Will the West Memphis Three Be Set Free Today?


Huge news developing in Jonesboro, Arkansas today as it appears that Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin, the three young men dubiously convicted 17 years ago for the "satanic" murders of three young boys may agree to a plea deal that will secure their freedom. Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times has the early details:

Much more to come later this morning from Jonesboro, where Circuit Judge David Laser will consider a plea bargain between the state and the West Memphis 3 that could bring their immediate release from prison after more than 17 years.

If the judge approves — and this is an all-important if — the defendants will leave still convicted of murdering three eight-year-old West Memphis boys in 1993. This will leave their staunchest defenders unhappy and offend even many less interested who will take offense at convictions for crimes that Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin will still say they did not commit.

The alternative is to risk losing their appeal for a new trial and to remain in prison for life, or, in Echols' case, execution.

The case against the West Memphis Three was always a sham. Lacking any shred of physical evidence that could tie Echols, Misskelley, or Baldwin to the crime, the prosecution instead focused on the fact that the young men—then aged 18, 17, and 16, respectively—wore black clothes and listened to heavy metal music. Among the evidence introduced was the cover of Metallica's Master of Puppets album, the fact that Echols practiced Wicca and enjoyed books by Stephen King and Anne Rice, and testimony "that eleven black T-shirts had been found in Jason's home." Prosecutors also relied on the testimony of "occult expert" Dale Griffis, the holder of a mail-order Ph.D. from "Columbia Pacific University," who testified that "I have personally observed people wearing black fingernails, having their hair painted black, wearing black T-shirts, black dungarees."

So the fact that these men may finally get a little justice after rotting in prison for 17 years on bogus charges is welcome news indeed. Stay tuned for further developments. And for much a more detailed summary of the case, see my 2003 article "Hell Hounds: How a musical moral panic destroyed three young men."

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  1. Arkansas: Where fucking your cousin is a job perk.

    1. Q: What does an Arkansas teen say, immediately after her "first time"...?

      A: "Roll over, Dad! You're crushing my smokes -- !"

    2. Arkansas: Western West Virginia

      1. Libertarians are not elitists!

    3. In Tennessee, we say that the only reason Arkansas and Mississippi exist is to keep us off the bottom.

  2. I always thought the goth look was a crime.

    1. Sure, but worthy of the death penalty?

      1. Ever listen to The Cure?

    2. Apparently it is punishable by death.

      1. Missed it by that > < much!

  3. Is Al Pacino their lawyer? Keanu Reeves?

  4. dont satanists usually use vans as mobile sacrifical alters ?

    1. You're thinking of "The Straight Talk Express".

      1. scott peterson too who said he saw satanists in his a van

  5. Why should we take the word of a guy with a sinister name like Damon Root?

  6. While I'm naturally ecstatic over the prospect of their (finally!) being released from unjust imprisonment... I'm not entirely certain that demonstrably and conclusively innocent men being forced to plea bargain their way to rightful freedom in the first place is anything worthy of outright celebration, per se.

    That much being grumbled, however: best of everything to Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley. Frith alone knows, they deserve it.

  7. I wonder if the bargain shields the state from a lawsuit.

    1. Yep.

      Aside from statute of limitations concerns, they are admitting they committed the crime. What would they sue for?

      1. If they didn't do it, I would prefer not to see a bargain. Justice isn't admiting to something you didn't do just to get our of prison.

        1. Tell that to a guy staring at the rest of his life in prison or even execution. While this solution is far far far from perfect, it gets them freedom, and all they have to do is let the prosecutor save some face.

          1. Sure, I tell him what I believe. If he didn't do it, he should be freed, without admiting to something he didn't do.

            The more we accept the notion of settling is a proper course, the more government will want to do it to save face since it become acceptable.

            ""and all they have to do is let the prosecutor save some face.""

            Pleading to a crime to let a procescutor save face isn't something we should allow. If the evidence doesn't support their conviction, they should get a new trial or released. Period.

  8. The alternative is to risk losing their appeal for a new trial and to remain in prison for life, or, in Echols' case, execution.

    I would like to think today's juries would be less inclined to get worked up about Metallica - which appears to be the state's key piece of evidence - and they would be acquitted, but not enough to bet my life on it. People who serve on juries are still dumb as fuck, so I wouldn't bet my life on it.

    Speaking of dumbfucks, I assume the original prosecutors are federal judges now, so what current prosecutor is eager to retry this case?

