West Memphis Three Basic Case Discussion

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The Lost Vans?

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 3:25 pm



One lead reportedly being pursued by police involves an incident in the neighborhood where the dead boys lived. Two friends of the dead boys were interviewed by the police Friday morning. "It was a problem that we had that I didn't think anything of," Rosita Garner, the mother of one of the boys interviewed, said outside the police station. "Maybe if I'd called (the police), this wouldn't have happened." [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 8, 1993]

White Van / Black Van

Early in the investigation the police began to pursue leads that there was a white van stalking neighborhood children in the days before the murders. These leads developed even before the bodies were found. Clint Garner was a friend of Chris Byers and Garner's home was one of the first stops during the Byers previous evening's search for Chris. According to the dispatch logs, at 12:36 pm on May 6th, Captain Tony Miller got a call to go to the Garner home at 710 McAuley Circle in reference to the missing children. Although there are no notes extant from this encounter, the police returned the next morning for a follow-up interview.

About three weeks ago – unknown which day of the week – at approximately 7:30 pm Jeff Holliday was riding his bicycle south on Holiday and had a rope, pulling Clint Garner, who was on roller skates. They saw a white van moving slowly, and it passed them, going in the opposite direction. The van went about four houses past them and turned around in a driveway. The van then started following them until they got to Clint Garners house at 710 McAuley Circle. The boys stopped in the driveway at 710 McAuley Circle and the van stopped, a few houses away. The van stopped in the middle of the street. The van was stopped for approximately 20 seconds and the driver was looking directly at the boys. The van then sped off. [Durham's notes, Garner and Holliday interview, May 7, 1993]

Based on a second sighting of what they believed to be the same van, Garner and Holliday were able to provide a specific description, including its license plate. This plate was traced to a William La Pradd, owner of a white van, but nothing incriminating was noted. An Anthony and Bobby La Pradd lived seven doors down the street from the victims at 1608 Barton, perhaps family was one reason William was seen in the neighborhood.

Excerpts from the police logs, May 6th, 1993; calls from 710 McAuley Circle.
Also included is a later call regarding harassment.

Ryan Clark, brother of victim, Chris Byers, identified other friends of Chris who were pursued by a white van, including Chris Husband.

Chris [Husband] states that approx. 2 weeks ago, he, Chad Bell + Chad Rogers were riding their bikes on McAuley Cir. A white Van was behind them - the van turned onto another street. As the boys approached Barton they saw the van parked. It was occupied by 2 W/M's - the driver was heavy set appeared to be in his late 30's - brown hair - thinks he was clean shaven - wearing a red man cap and a blue + white plaid shirt. The passenger appeared to be about 30 - long sandy brown hair thinks he had it in a pony tail - wearing sun glasses on top of his head - thinks he was clean shaven also but is not sure. When they saw the van the second time they went to Chris' house and told his mom. He is not sure if the van seemed to be following them or not. [Chris Husband interview, D. Hester, May 27, 1993]

Other area children described being pursued by a white van. The Hinkles lived at 1113 E. Barton and were also friends of Chris Byers.

1113 E. Barton 732-xxxx Jason Hinkle A m/w about 12 yrs old - said a couple of months ago, before the time changed, a white van "Astro" with a red stripe on the side followed him 4 or 5 times, once on the black top that goes from the school past the ball field! Windows are all tinted and the back windows all have curtains therefore he has no description of any occupants. There are a couple of m/b's that live on the corner that has been with him when this van came by. They are Bobby & Herman Posey and a boy named Danuell (?) that lives on Johnson in a blue house.

Although it is possible that sightings of the white van were conflated by local rumors, speaking against this is that these claims came very early in the investigation. These sightings were connected to childhood friends of Chris Byers, rather than random neighborhood hysteria. Or, perhaps the story of the van was passed from child to child. The note below connects the Husband's story to that of Holliday.

Doyle Husband note regarding
Jeff Holliday's experience with the white van.

Alternatively, in any given area, there are a number of child predators at work, and it is possible an adult was pursuing children unrelated to the killings. The children gave descriptions that were sometimes conflicting and sometimes in agreement:

Jeff Holiday and Clint Garner

White older Chevy van.
Windows only in cabin and two windows on back doors.
Black wall tires.
Chrome front and rear bumpers and chrome hub caps.
Driver (second sighting) 45 y.o. white male, no glasses, clean shaven, blue cast on left arm.
Believed van was pursuing them.
Chris Husband (with Chad Bell and Chad Rogers)

White van.
Windows in cabin and two windows on the back doors.
Driver late 30's white male, brown hair, maybe clean-shaven.
Passenger about 30, sandy brown hair, maybe pony tail, maybe clean-shaven.
Not certain if van was pursuing them.
Jason Hinkle (with Bobby and Herman Posey)

White Astro (Chevy) van with red stripe.
Windows tinted, curtain on back windows.
Unable to see driver because of tinted windows.
Believed van was pursuing them.
No interviews are available regarding the van sightings from Chad Bell, Chad Rogers or the Poseys. Only the door to door interview is available from the Hinkles.

Some sightings came from adults. In a brief passage from the door to door survey, Barbara McCafferty, mistress of James K. Martin, refers to a white van worth noting. "914 E. Barton 735-xxxx Barbara McCafferty nothing White Van 1 street north yesterday poss W/M"

Ricky Lee Murray, biological father of Chris Byers, described a suspicious Cablevision vehicle appearing when he and his fiance visited the crime scene. (Cablevision of West Memphis used white vans.)

