Freed: The West Memphis Three 8


New West Memphis Three Support Shirt Design

New West Memphis Three Support Shirt Design

Damien Echols, Jessie Miskelley, and Jason Baldwin have been in the news recently as the surprising and somewhat shocking twist to the legal battle for the men’s freedom came to the sudden end with their release after a hearing on Aug. 19.

This all came nearly two decades following the tragic deaths of three 8-year-old boys Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers on May 5, 1993 in West Memphis, AR. The three boys were found in a ditch. Autopsies revealed that Byers has died of blood loss due to lacerations, while the other two were drowned.

Echols and Baldwin were friends who shared common interests in music, such as Metallica, and fiction, as well as a common distaste for the social climate in “”The Bible Belt.”” They were acquainted with Miskelley from school, but were not close friends.

Police were able to gain a confession from Miskelley following a long interrogation. An interrogation where the teenager with the below average intelligence failed to get many of the basic facts correct such as the time of day the murders would have occured.

The confession helped build a case against Echols and Baldwin who were tried following Miskelley being found guilty. The confession was not able to be used against Echols and Baldwin, but the prosecution claimed the killings were part of a satanic ritual in which Echols was the leader. No evidence to satanic worship or the three ever being at the scene of the crime has ever surfaced. Miskelley and Baldwin would serve the rest of their lives in prison while Echols would be put on death row. For the best details on all of this read The Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt, watch the Paradise Lost films, or dig around on the Independent WM3 Forums.

The Support

Henry Rollins wearing WM3 Support Shirt

Henry Rollins wearing WM3 Support Shirt

Major support for the WM3 really began with the Paradise Lost  documentary films in 1996 and 2000. (I first heard of the case after seeing the films while in college. I later read Leveritt’s book and started watching the forums in 2003-2004. I have been using Google news alerts to keep up on happenings for the past few years.)  While public support grew with the films, many in the music industry took notice. One of the first I can remember is Henry Rollins who delivered a Black Flag release for their support cause. It’s reported in Rolling Stone, that Rollins raised $100,000 to support some crucial DNA evidence. Natalie Mains from the Dixie Chicks and Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam are among the highest profile musicians to trumpet the cause claiming the WM3’s innocence. More recently, Johnny Depp and Peter Jackson have shown their support for the three. It is reported that among those mentioned millions of dollars have gone to support the legal defense fund and will continue their efforts to clear their names.

The amazing showing of support through the message boards, people attending and standing out side at hearings, has made this case something I have never seen with any legal cause in recent history. Only comparison I can draw is Leonard Peltier.

The Alford Plea

The Alford Plea provides for the defendant to not admit to the crime and maintain their innocence while at the same time admitting that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to sway a jury to believe in their guilt and find them guilty. This type of legal move is rare and is also confusing. Many in the media have said the WM3 pleded guilty to counts of murder and so forth, which is not exactly the truth. It was  said in a post-hearing interview that Jason Baldwin was the last one of the three to buy into the deal. He was steadfast in maintaining their innocence. The only reason he changed his mind was “”Because they were trying to kill Damien.”” In exchange for making the plea deal, the Wm3 were able to walk away from the courthouse free men.

The Future

The WM3 and many of their supporters want to continue to fight for clearing their names. Already, the Arkansas governor has said that he will not overturn anything the courts have ruled. Certainly, the three will have to adapt to the nearly 20 years of change that has taken place without them. Articles have said things about Damien spending a bunch of time trying to figure out and iPhone and Jessie getting on Facebook. The ultimate thing that they have now is the freedom to go out and discover the world, hopefully with the level of privacy they deserve.

Final Word

Victims in WM3 case - Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers

The greatest tragedy of the WM3 and everything attached to it is that the person or people responsible for the death of three boys has not been apprehended. The State of Arkansas considers the case closed. So the six families who will every be connected by this case will not see closure to this. Two of the parents of the victims believe that the WM3 are not the killers of their child. Hopefully, in time, the real killer or killers will be found. I’d consider only half of the justice served in this case.

This also brings out a critical flaw in the legal system. Too many lawyers are concerned with “”getting the win”” instead of doing what’s right. For some reason, the Al Pacino/Keanu Reeves film“The Devil’s Advocate” comes to mind. Arkansas got their win with the plea deal. The case is closed and they will not get sued by the WM3 for their imprisonment.

The Upcoming Films

 

  • This case was a very interesting one. The three had no alibis. Misskelley confessed three separate times. Baldwin told someone else he committed the crimes. Echols was seen in muddy clothes near the crime scene. He bragged about the murder to two other teenagers, stating he killed the three boys. This was presented as evidence at the trial. Echols also had a history of psychiatric treatment. His reported actions included brutally killing a dog, starting fires at his school, threatening to kill his teachers and parents and stating he liked to drink blood.

    Fibers on the murdered victims’ clothing were found to microscopically similar to things in the Baldwin and Echols homes. The serrated wound patterns on the three victims that were consistent with, and could have been caused by, a knife found in a lake behind appellant Baldwin’s parents’ residence.

