Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

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Normal Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by NiteSpinR on Sat Oct 02, 2010 2:18 am

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September 30, 2010 1:55 p.m.

(CNN) -- A death row inmate who says he did not commit the murders he was convicted of asked the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday to grant him a new trial.

Damien Echols maintains his innocence 16 years after he and two other teens were convicted of murdering three Cub Scouts -- Michael Moore, Christopher Byers and Steven Branch.
The court, which heard his request for a new trial Thursday morning, is likely to rule in two or three weeks, court representative Stephanie Harris said.

Echols spoke to CNN from death row recently about the new evidence that he says will prove his innocence.

"I miss the things that most people take for granted, things people don't want, like rain," Echols told CNN in a face-to-face interview.

"To go out and touch it and get wet, or to feel snow. I loved snow my entire life, and I haven't had that in almost 20 years now."

On May 6, 1993, police in the rural community of West Memphis, Arkansas, found the bodies of the young boys, bruised and mutilated, their arms and legs hogtied with their own shoelaces.

Echols, along with 16-year-old Jason Baldwin and 17-year-old Jessie Misskelley, were found guilty a year later. Echols received a death sentence, while Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison. The three teens became known as the West Memphis 3.

His lawyers want to present DNA evidence not available at the time of the trial, as well as testimony that supports arguments that Echols and the two others did not commit the crime.

Meanwhile, no execution date is set for Echols.

"We are asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to right a terrible wrong, overturn their convictions and grant Damien as well as Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley a new trial," said Dennis Riordan, the lead attorney on the case.

The West Memphis 3 have gained advocates, including unexpected support from some of the parents of the victims. Last year, Pamela Hobbs, mother of victim Steven Branch, told CNN that she was once convinced of their guilt. Then she began to consider the DNA evidence. She now says she believes the prosecution's case was flawed.

Capi Peck formed Arkansas Take Action, a Little Rock-based group trying to raise awareness about the West Memphis 3. In the past few weeks, the group has brought in celebrities such as Eddie Vedder of the rock group Pearl Jam and actor Johnny Depp to a public rally.

Echols says police questioned him a day after the bodies of the second-graders were found in the woods, near where they used to hunt turtles. A month later, the teens were arrested.

Prosecutors successfully argued the defendants were involved in a satanic cult. They said that punctures and cuts on the boys' bodies indicated a ritual sacrifice.

In addition, prosecutors secured a confession from Misskelley, although his defense attorneys argued that he had a learning disability and an IQ of 70.

They also claimed that it was not only riddled with inconsistencies but was coerced.

Neither his parents nor his attorney was present when he was questioned. His confession came during the last hour of a 12-hour police interrogation.

His attorneys tried to convince the Arkansas Supreme Court that new evidence not available during the trial exonerates Echols.

DNA testing indicated that a hair found on the shoelace used to tie up one of the victims is consistent with a hair from Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of victim Steven Branch, Echols' lawyers said.

Police have never considered Hobbs a suspect and Hobbs maintains that he had nothing to do with the murders.

Asked whether he killed the boys, Echols responded, "To constantly have to answer that question and to constantly have people asking you that question is like being kicked in the stomach over and over again."



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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by raine1953 on Sat Oct 02, 2010 1:16 pm

I think they all should have a new trial, from what I've read, I don't think they did this.
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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by Guest on Wed Oct 27, 2010 7:01 pm

raine1953 wrote:I think they all should have a new trial, from what I've read, I don't think they did this.
I agree totally
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Normal Still No Decision in Echols Appeal

Post by NiteSpinR on Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:16 am

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This article was published October 28, 2010 at 9:04 a.m.





LITTLE ROCK — Four weeks after hearing arguments in an appeal for a new trial from a man convicted of the grisly murders of three West Memphis children, the Arkansas Supreme Court has still not issued a decision.

A ruling on the appeal of Damien Echols was not among those offered Thursday morning. The court generally releases its decisions at 9 a.m. each Thursday.

