Posts Tagged ‘arkansas

11
Sep
08

No New Trial For The West Memphis Three

I’ve been following this case for quite a few years now, ever since NME first mentioned it.  Then when Paradise Lost Parts 1 and 2 were released, my interest in the case was invigorated again.

There’s no point in me trying to outline the case when you can find all of the information here , the website is full of interesting and thought provoking notes from the cases – although it obviously supports the case for the release of Damien, Jesse and Jason – it allows you to make up your own mind.

But for a quick resume of the situation – here’s the brief outline from the website:

Shortly after three eight-year-old boys were found mutilated and murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas, local newspapers stated the killers had been caught. The police assured the public that the three teenagers in custody were definitely responsible for these horrible crimes. Evidence?

The same police officers coerced an error-filled “confession” from Jessie Misskelley Jr., who is mentally handicapped. They subjected him to 12 hours of questioning without counsel or parental consent, audio-taping only two fragments totaling 46 minutes. Jessie recanted it that evening, but it was too late— Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were all arrested on June 3, 1993, and convicted of murder in early 1994.

Although there was no physical evidence, murder weapon, motive, or connection to the victims, the prosecution pathetically resorted to presenting black hair and clothing, heavy metal t-shirts, and Stephen King novels as proof that the boys were sacrificed in a satanic cult ritual. Unfathomably, Echols was sentenced to death, Baldwin received life without parole, and Misskelley got life plus 40.

For over 14 years, The West Memphis Three have been imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. Echols waits in solitary confinement for the lethal injection our tax dollars will pay for. They were all condemned by their poverty, incompetent defense, satanic panic and a rush to judgment.

Today, I was saddened, but not surprised to hear that Judge Burnett has denied a request for a retrial.

Damien is about the same age as me.  He’s been in jail, on death row since I left sixth form.  When I think about my life, what I’ve done, what I’ve experienced, and then I think of him, and Jason and Jesse, and I wonder how they’ve managed to stay sane.  Knowing that they are innocent of these awful crimes, yet having to live the majority of their lives in prison.

Here’s the message that was posted on the WM3 email list:

By Jill Zeman
Associated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK (WHBQ FOX13 myfoxmemphis.com) –A circuit court judge Wednesday rejected claims that new DNA evidence proves the innocence of three men convicted of killing three boys 15 years ago, and denied their requests for a new trial.

Circuit Court Judge David Burnett issued a 10-page order Wednesday denying requests for a new trial. Lawyers for Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley — known by supporters as the “West Memphis Three” — had requested a new trial, arguing that new DNA evidence clears their clients.

Both Baldwin and Misskelley claim their lawyers failed to adequately represent them during their separate trials. Their lawyers also say DNA evidence provided by Echols’ defense team shows the men did not kill Steven Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore.

“The court finds that (Echols’s) DNA-testing results are inconclusive because they do not raise a reasonable probability that he did not commit the offenses; that is, they are inconclusive as to his claim of actual innocence,” Burnett wrote in the order.

In his appeal, Echols argued that newly analyzed DNA found no trace of him, Misskelley or Baldwin at the crime scene. But Burnett said he agreed with prosecutors’ arguments that the absence of DNA didn’t equal innocence.

“Proof of actual innocence requires more than his exclusion as the source of a handful of biological material that is not dispositive of the identity of a killer,” Burnett wrote.

Burnett also said that even if he agreed that the new DNA evidence should be heard in court, he would deny Echols’ request for a trial because there was “not compelling evidence that he would be acquitted.”

Police found the three boys’ bodies in a drainage ditch a day after their May 5, 1993, disappearance. A month passed before police arrested the three teens. Misskelley told investigators how he watched Baldwin and Echols sexually assault and beat two of the boys as he ran down another trying to escape.

A separate jury gave Misskelley a life-plus-40-year sentence for the killings. Baldwin received a life sentence without parole, and Echols was sentenced to death.

U.S. District Court Judge William R. Wilson Jr. ruled in November that claims about the DNA evidence first needed to be heard in state courts. The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld their convictions.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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