    Echols’ stated under cross-examination that he was interested in the occult. A funeral register found in his room with hand-drawn pentagrams and upside-down crosses. Echols’ journal contained morbid images and references to dead children.

    • kpbergman

      The case is interesting, but there are some things correct and incorrect with what you’ve said.

      Correct: Echols was treated for some mental isssues.
      Incorrect: There were alibis
      Incorrect: They did not brag to the “Softball girls” about killing the boys.
      Unsure: Microscopic fibers. That is a possibility, but there are so many similar fibers that this can easily be dismissed.
      Incorrect: Serrated wound patterns? Do you mean the animal bites?
      Incorrect: There is no tie to a knife found in the water to the crimes.
      Unsure: A funeral register and pentagrams and an upside down cross? Never heard of that. I did remember hearing about the name Aleister Crowley written somewhere. I read that Echols had been interested in Wicca, but that is not a crime. I also had not seen any references to morbid images or dead children in a journal. That is new to me.

      Let me know your sources and I’ll check them out.

      Thanks.

  • West Memphis Three Case Information

    “- Echols’ statement under cross-examination that he was interested in the occult, as well as a funeral register found in his room with hand-drawn pentagrams and upside-down crosses. Echols’ journal was also admitted into evidence, and “it contained morbid images and references to dead children,” the court’s opinion noted. – Echols’ statement to police shortly after the murders that he understood the boys had been mutilated, with one suffering more serious injuries. That information hadn’t been released to the public, the opinion said.
    Echols’ defense argues that he was speaking sarcastically when he told the 12- and 15-year-olds at a ballpark that he killed the boys.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/02/AR2010100201274.html

    “Damien Echols was observed near the crime scene at 9:30 p.m. on May 5. He was wearing black pants and a black shirt and his clothes were muddy. A witness testified that she had attended a satanic cult meeting with Echols and the appellant….a witness from the State Crime Lab testified that she found fibers on the victims’ clothing which were microscopically similar to items in the Baldwin and Echols residences.”
    http://courts.state.ar.us/opinions/1996/cr94-848.html

    “There was substantial evidence of the guilt of appellant Echols where, among other things, the testimony of witnesses placed him in dirty clothes near the crime scene at a time close to the murders; where two independent witnesses reported Echols’s statement that he had killed the three boys and was direct evidence of the statement; where a criminalist from the State Crime Laboratory and a State Medical Examiner testified concerning the similarity of fibers found on the victim’s clothes with clothing found in Echols’s home and the serrated wound patterns on the three victims that were consistent with, and could have been caused by, a knife found in a lake behind appellant Baldwin’s parents’ residence….

    Echols admitted on cross-examination that he had delved deeply into the occult and was familiar with its practices and where various items that had been found in his room supported the State’s theory of motive that the killings were done in a satanic ritual; where an expert in occult killings testified that there was significant evidence of satanic ritual killings; where a detective testified that Echols had made a statement regarding the mutilation of one of the victims that the jury could have reasonably concluded he would not have known about unless he had been involved in some manner; and where Echols’s testimony contained additional evidence of guilt….

    Echols admitted on cross-examination in the penalty phase of the trial that he had an altercation with his father in which a knife was involved and the police were called; where he admitted that he was hospitalized that same day and that when his father came to the hospital, “I told him I would eat him alive”; where he admitted that he tried “to claw the eyes out” of a student; and where a psychologist who testified for Echols admitted that Echols had “an all-powerful God-like image of himself,” that his parents were concerned with his satanism or devil worship, and that Echols’s medical records included notations of statements by Echols pertaining, among other things, to his rage and the drinking of the blood of others.”
    http://courts.state.ar.us/opinions/1996a/961223sc/cr94-928.html

    The prosecution’s theory of a ritualistic slaying seemed to fit well on Echols, who as a teen dabbled in witchcraft and reported to mental health professionals that he’d been drinking human blood since age 10, cutting or biting a willing partner or even attacking a rival and sucking to obtain “power and strength.”

    “It makes me feel like a god,” he told a counselor four months before the murders.

    Teens interviewed by police said Echols associated with a self-styled Wiccan group called the “Order of the Divine Light” that practiced a rite of initiation proscribed by occult author Raymond Buckland in which initiates remove their clothing and allow their hands to be bound behind the back….

    A troubled teen committed three times for psychiatric evaluation before the murders, he talked of habitually drinking human blood, blew kisses to grieving victim families in court and once told a clinical social worker he has “conversations with demons” and that when his white-hot anger went off the only solution was to “hurt someone.”
    http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/aug/28/hollywood-directed-defense-of-three/

    Why weren’t the alibis used in court? They would have cleared the 3.

    • kpbergman

      With all this information, do you just believe that the high-profile celebrities that were backing the case were just going to buy their way out of prison? I’m not going to argue that they weren’t messed up kids or go point for point on this. I do not believe the knife evidence or Jessie’s confession (basically the points made on that in your first citation.) I do believe that there was a whole messed up investigation, a lack of physical evidence, and a lot of questionable talk.