An attorney for Damien Echols argued before the court last month that DNA evidence tested since his conviction justified a new trial since none of it linked him to the crimes. His defense team also challenged statements purportedly made by a jury foreman that may have biased the other jurors.

Echols, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, was convicted of the 1993 slayings of three 8-year-old boys who were found dead and hog-tied in a ditch off Interstate 40 in West Memphis. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison and are also seeking new trials.

There is no set timetable for a decision after the justices hear oral arguments, but court officials say it often takes two to three weeks.


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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by Wrapitup on Fri Oct 29, 2010 2:44 am

Interesting comment on the above link:

littlerockdjw says...

One month later and still no decision. This could be interpreted either way. As one who has spent the last month educating myself on the details of this case, I think there are FAR too many questionable areas of the investigation and trial. Not to mention a CLEAR bias of Judge Burnett toward the prosectuion. For example, details of an almost certain incidence of juror misconduct by the man elected forman of the jury (and bent on returning a guilty verdict) have just recently come to light. This information has been kept sealed (by the Judge) since the original trials in 1994. Echols deserves at the very least to have a new hearing scheduled to consider this and other new DNA evidence.

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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by raine1953 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 7:08 pm

WEST MEMPHIS 3
Two Men will 'Admit Guilt' In Exchange for Freedom

Two members of the West Memphis 3 will be released from an Arkansas prison after "admitting guilt" in the deaths of 3 Boy Scouts back in 1993 ... this according to local reports.

The WM3 -- comprised of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin -- were each sentenced to life in prison for the killings of Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers -- whose mutilated bodies were found in a wooded area in West Memphis, Arkansas in May 1993.

For years, Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin have claimed they were 100% innocent of any crime -- and their plight caught the attention of HUGE Hollywood stars like Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder ... who rallied for their release from prison.

There have been several documentaries made about the case ... most of which suggest the men may not have committed the murders.

But now, according to WREG-TV, two of the men -- one of whom is reported to be Echols -- have apparently changed their tune in exchange for their release from prison ... though it's unclear when the men will be released.

It's also unclear WHY the men would be released if they're confessing to such a heinous crime.


2:52 PM: TMZ spoke with a rep for John Mark Byers -- a step-father of one of the victims who was also portrayed as a suspect in the documentary, "Paradise Lost."

The rep tells us John will "definitely" be in court tomorrow -- but calls the situation a "double-edged sword" because "even though they should never have been arrested, a murderer is getting the last laugh."
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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by raine1953 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 7:12 pm

This is big news! I bet the two men who will *admit* guilt reached some type of deal and as awful as the word *guilty* is, I won't blame them if that was their only out, they've been locked up so darn long!
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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by Wrapitup on Fri Aug 19, 2011 3:00 am

Interesting comments from Pat Brown, Criminal Profiler, on her FB.

Pat Brown
‎"I'm thinking about what kind of sad day this is for the justice system that's going to allow some convicted child murderers to be set free simply by admitting they killed the child," Branch said. "If the justice system allows this, it's going to open the door for every convicted murderer on death row to have a chance to say 'yes, I killed him' and be set free," he added.
4 hours ago · Like ·
12 people like this.



Pat Brown
‎"Branch says despite high-profile debates over whether the West Memphis 3 are really guilty, he says the jury convicted the right people.".
4 hours ago via Twitter · Like · · @ProfilerPatB on Twitter
4 people like this.


Gina Quiroz Bullard And not sure if it will be covered nationally,but I'm sure it will be here on my local channels.
2 hours ago · Like

Kellie Gay Thomas Can't wait to see the outcome of this case...something about Echols is just creepy to me, sinister-like.
52 minutes ago · Like


Pat Brown
I will believe the #WM3 are innocent when they run this new DNA through CODIS and it matches a felon who was in Arkansas in 93.

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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by raine1953 on Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:40 am

WEST MEMPHIS 3 CASE, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines
Arrive at Court for Support

All three members of the West Memphis 3 arrived at the Craighead County Courthouse in Arkansas moments ago ... where at least TWO of the men are expected to be granted their release from prison.

Two huge celebrities have also arrived at the courthouse to support the men ... Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder.