    1. the jury musta been packed w old teabagger types who probably believe emos & goths worship satan.

      1. You're wasting brain matter.

    2. be less inclined to get worked up about Metallica

      Jurist: what is this pansy crap?

    3. I'm sure any jury not caught up in Salem-style hysteria would acquit these three.

  9. The WM3 case scared the shit out of me when I was 16. Aside from the Miskelly confession (which got all the details of the crime wrong), the prosecution was "These guys are weird, they listen to heavy metal, and they worship the devil" which was an apt description of me and my friends.
    I hate the idea that they might be pleading guilty to a crime they didn't commit just to get out of jail after 17 years. It's a devil's bargain that no one should be forced to make.

    1. You worship the devil, you purchase his bargins.

      1. You worship the devil Obama, you purchase his bargins healthcare.

  10. Dale Griffis, the holder of a mail-order Ph.D. from "Columbia Pacific University,"

    Fuck you! That's my alma mater, you bastards!

  11. "These guys are weird, they listen to heavy metal, and they worship the devil"


    That's right. And none of you poor, doomed fools ever even suspected, did you? Huh? HAH -- !!!

  12. I've got a title for reason: "Will The Morning Links Be Set Free Today?"

  13. It's hard to imagine now, kiddos, but there once was a time when Metallica was awesome. Although Lars always sucked.

    So, about that Friday Funnies thread?

  14. If they are released, I suggest they avoid Chicago:

    Security tape allegedly shows a group of police officers beating two Chicago brothers Wednesday after apparently mistaking them for robbers while one was closing the store at which he worked.

    Michael Ayala, 23, said officers assaulted him during an incident Wednesday after he was closing up shop Wednesday at 7911 Food and Liquor Store.

    "He punched me in the ribs," Michael Ayala, who showed bruises on his upper arms from officers pinning him down, said of one aggressive officer.

    He said at one point he blacked out. Adrian Ayala, his 18-year-old brother who was waiting for his brother outside the store, also was punched and kicked, he said.

    Police let Adrian Ayala go, he said, but when a frustrated Michael Ayala yelled at officers that he had video tape of the incident, an officer he described as a sergeant "flipped" and put his head into a side window.

    Nothing else happened.

    1. The tape shows, what, a dozen officers at least gang-stomping two guys. At least.

      On WGN, they interviewed them. One is pretty small and quite mild-mannered. And covered in bruises. When asked what he thought when he saw cops now, he said he was very afraid.

      1. ""When asked what he thought when he saw cops now, he said he was very afraid.""

        That's the way they like it.

      2. When asked what he thought when he saw cops now, he said he was very afraid.

        Commendations & promotions all around!

      3. Is this one of those flash mob things I've been hearing about?

        1. Yeah, but they use old fashion radio technology instead of smartphones.

  15. So, I wonder what the people who actually murdered those kids are up to?

    1. Probably listening to some oratorio and wearing pastel colored, preppy outfits.

    2. I wonder, but if the kids take a bargain, why bother looking.

      1. Yeah, they should stay in jail (be executed) so police can continue searching for the real killers....oh, wait.

        1. Law enforcement usually doesn't continue to look for killers after someone(s) admit to doing the killing.

          1. Kinda no point, since there would be no way to get a conviction.

            1. ""since there would be no way to get a conviction.""

              Not too sure about that. Hasn't it been ruled that the prosecution can agrue seperate theories in seperate trials? I vaguely remember something about that from the 90s.

            2. Assuming they didn't just want to pat themselves on the back and call it a job well done. Which is what they usually do.

  16. That is one of the many things that is troubling about the case. How many more people may have died as a result of this farce? The real murderers have been free to continue for 17 years because the prosecuter and jury disliked goth and since these guys will essentially be admitting guilt there will be no incentive to even look for them.

  17. these seem to make a whole lot of sense dude. Wow.

  18. Sad ending to a sad story.

    I think if they get out, they should write a book called "Ya, we did it, hahaha you fools" and profit from the priorities of our society that put them in jail in the first place.

  19. Well here it is.

  20. ""Through a legal maneuver known as an Alford plea, the three men were allowed to maintain their claims of innocence.""

  21. Totally cuts down the evidenciary hearing that was to happen in December.

    This was nothing but a face saving move for the prosecution.

    1. They're out, and Damien won't be executed by the state. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  22. So who killed this children - who is going to get justice for the victims, the innocent children who died??

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