MEMPHIS, Ar - A surprise hearing is scheduled for today, one in which many think some or all of the West Memphis Three will be released. I’m not going into all the details surrounding this case as if you are reading this site on a regular basis, you are probably fully-versed on it and have already formed your opinions.
For those of you who do not know who the West Memphis Three are, they are three individuals currently sitting in prison for almost two decades, one of them on death row, convicted of killing three 8-year-olds back in 1993. You can get all the details surrounding this case here, here, here and especially here (almost everything you ever wanted to know about the case is there presented with no bias whatsoever) , but here it is in a D’D nutshell.
Three eight-year-old boys, Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers, were found dead in a ditch shortly after being reported missing. They had been beaten, tortured and mutilated. Within a short amount of time police zeroed in on three of the town’s misfits, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., 17; Jason Baldwin, 16; and the supposed ringleader, Damien Echols, 18. These three would eventually be arrested, charged and found guilty of murdering the boys. Echols was sentenced to death, Misskelley was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Since then many have supported the three, claiming their innocence. They believe police misconduct, jury misconduct and “Satanic Panic” as reasons why the teens were singled out by police and unjustly imprisoned. As the Free the WM3 site states: ”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.” Even if you find the site biased, that’s a fairly accurate statement.
Movies like Paradise Lost:The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills were made and books like Devil’s Knot: The True Story of The West Memphis Three were written, all claiming coerced confessions, a desire for swift justice and a fear of imaginary satanic cults resulted in a miscarriage of justice and three innocent young men possibly dying behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit. A slew of celebrities like Johnny Depp (watch him talk about the case in A Cry For Innocence), Metallica and Eddie Vedder began actively campaigning for their release or at the very least, get them a new trial. Even some of the victim’s parents are expressing their doubts in the men’s guilt.
It took 18 years and some DNA testing, but it’s looking like the West Memphis Three will be free before dinner.
The news is reporting a surprise hearing will be conducted later today with all three men in attendance. Prison officials confirmed that Craighead County officials picked all three men up from Arkansas Department of Corrections with all of their possessions. A gag order was issued by Judge David Laser that prohibits attorneys from talking to reporters, but that hasn’t stopped some close to the case from talking to reporters, including one who said the pending deal involves the immediate release of defendants Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley in return for pleas to lesser charges. Laser also released this statement:
“The court will take up certain matters pertaining to the cases of defendants Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley on Friday, August 19, 2011. 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 family members of the victims and family members of defendants, with remaining seating to be occupied by media representatives and the public. There will be approximately fifteen (15) minutes between the chamber session and open session for media and public to be seated.”
All of this comes on the heels of a July announcement that DNA collected at the murder scene did not match Echols, Misskelly or Baldwin. In fact, the human hair found on one of the victim’s blue jeans and a small amount of human DNA found on a victim’s shoe, indicated the DNA belonged to two unidentified men.
Of course some feel this is a miscarriage of justice, including Stevie Branch’s father. Check him out here, including a thinly veiled threat directed towards Echols. I think he has some of the facts wrong in regards to the deal, as I don’t think the three will admit to murder. But we will see shortly.
I get asked periodically what I think about the West Memphis Three and if I think they did it or not. To be honest, I have wavered back and forth over the years as more information became available. Of course, watching a film like Paradise Lost makes it almost impossible to believe anything but the fact that some strange, weird kids were blamed simply because they were strange and weird. But over the years, there are some facts of the case that have me scratching my head while leaving me straddling the fence between their guilt or innocence. But regardless, I have always felt that there were more than enough reasons to grant these guys new trials.
I’m sure this will be an interesting discussion, but before you make up your minds on this case, be sure to read all the facts of the case, including those who feel they are guilty of the crimes they were convicted of. TruTV actually has a simple breakdown of the weak physical evidence prosecutors had, including a necklace worn by Echols that had blood on it. Whether you believe they are guilty or not, it’s always good to have both sides of the story, gather the facts and form your own conclusion rather than going by a slick video and the words of a famous person. Well aside from me. You can always. Trust me.Tags: Arkansas, Chris Byers, Crime, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, Michael Moore, Murder, Steve Branch, West Memphis Three