The WM3 -- comprised of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin -- were found guilty of killing 3 boy scouts in 1993. Misskelley and Baldwin were sentenced to life in prison. Echols was sentenced to death.

The case became a cause célèbre over the years after new evidence surfaced ... raising serious doubts as to whether the WM3 actually killed the three young boys.

The WM3 had maintained their innocence for years ... but according to local reports, two of the men are expected to "admit guilt" during today's hearing in exchange for their freedom.
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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by Wrapitup on Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:48 am

I have to wonder as Pat Brown stated, are they NOW pleading guilty to get out of jail? Makes no sense. You plead not guilty and you are in jail. You plead guilty and you are released. WTF

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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by raine1953 on Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:54 am

I agree, it's strange. I'm waiting to see what we find out from the judicial system on this.
I don't remember the name but one of those poor boy's step dad, it was starting to look like he may have been responsible for the murders. JMOO.


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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by raine1953 on Fri Aug 19, 2011 1:28 pm

Three men convicted in the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, were ordered released after entering new pleas at a court hearing.

Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 18 years in prison with credit for time served, a prosecutor said. They were to be released on Friday.

Critics of the prosecution argued no direct evidence tied the three to the murders and that a knife recovered from a lake near the home of one of the accused could not have caused the boys' wounds. More recent DNA testing also demonstrated no links, according the men's supporters.
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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by raine1953 on Fri Aug 19, 2011 1:33 pm

Well, I don't get it. It sound like the prosecutors *had*
to let them go, but where did the order or pressure come from?
And...... if their DNA did not link them to the murders then why plead guilty in order to be released from prison?




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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by Wrapitup on Fri Aug 19, 2011 2:04 pm


'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years
By the CNN Wire Staff
August 19, 2011 2:46 p.m. EDT

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
NEW: The "West Memphis 3" go free after entering new pleas in 1993 murder
NEW: The pleas will not take away the pain of the case, but are the best course, judge says
The men, who say they are innocent, were sentenced to time served
They were convicted of killing three West Memphis second-graders in 1993
Tune in to a CNN Presents special presentation: "Presumed Guilty: Murder in West Memphis" at 11 p.m. ET on CNN for more on the West Memphis Three and the evidence that set them free.

Jonesboro, Arkansas (CNN) -- Three men who served 18 years in prison for a 1993 triple-slaying in West Memphis, Arkansas, walked free Friday to cheers from a supportive crowd after entering new pleas in the case.

"I want to be out. I deserve to be out," said Jason Baldwin, who along with Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr., was freed after entering rarely used pleas in which they maintained their innocence but acknowledged that prosecutors have evidence to convict them.

Echols and Baldwin entered what is known as an Alford plea on three counts of first degree murder. Misskelley entered similar pleas to one count of first degree murder and two counts of second degree murder.

Craighead County Circuit Judge David Laser sentenced the three to the 18 years already served and imposed a 10-year suspended sentence -- meaning they could be returned to jail if they violate the law.

"I don't think that it will make the pain go away to the victim families. I don't think it will make the pain go away to the defendant families," Laser said, adding it was nevertheless the best for all involved.

Echols was previously sentenced to death and Misskelley and Baldwin were given life sentences in the May 1993 slayings of second-graders Steven Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore.
The boys' bodies were mutilated and left in a ditch, hogtied with their own shoelaces. Prosecutors argued that the men who were convicted, teenagers at the time, were driven by satanic ritual and that Echols had been the ringleader.

Critics of the case against the men argued that no direct evidence tied the three to the murders and that a knife recovered from a lake near the home of one of the men could not have caused the boys' wounds. More recent DNA testing also demonstrated no links, according the men's supporters.
Echols said after his release that he was "very much in shock, very overwhelmed."

"I'm just completely and absolutely exhausted," he said.

Baldwin said he didn't initially want to accept the deal.

"This was not justice," he said, adding that he dropped his opposition to pave the way for Echols' release from death row.

"He had it so much worse than I had it," Baldwin said of Echols. "It's just insufferable to put a person through that."

