The Arkansas Supreme Court recently announced its decision to grant a mini-trial or evidentiary hearing to the three men known as ”The West Memphis Three” who were convicted of the heinous murders of three eight year old boys (James M. Moore, Steven E. Branch and Christopher M. Byers) in West Memphis, Arkansas in May of 1993. The decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court for a new trial was ordered to decide whether new DNA analysis and other evidence not included in the 1994 trials could shed new light on the murders and possibly point to another killer/s.
The West Memphis Three trial began in February of 1994 and included photos of the gruesome murders of the three victims who were reportedly raped, mutilated and beaten to death. The trials wrapped up on Monday April 18,1994 with an end result Jessie Misskelley; then seventeen years old being found guilty on one count of first degree capital murder and two counts of second degree capital murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no parole. Jason Baldwin; then sixteen years old, was found guilty on three counts of capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of forty years. Nineteen year old Damien Echols also found guilty of three counts of capital murder. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection.
Jessie Misskelley along with Baldwin and Echols proclaim that their innocence till this day, even though Misskelley initially confessed to the murders and implicated Echols and Baldwin. Misskelley later recanted the confession he gave to West Memphis police stating that he was coerced into confessing and only told police what they wanted to hear so they would let him go. Echols says he was convicted mainly because he was considered weird by the West Memphis community due to his practice of the Wiccan religion and listening to music labeled as “satanic.” Baldwin believes he was found guilty by association because of his friendship with Echols and Misskelley.
The West Memphis Three have many dedicated supporters including actor Johnny Depp who believe that the teens never received a fair trial and that justice has not and will not be served until the three convicted are found not guilty. Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin along with their supporters hope that the new evidence will lead to the acquittal of Damien Echols’ death row sentence as well as freedom for Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, who are serving life sentences.
However the defense attorney and courts say that the new hearings should focus on all evidence that could prove the men’s innocence or guilt, not just the DNA results.
Johnny Depp interview with 48 Hours|Mystery – Johnny Depp speaks on his belief that the West Memphis Three are innocent.
View Damien’s Echol’s interview from death row
For a detailed report of the West Memphis Three case check out the report from Tru TV
- West Memphis 3 Get New Hearings for 1993 Murders (cbsnews.com)
- “”Paradise Lost” West Memphis 3 Get New Court Hearing” and related posts (filmmakeriq.com)
- Court orders new hearing for ‘West Memphis 3’ (msnbc.msn.com)
- ‘West Memphis 3’ Win Review (abcnews.go.com)
- the West Memphis Three won new court hearings (brooklynvegan.com)