic developments, which may involve the release of all defendants.
The surprise hearing for tomorrow, August 19th, for the West Memmphis 3 suggests a breaking development. Word among defense lawyers suggests the news is momentous. Until now, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office fought vigorously against new proceedings in support of their convictions. There is wide speculation about the outcome, which includes freeing the West Memphis 3.
All appeals were overturned until recent developments. The evidentiary to permit the DNA samples was scheduled for December 2011. There is much evidence that the DNA does not match any of the defendants’. This compelling evidence does not necessarily exonerate the West Memphis 3, but may provide proof that Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelly were uninvolved in the horrific crime.
In addition to the DNA evidence, there are allegations of jury misconduct. Kent Arnold, jury foreman on the Echols/Baldwin trial, discussed the case with an attorney prior to the beginning of deliberations and advocated for the guilt of the West Memphis 3. In documentary Paradise Lost 2 , Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin submitted imprints of their teeth after their imprisonment to compare apparent bite-marks on Steve Branch’s forehead. These marks were overlooked in the original autopsy and trial. No matches were found.
Judge David Burnett’s office released the following statement less than two hours ago:
The court will take up certain matters pertaining to the cases of defendants Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley on Friday, August 19. One session will be conducted out of public presence with all defendants present and another session will be conducted in open court. The session conducted in chambers will likely begin at 10 a.m., followed by a public session which will begin about 11 a.m. Space will be limited for the public session—first to the parties, counsel and court personnel, then to victims’ and defendants’ family members. The remaining seats will be occupied by media representatives and the public. There will be approximately 15 minutes between the chamber session and open session for media and public to be seated. Miss Stephanie Harris, Arkansas Supreme Court communication counsel, will be present on Friday to assist with implementation and will be the court’s intermediary with public and press.
The West Memphis 3 case has generated much support from the entertainment industry. Johnny Depp stated the young men were easy targets. Supporters also include Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines, Disturbed, Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith, and Ben Harpe.
UPDATE I: An Arkansas Correction Department spokesman confirms the three defendants left the prison’s Super Max unit today in the custody of Craighead County officers for the hearing. The spokesman says the inmates took all their possessions with them. It is the first time all three of the defendants had left the prison together since their incarceration.
New prosecutor, Scott Ellington will be in court tomorrow. He cannot comment on whether he still favors the conviction. He is under gag order.
UPDATE II: A Memphis TV station reported that sources confirm that an agreement with the West Mephis 3 may produce the release of at least two of the three. Sources at the Arkansas Times indicate the deal may cover all of the West Memphis 3. The state may support a motion for a new trial if the defendants pled to charges that qualify them for release in exchange for time served. If the defendants accept the plea, they can neither file for damages related to false imprisonment not participate in profits from books or movies about the case.
Finally, UPDATE III: Steven Branch, one of the victims’ father, told Memphis television stations he is not unhappy about the possibility of a deal. He views the deal as releasing the defendants in return for admission of guilt.
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