While Ellington said the pleas entered Friday validate the decision of jurors who sent the men to prison, it also spares Arkansas the possibility of a retrial, which would have been difficult to prosecute after so many years, or a potential civil lawsuit by the men. The trio had been on course to win the right to new trials later this year.

"This is an appropriate resolution to this case at this time," Ellington told reporters. "Only time will tell as to whether this was a right decision on my part."

Although supporters of the men, dubbed the West Memphis 3, believe the true killer remains free, Ellington said he believes the pleas resolve the case.

"I have no reason to believe there was anyone else involved in the homicide of these three children but the three defendants who pled guilty today," he said. But he said the state could file charges against others if new evidence emerges implicating someone else in the case.
Echols said in a news conference after his release Friday that he will continue to work to clear his name.
The case has drawn national attention, with actor Johnny Depp and singers Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines trying to rally support for the men's release. Vedder and Maines were at the courthouse on Friday.
John Mark Byers, whose son Christopher Byers was one of the three victims, said he believes the three men are innocent and releasing them without exonerating them of the crime is an outrage.
"They're innocent. They did not kill my son," Byers said before the hearing.

The father of another of the victims, Steven Branch, also blasted the decision, but for another reason.

"I don't know what kind of deal they worked up," Steve Branch told CNN affiliate WMC-TV before the hearing. "Now you can get some movie stars and a little bit of money behind you and you can walk free for killing somebody."

But Jessie Misskelley Sr. said he was happy that his son would be getting out of prison.
"I thought it might be some kind of publicity stunt. I can't believe it but it's real," he told WMC.
The three men were seeking a retrial in the case, and a hearing had been scheduled for a new trial. The state Supreme Court ruled in November that the three could present new evidence to the trial court after DNA testing between 2005 and 2007 failed to link them to the crime.

The material included hair from a ligature used to bind Moore and a hair recovered from a tree stump near where the bodies were found, Arkansas Supreme Court documents said.

The hair found in the ligature was consistent with Branch's stepfather, Terry Hobbs, while the hair found on the tree stump was consistent with the DNA of a friend of Hobbs, according to the documents.

Police have never considered Hobbs a suspect, and he maintains that he had nothing to do with the murders.

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Normal 3 plead guilty in Arkansas murders to win freedom

