Crime

Still No Good News for the West Memphis Three

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The long, sad case of the West Memphis Three took yet another turn last week as Crittendon County Circuit Judge David Burnett rejected death row inmate Damien Echols' motion for a new trial based on new DNA evidence. Echols, who was 18 at the time, was convicted in 1994 of the brutal murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Two other teens, 17-year-old Jessie Misskelley, Jr. and 16-year-old Jason Baldwin, were also convicted, though only Echols was sentenced to death. Misskelley and Baldwin's motions were denied last week as well.

It's a shocking and thoroughly depressing story from start to finish. Local officials maintained that the murders were "Satanic" in nature and then used the three teens' fondness for black clothes and heavy metal music as evidence against them. There was no physical evidence linking the three teens in any way to the crime, only the factually impossible "confession" of Jessie Misskelley, a special education dropout with an IQ of 72. To appreciate just how ugly the whole sham was, consider that Misskelley's statement was wrong about virtually every significant aspect of the crime, from the nature of the victims' injuries, to the manner in which they were restrained, to the timeframe where the killings occurred. He gave vague and contradictory information, most of which was preceded by prompts from the police. As Mara Leveritt notes in Devil's Knot, her excellent book on the case, "Every detective in the room knew, even if Jessie did not, that the statement was absurd."

More here. My review of Leveritt's book here.

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  1. It’s a shocking and thoroughly depressing story from start to finish. Local officials maintained that the murders were “Satanic” in nature and then used the three teens’ fondness for black clothes and heavy metal music as evidence against them. There was no physical evidence linking the three teens in any way to the crime

    Geezuss Kryste. I expect this kind of thing out of Texas. Or even Mississippi if the defendants were black. But it appears I’ve greatly underestimated the prevalence of asshats in this country.

    Damn this is depressing. I need a drink.

  2. “I expect this kind of thing out of Texas. Or even Mississippi “

    There are ignorant people everywhere. Even where you live.

  3. Yeah, I gotta go buy some more Jack now. 🙁

    It amazes me that cops proceed with this bullshit when they know damn well they have the wrong guy. Not only are they deliberately imprisoning the innocent but they are also deliberately letting murders run free and ending all efforts to find them.

    Sick! Sick Fucks!

    Every single cop is dirty, if not by their personal actions, than by keeping quiet for their coworkers.

  4. It amazes me that cops proceed with this bullshit when they know damn well they have the wrong guy. Not only are they deliberately imprisoning the innocent but they are also deliberately letting murders run free and ending all efforts to find them.

    They’re not worried since they and their families have available firearms.

  5. If you haven’t seen the documentaries about this case, go rent them. They are infuriating and depressing. Make sure you drink while watching.

  6. I remember seeing the movie “Paradise Lost” many years ago. You’re right, it was incredibly disturbing that the justice system would fail this bad.

  7. Somebody help me out here, please.
    Was the interrogation/confession videotaped?

  8. I just can’t fathom how this has gone on for so long and federal authorities haven’t done anything about it? My sister was telling me about one of the documentaries about it, said it seemed that a stepdad or guy similar had done it. Very sad.

  9. Innocent Memphis white boy on death row finally begins to even things out.

  10. “Innocent Memphis white boy on death row finally begins to even things out.”

    So much for having a dream of the children of former slaves and former slave owners sitting down at the table of brotherhood together

  11. That’s just fucking evil.

  12. I expect this kind of thing out of Texas. Or even Mississippi if the defendants were black.

    As opposed to Arkansas?

  13. Somebody help me out here, please. Was the interrogation/confession videotaped?

    According to wm3.org:

    They subjected him to 12 hours of questioning without counsel or parental consent, audio-taping only two fragments totaling 46 minutes.

  14. GhostFaceKilla, I getcha and I agree. But nowhere near even.

    I’ve followed the WM3 for a long time, watched the docs and read the books. It is the most confounding thing imaginable. Careers have been built on this case so these 3 men can never, ever be found innocent; so the effort goes on to keep them from ever getting the chance to prove their innocence. The latest of many non-sensical rulings from Judge Burnett, DNA lies or at least doesn’t tell the whole truth. But let’s not allow a jury decide, cause that’s too risky. So new powerful evidence and no evidentiary hearing, just the rubber stamp of justice grinding away.

    Even two of the victim’s parents now believe the wrong people were convicted. DNA from the WM3 were excluded, but pointed toward the stepdad and his friend.

  15. Enough already. These three are obviously guilty.

  16. If only they’d found Jesus in prison, Governor Huckabee probably would’ve pardoned them.

    Not only are they deliberately imprisoning the innocent but they are also deliberately letting murders run free and ending all efforts to find them.

    You’re missing the big picture. Admitting that mistakes were made in this prosecution, let alone granting a new trial to these guys, would undermine confidence in our justice system. Misplaced confidence is better than no confidence at all, I guess.