      There are really only 6 people who know if the WM3 are truly innocent: Echols, Baldwin, Miskelley, and the three victims.

  • Would be interesting if the three took a lie detector test with an impartial party.

    Echols’ psychiatric records
    http://callahan.8k.com/wm3/img/exh500.html

    Misskelley’s Third Confession Transcript
    http://callahan.8k.com/wm3/jmfeb.html
    He describes the crimes in detail in front of his lawyer, implicating Echols and Baldwin.

    • kpbergman

      A couple of interesting points from the “third confession.”
      1. All of the questions were ask in the affirmative. How many times did Jessie say no to something?
      2. Jessie said the blade of the knife Jessie was using was open? Wouldn’t that infer that it was a knife that could be folded closed? Wasn’t the alleged knife from the lake a fixed blade knife? (just going from memory here.)

  • There were several no replies if he didn’t remember something. None of the court transcripts I found described what kind of knife was used.

    Misskelley’s Third Confession Transcript
    (see link above)
    He describes the crimes in detail in front of his lawyer, implicating Echols and Baldwin.

    ….DAVIS: Ok. And when they came over what happened?
    MISSKELLEY: And then Ja, Damien jumped on’m. And them other two (2) started beating on Damien and me and Jason jumped on’m.

    …DAVIS: Ok. Now when you grabbed one and Jason grabbed one what happened next?
    MISSKELLEY: We started hitting’m.
    DAVIS: With what ?
    MISSKELLEY: Fist at first.
    DAVIS: Ok. Where describe to me what Ja, what you saw Jason do?
    MISSKELLEY: He first he cut one of’m on a face on his left side just a little bit like a scratch. Then ..ah.. he went to the other one and got on top of him, started hitting him and then pull one of’m pants down and get on top of’m and cut’m.

    ….DAVIS: What, what was Damien doing during this time?
    MISSKELLEY: Well the one that got cut on his face, he stuck his finger on his cheek and slicked the blood off of it.
    DAVIS: That’s what, saw Damien do. What else was he doing?
    MISSKELLEY: He grabbed one of’m by the ear, I don’t know which one, he grabbed on of’m by the ear trying to pull his ear off or something. He grabbed’m pretty tight. It turned kind of red.
    DAVIS: Did the, were the kids, the threee (3) little boys were they saying anything, doing anything during this ?
    MISSKELLEY: They were saying Stop, Stop.
    DAVIS: Ok. And what about the boy that you were hitting, was he saying that?
    MISSKELLEY: Yea, he was telling me stop and then I stopped and Damien told me, no, no don’t stop. And I got on’m again.

    ….DAVIS: Ok. And did Jason have anything in his hands at that point.
    MISSKELLEY: He had a knife.
    DAVIS: Ok. Where was, was he actually hitting’m with the knife or with his fist ?
    MISSKELLEY: blade was open.
    DAVIS: Ok. Could you see where he, was he cutting the boy?
    MISSKELLEY: No, he was like this swinging the knife at his legs.
    DAVIS: Ok. Could you see, did you ever see one of the boys get cut with the knife?
    MISSKELLEY: After he cut through with’m then I noticed what’d he done.
    DAVIS: What did you see?
    MISSKELLEY: I saw that boy you know missing
    DAVIS: If you worried when you saw that, describe to me what you saw Jason do and what you saw happened?
    MISSKELLEY: Well when he was doing that I seen blood fly.
    DAVIS: Ok. Well did he, where’d the blood go?
    MISSKELLEY: Grass, I mean not grass but weeds, like sling around.
    DAVIS: What’d the boy do when that happened?
    MISSKELLEY: He started hollering. And Jason put his shirt over his mouth.

    ….DAVIS: Ok, Jessie tole me that Jason came over to you and then went back to the boy that had been castrated and start hitting him in the face. What was Damien doing at this point?
    MISSKELLEY: He was still holding that, still messing with them boys, that boys penis.
    DAVIS: Ok. And you said that you had, that your b, the boy that you had was unconscious and then what happened next, what you remember happening next?
    MISSKELLEY: I, I let him go, after that I let him go and Damien come and got him. So I kept on hanging on to’m and start hitting him some more.
    DAVIS: The, were the other two (2) boys still conscious. You said the one you had was unconscious, were the other two (2) boys still conscious at that point?
    MISSKELLEY: Well the one who got castrated he wasn’t moving that much no more. I figured you know he might be dead or whatever. I really didn’t know.
    DAVIS: What happens next you said you, Damien’s still got the other one, Jason’s got one and you got one. What happens next?
    MISSKELLEY: Damien was messing the one little boy’s penis.

    ….MISSKELLEY: We tied’m up.
    DAVIS: Ok. Now you said before when the police asked you in their statement and asked you what they were tied up with. And you said they were tied up with rope. Ah..
    MISSKELLEY: I made that up.
    DAVIS: Why?
    MISSKELLEY: Tied to get off, you know get’m off track.
    DAVIS: Who tied’m up?
    MISSKELLEY: Damien and Jason.

    • kpbergman

      MISSKELLEY: blade was open.

      Doesn’t that mean it would close?