Post by Wrapitup on Fri Aug 19, 2011 2:31 pm

By JEANNIE NUSS - Associated Press | AP – 1 hr 33 mins ago

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Three men convicted of killing three 8-year-old Cub Scouts and dumping their bodies in an Arkansas ditch were freed from nearly two decades in prison Friday, after they agreed to plead guilty to secure the release of one of them from death row.
Under the plea bargain, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were being freed immediately. The boys' families were notified about the pact ahead of time but were not asked to approve it.
The defendants, known by their supporters as the West Memphis 3, agreed to a legal maneuver that lets them maintain their innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence against them.
"I am innocent of these charges but I am entering an Alford guilty plea," Echols told the judge. Baldwin and Miskelley also reasserted their innocence.
"Although I am innocent, this plea is in my best interest," Misskelley said.
The three were credited with time served, and Echols is being freed from Arkansas' death row. They were placed on 10 years' probation and if they re-offend they could be sent back to prison for 21 years, Prosecutor Scott Ellington said.
"I believe that it would be practically impossible after 18 years to put on a proper trial in this case," Ellington said.
"I believe this case is closed and there are no other individuals involved," he said.
Baldwin and Echols each pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. Misskelley pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. The Alford plea allows the men to maintain their claims of innocence.
After the hearings, Baldwin told reporters that he had been reluctant to plead guilty to crimes he maintains he didn't commit, but that they agreed to the deal because they had to get Echols off death row.
"That's not justice, however you look at it," he said.
Echols thanked Baldwin and called his release "overwhelming."
"It's not perfect," he said of the deal. "It's not perfect by any means. But it at least brings closure to some areas and some aspects."
He said the West Memphis Three would continue to work to clear their names.
Echols' wife, Lorri, sat in the front row of a crowded courtroom, next to Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who became a key supporter of the men after watching a pair of HBO documentaries about the case. Vedder put his arm around her during the proceedings.
The three defendants were expected later Friday at a news conference in the courtroom basement.
Circuit Judge David Laser acknowledged the case was complex, and that both the victims' families and the supporters of the three men convicted had suffered. He said he thought Friday's deal would serve justice "the best we can."
"I don't think it will make the pain go away," Laser said during the court proceedings.
One person yelled "Baby killers" as the three left the courtroom.
The May 5, 1993, killings were particularly gruesome. Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore were found nude, and hogtied, and rumors of Satanism roiled the community in the weeks following their deaths. Branch and Moore drowned in about 2 feet of water; Byers bled to death and his genitals were mutilated and partially removed.
Police had few leads until receiving a tip that Echols had been seen mud-covered the night the boys disappeared. The big break came when Misskelley unexpectedly confessed and implicated Baldwin and Echols in the killings.
"Then they tied them up, tied their hands up," Misskelley said in the statement to police, parts of which were tape-recorded. After describing sodomizing and other violence, he went on: "And I saw it and turned around and looked, and then I took off running. I went home, then they called me and asked me, 'How come I didn't stay? I told them, I just couldn't.'"
Misskelley later recanted, and defense lawyers said the then-17-year-old got several parts of the story incorrect. An autopsy said there was no definite evidence of sexual assault. Miskelley had said the older boys abducted the Scouts in the morning, when they had actually been in school all day.
Misskelley was tried separately, convicted of first- and second-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years. He refused to testify against the others and his confession was not admitted into evidence.
Defense lawyers for Echols and Baldwin alleged juror misconduct, saying they heard about the Misskelley confession anyway. Attorneys also said there wasn't enough physical evidence linking the three to the crime scene.
The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld Echols' conviction and death sentence in 1996, saying there was still enough other evidence to sustain it.
A 1996 HBO documentary, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills," drew the attention of celebrities including Vedder and Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks. They and other celebrities helped fund a legal team that worked to win the three a new trial.
"Why are they innocent?" Vedder said in an interview with The Associated Press last year. "Because there's nothing that says they're guilty."
Last fall, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a new hearing for the three and asked a judge to consider allegations of juror misconduct and whether new DNA science could aid the men or uphold the convictions.
In upholding Echols' conviction in 1996, the state Supreme Court noted that two people testified Echols bragged about the killings, an eyewitness put Echols at the scene, fibers similar to the boys' clothing were found in Echols' home, a knife was found in a pond behind Baldwin's home, Echols' interest in the occult and his telling police that he understood the boys had been mutilated before officers had released such details.

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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by raine1953 on Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:56 pm

West Memphis 3: The cost of freedom


In their first television interviews since being freed from prison, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin talk exclusively with "48 Hours Mystery" Erin Moriarty. Watch "West Memphis 3: Free" Saturday, Sept,. 17 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

This is what justice in Arkansas looks like: On Aug. 19, 2011, Judge David Laser in Craighead County released three men who had spent the last 18 years in prison, one of them on death row. But as part of an unusual plea agreement, the three men -- Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley -- who insist they are innocent, had to first plead guilty to three counts of murder.

It struck more than a few observers in the packed courtroom that morning that the surreal spectacle had very little to do with justice. As one of the newly freed men, Jason Baldwin, later described it, "When we told prosecutors we were innocent, they put us in prison for life. Now when we plead guilty, they set us free!"

The county prosecuting attorney Scott Ellington's actions didn't help clear up matters either. He said publicly that he still believed these men were guilty of one of the most heinous crimes in the state's history: the brutal murder of three 8-year-old boys in 1993. And yet, he made them all sign a waiver promising not to sue the state.

The cases of the three men, known as the West Memphis 3, have long been the subject of passionate debate in the legal community. The prosecution of these men, teenagers when the crime occurred, was driven by a rush to comfort a community overwhelmed by fear and grief.