  17. Makes me want to drive through West Memphis wearing a Dark Throne shirt blasting Venom’s ‘Heaven’s on Fire’.

  18. This is the most frustrating case I have ever researched.

    Incompetent cops. Ridiculous judges. There everything wrong and nothing right in this case.

  19. Daze! Do you know something that hasn’t been revealed yet? C’mon with it then. Jaysus,the DA has been looking for the obvious thing for soooooooooo long so they won’t have to work so hard with Judge Burnett to make things up, cover things up, deny justice and keep a straight face when faced with the real facts of the case. Please tell us what the obvious is? Everyone’s been waiting. And here you’ve been sitting on the obvious for 13 years! Enough, give it to us NOW!

  20. Geezuss Kryste. I expect this kind of thing out of Texas. Or even Mississippi if the defendants were black. But it appears I’ve greatly underestimated the prevalence of asshats in this country.

    Arkansas’s vastly higher level of cultural sophistication and commitment to justice threw you off?

  21. Damian bragged about the killing all over town for weeks. Jesse gave two highly detailed confessions AFTER his conviction, with no offer of leniency.

    Anyone who has honestly looked at the evidence and thinks these three were innocent is a moron.

  22. Your right Daze, the documentaries (although I hate to use that term since they were so highly biased) never showed the whole picture. At least Mara’s book told of the other confessions of Jessie.
    In one of the confessions after his conviction Jessie even explained why the first confession was factually wrong, he did it on purpose to throw the police off.

    If anyone would take the time to read the evidence, almost all of which is available online, you wouldn’t even consider them being innocent anymore. You would then be upset at the media train that has been built by “free the west memphis three” movement. Spearheaded no less by Lorri Davis, Damien Echol’s wife. Who also controls the defense fund completely with no public accounting what so ever. Millions of dollars has been donated to the fund, yet as of earlier this year even the lawyers representing Jason and Jessie wondered about the fund and how it was being handled.
    Before you fall into the hype of all this, please read the evidence. Four confessions from Jessie, two after his conviction where he had nothing to gain and was not forced to talk, in fact he went against his lawyers advice to talk because he “wanted something done about it”. If you believe the witness’s all three have admitted they did it in one form or another.

  23. Jesse gave two highly detailed confessions AFTER his conviction, with no offer of leniency.

    Daze and Sunny,
    You mean Jessie Miskelley, the aforementioned “special education dropout with an IQ of 72”. If that’s what you want for a star witness at your trial, by golly I hope you get it.

    If these three really are guilty and not just convicted on public fear and the testimony of a moron, you’d think the justice system would have no problems retrying them with the added impact of matching DNA.

    If the prosecution has such DNA evidence, why do you think they keep fighting this action, hmm?

  24. Here I always thought the system was about getting the right guy. Guess I was wrong.

  25. I believe this ruling supports my position that it ought to be unconstitutional for an appellate judge to hear an appeal on a case he himself presided over at trial.

  26. Daze and Sunny,
    You mean Jessie Miskelley, the aforementioned “special education dropout with an IQ of 72”. If that’s what you want for a star witness at your trial, by golly I hope you get it.
    _______________________

    Jessie miskelley was a self-proclaimed “bad ass” who drank whiskey and did drugs…..so people need to stop trying to make him out to be some fragile retarded boy. There is a difference between “retarded” and “stupid” and Jessie was certainly the latter. He was played a tape of a little boy named Aaron Hutchison saying, “nobody no what happened but me” so Jessie thought that the little boy saw everything so he wanted “off of the sinking ship” and he figured he’s spill the beans first to try to get out of it. Pretty shrewd for a poor little retarded boy huh?

  27. Ugh. Mrs Lunchstealer has an internship this semester with the Collin County DA’s office, and is having trouble keeping her mouth shut about how many of their prosecutions and arrests are absolutely ridiculous.

  28. None of her stories are this awful, though.

  29. Here are the two confessions Misskelley made *after* his conviction.

    http://callahan.8k.com/wm3/jmpc.html
    http://callahan.8k.com/wm3/jmfeb.html

    The two Paradise Lost documentaries never mention these confessions — doesn’t fit their “poor innocent railroaded goth kids” narrative.

    Mara Leveritt mentions these confessions briefly, but spins them as “look how the prosecutors blindsided Misskelley’s lawyers”. She ignores the obvious questions of whether Jessie was telling the true story here, and, if not, why he would lie.

  30. If that’s what you want for a star witness at your trial, by golly I hope you get it.

    “If these three really are guilty and not just convicted on public fear and the testimony of a moron, you’d think the justice system would have no problems retrying them with the added impact of matching DNA.

    If the prosecution has such DNA evidence, why do you think they keep fighting this action, hmm?”

    Well first of all Jessie didn’t testify at the Echol’s/Baldwin trial, so that comment is moot.