On May 5, 1993, three 8-year-old Cub Scouts -- Michael Moore, Christopher Byers and Stevie Branch -- went missing and were later found murdered, mutilated and submerged in a watery ditch. To local investigators, it seemed the work of a satanic cult and when a local juvenile officer suggested the name of Damien Echols, theory soon became fact. Echols, a local 18-year-old boy, was bright but troubled. Various problems with authorities led to a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital. Investigators were led to interrogate Jessie Misskelley, an acquaintance of Echols who reportedly has an IQ of 72. Misskelley, questioned by police for 12 hours, gave them statements that not only implicated himself, but also Echols and close friend of Echols, Jason Baldwin.

Misskelley -- who later recanted his confession -- was tried first and convicted of three counts of murder. He refused to testify against Echols or Baldwin so his confession was barred from use at their joint trial. Still, according to one juror's notes recovered long after the trial, the jury foreman added Misskelley's statement to deliberations. The jury convicted both Baldwin and Echols. Baldwin, like Misskelley, got life in prison; Damien Echols was sent to death row.

They might still be there today if not for a film crew that happened to be covering the case in 1994. The resulting documentary, "Paradise Lost," aired on HBO, highlighting the flaws in the case and trials. Since then, new witnesses and DNA tests of evidence at the crime scene have, not only supported the innocence of all three men, but have pointed to other people who were not investigated when the murders occurred. More important, the crucial theory of the case was, in large part, debunked by leading medical experts. The mutilation of the bodies of the boys, believed by investigators to be caused by knives as part of a ritual, was more likely to be the result of animal predation that occurred after the children were killed.

Despite the growing sense that the wrong men were in prison, their numerous appeals were continually denied by the Arkansas State courts, until last November. An appeal filed by Damien Echols convinced the state Supreme Court to order an evidentiary hearing on all the evidence in the case, new and old.

Most legal experts agree that the evidentiary hearing, scheduled for December of this year, would likely lead to a new trial for all three men. And that put the State of Arkansas in a tough situation. What if new juries acquitted the West Memphis 3? Faced with the very real possibility of new, expensive and embarrassing trials, state officials were willing to make a deal and Echols' attorneys came up with one: an Alford Plea.

An Alford plea, a rare legal maneuver, has been in existence since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on it in 1970, but few defense attorneys want it and few prosecutors will allow it. It's a compromise, pure and simple. Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley would be allowed to continue to insist they were innocent, but they had to plead guilty. In return, they were given freedom and the State got its convictions. There would be no new trials. The deal almost fell through. Jason Baldwin, who wanted to be exonerated in a new trial, had to be convinced. In the end, he changed his mind to get his friend Damien Echols off death row.

And so in a bizarre hearing on that August day in Jonesboro, Ark., the three men went in front of a judge, and after announcing their innocence loudly, they went ahead and took a guilty plea. They are now free men, but may face limitations: in some states, they can't vote and could encounter prejudice down the road.

And what about the families of the little boys killed on that May day more than 18 years ago? Will they ever know what happened to their children? The state has its convictions; there is no incentive to re-open the investigation. DNA from the crime scene may someday yield new answers and new arrests, but until that happens...this is justice in Arkansas: a political compromise that saves money and face, but leaves everyone wanting something more.
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Damien Echols, left, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., center, and Jason Baldwin sit at a table before a news conference at the Craighead County Court House in Jonesboro, Ark., Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, after the three were released after pleading guilty to the 1993 deaths of three West Memphis, Ark., children. (Credit: AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
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Normal Re: Breaking News:Damien Echols, One of the West Memphis 3, Maintains His Innocence 16 Years After He and Two Other Teens Were Convicted of Murder/'West Memphis 3' freed in child killings after 18 years

Post by Wrapitup on Sat Sep 17, 2011 10:42 pm

And what about the families of the little boys killed on that May day more than 18 years ago? Will they ever know what happened to their children? The state has its convictions; there is no incentive to re-open the investigation. DNA from the crime scene may someday yield new answers and new arrests, but until that happens...this is justice in Arkansas: a political compromise that saves money and face, but leaves everyone wanting something more.
Says it all!!

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