    So part of your next comment is sadly misinformed as well. As for the justice system retrying them, why should they unless it’s proven that there is evidence showing them to be actually innocent. The matching DNA that you want to throw out there, matches the step-father of one of the victims and a family friend. Secondary transfer, ever heard of it? It’s more telling to me, that out of all the evidence retested, we are only hearing about these two pieces. Could that be because the other evidence includes the convicted? As for the prosecution, they had to give approval for the evidence to be retested, which obviously they did. So I don’t see where that leads to any conclusion other than they feel the evidence will or has told the truth.

    Are you willing to go through another trial with the chance that now not only will Jessie’s first confession be admitted, but the other three as well? Or how about Damien’s medical records, with the great dane incident, as well as the fellow patient incident (where Damien sucked the blood from this patient’s wound)? Willing to let the prosecution expert’s relay their opinion on the animal predation theory? Why these animals picked on the Byer’s boy to the point of a sexual mutilation but didn’t even attempt on the other two. (where as Jessie’s states that Jason is the one that did this act, and not Damien, another hmm.. statement.. why not choose the perceived more evil of the two to perform this act if you are making this up?)
    Can you explain the Evan Williams bottle found, right where Jessie said it would be? If you can you might want to contact Mr. Stidham as he is at a lose about that one.

  31. okay, let’s say that the WM3 are guilty. What would be wrong with the judge hearing the new DNA evidence as well as expert forensics evidence showing animals had made the marks and mutilations on the bodies post mortem as opposed to a knife during the killing. Lot’s of time, effort and money were put into obtaining and presenting this new evidence by credible experts, labs and reputable team of attornies hired by Damien’s wife with the help of people who donated their hard earned money who also believe there are alot of questions in this case. It appears she has used it to the best of her ability, which is the reason folks have donated and apparently trust that she has Damien’s best interest at heart.

    I mean, why not have a hearing and get it out in the open once and for all if you’re the judge? Allow the evidence to be heard especially for an inmate on death row.

    The 10 page rambling order by Judge Burnett is quite stupifying, even for an idiot like me.
    http://www.wm3.org/live/trialshearings/chrono_detail.php?chrono_Id=191&guy=1&yea

  32. “during the killing.”

    correction: during a satanic” ritual killing, the prosecution’s theory as to why these 3 teenagers killed the little boys.

    The new evidence refutes this theory. The new evidence shows that animals caused the wounds and marks and mutilations, not a knife or knives. Apparently not important to the convictions or innocence. As well as no DNA found from the WM3, but DNA found from the father of one of the victims and his friend in the knot used to bind the child as well as on his privates. Not important either. Afterall, there is a knife that was found (miraculously while the press was present because they were called ahead of time) in the pond behind Jason Baldwin’s home and that’s the kind of hard evidence the Judge is talking about.That’s the sort of evidence that needs to be refuted according to his rambling order; a knife that was not part of the killing according to the new evidence that won’t be heard.

  33. The whole animal theory is ridiculous, read the autopsy report. If these injuries occurred postmortem as is being contended, why are contusions and hemorrhages present. A person does not bruise or bleed after death. Please explain what animals present at the crime scene could or would de-glove one child only? Better yet explain why Jessie’s after conviction statement, where he states Jason mutilated the Byers boy, and Damien cut the left side of the other boys face.

    “It appears she has used it to the best of her ability, which is the reason folks have donated and apparently trust that she has Damien’s best interest at heart.”

    Funny though this came into question just this year. More importantly, the money donated wasn’t just for Damien, it was for all three. Yet, you hit the nail on the head, she has Damien’s best interest at heart, and according to the other attorney’s he is the only one to have received benefit from the fund.

  34. It was clear she was raising the money for Damien but with the hope it would exonerate all three. I think anyone who donated knew that. It was Damien’s team of lawyers who were involved in obtaining the DNA evidence. She hired them for her husband who has a date with the executioner.

  35. “It was clear she was raising the money for Damien but with the hope it would exonerate all three. I think anyone who donated knew that.”

    It wasn’t clear that she was only raising money for Damien. Hence why the other attorney’s have asked for a public accounting of the fund. But alas, it does seem to be the way of things. Only Damien seems to have benefited from the fund. Even better, why is Lorri Davis so adamant about not giving a public accounting? What does she have to hide if this is all on the up and up? Also, wouldn’t the fund be better served with an accountant managing the fund?

  36. The author of this article is lazy. His opinion is based entirely on the Robin Hood Hills documentary. Had he sensed (like me) that the documentary was going out of its way to avoid any detail that would connect the boys to the murders, he would have gone straight to Lexis Nexis to find the transcripts of the hearings and trials. It’s a no-brainer, folks. Sorry. They are guilty. I am against capital punishment, but if anyone has ever deserved it, it’s the West Memphis Three dorks.

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