. . .and then few minutes later this um, white, I mean this um, truck with Cablevision he came through and he went down the street and came through again and my fiance was looking at him, well he seen my fiance look at him and he turned his head real fast. . . [Ricky Lee Murray interview, May 24, 1993]

Murray went on to connect this to an incident in Memphis and reported it to the police.

. . . he [Murray's fiance's ex-husband] said you know there's a little girl in Memphis that the cable man came in, or something or another about a cable man had tried to molest this little girl and the mother walked in and got him and he said that cable guy was also working what the area of West Memphis at the time of the murder. And so the first I thought I would call the cops, you know the detective that there and let him know you know about this and you because I really hadn't even talked to him, because my mom had been talking to him, but I hadn't been talked to him. So I called him and uh, I ask him some questions and told him what I had heard about what I had about the Cablevision guy and he said that was new to him. . . [ibid]

Or, perhaps, it was just a curious neighbor passing by. Tommy James of 1116 WE Catt worked for Cablevision.

The West Memphis Police put together a list of owners of white vans in the Crittenden County area. Among those on the list are the following individuals related to the case or else who lived in the neighborhood:

Five vans, American Cablevision of West Memphis
Bobby Burch, Rt. 2 Box 106, Marion (Father of suspect)
Freddie L. or B.M. Harrison, 712 Johnson Dr., WM (neighborhood)
Jesus Center Church, 108 S 11th St., WM (King David, Sir Mikeal and Reverend Holder)
Juanita B &/or E A Mosier II, 716 Holiday Dr., WM (neighborhood)
Kelvin J. Corby, 1605 S. McAuley, WM (neighborhood)
L D Welch, P.O. Box 714, Marion (father of suspect)
Randall L & Tina R McConnell 717 Wilson Rd., WM (neighborhood)

Rex A Hester, 1202 WE Catt, WM (neighborhood, address of Otto Bailey, Jr., husband of Diane Hester)
Roger D. or Richard Clark, 511 Wilson Road, WM (neighborhood)
Rodney H Thweatt, 1705 E. Barton, WM (neighborhood)
William or Vicky La Pradd, 2193 Magnolia Bend, WM (identified by Garner and Holiday)
Willie Bolton Jr., 1704 Scottwood, WM (neighborhood)
Black Van

On May 6th, just before the children were discovered and at the same time Captain Miller was visiting the Garners regarding the white van, another call came in from a neighbor about a black van.

12:59 pm, May 6th, in reference to black van. Officer 252 is Reese.
If a one was meant to be written over the two, then this refers to #251, Inspector Gitchell.

There is no record of follow-up until after several tips came in regarding this matter.

11:20 am called Nancy LeDuke 517 Wilson. 735-xxxx about Quirt Gregory 30's child like does frequent Rodin Hood Hills + like to play with small kids. Believe Gregory lives 513 Wilson. . . 6:00 - 7:15 at Wilson + Barton saw black van ^poss dark not black mini^ with red stripe pick up 3 kids - two bikes. Richard Moise (18) [also at 517 Wilson] saw incident at Wilson + Barton + later saw same van at 513 Wilson. [Tip, May 15, 1993]

The tip goes on to say, "Unknown if kids got in van." Another tip regarding Gregory was dated 5/19/93, 10:30 a.m.

States that a W/M believes his name is Quirt Gregory - lives at 513 Wilson - appears to be in his mid twentys. Does not work - lives with his mother - rides a bike. He is seen playing with young children - is known to have a temper. . . . These people have a dark gray van - Dodge? Was seen picking children up but believes that the children was there own. [Tip, Diane Hester, Quirt Gregory, 5/19/93]

Yet another tip was noted as coming May 10th, contents unknown. After three tips and the original call on May sixth, Gregory was brought in for questioning on May 19th. In a summary note Diane Hester described him as 38 years old, "mildly retarded with the mental capacity of about 10 -13 year old." [Diane Hester note] He is said to have known victims Chris Byers and Michael Moore and "had seen" Stevie Branch.

In interview notes, written in the first person voice but in the hand of Detective Mike Allen, Gregory is quoted as saying, "the last time I saw Steve, Michael + another boy on two bicycles, 1 of the boys were riding on the handlebars." [Quirt Gregory statement, 5/19/93, Mike Allen] This is consistent with what Dana Moore saw. Gregory said this was 4 to 4:30 pm and said the three were with six other boys (or else three other boys in a separate iteration). Nothing particularly remarkable was noted. Quirt was "not able to be polygraphed in [West Memphis police polygraph specialist] Bill Durham's opinion due to his mental retardation." [Diane Hester note]

Further up Wilson, another van sighting was conveyed to the police.

721 Wilson Ms Edwards - 735-xxxx wk Flash Mark Inc, office. She said a Jack Patterson who is building the New Flash Market on S. Service Road at the old Mid-Continent Truck Stop area. Jack told Ms Edwards that Wed afternoon, a m/b in a blue van - Illinois tag, kept bugging him for a job. Jack said he was acting crazy. Jack told him he couldn't hire him. The m/b told Jack he was spending the night in his van to the rear of Mid Continent area. Thurs morning the m/b began bothering Jack again. The m/b told Jack he had spent the night in his van, and Jack was going to give him a job. Jack said the m/b began acting wild and started waving a gun around. Don't know if WMPD was called or not.

The Mid-Continent Truck Stop was destroyed in a tornado that devastated parts of West Memphis in 1989. At the time of the murders, a Flash Market was under construction at the site. Although the above refers to a blue van, Mark Byers spoke extensively about an encounter with a black van at the Mid-Continent building site. Referring to his search after midnight on May the sixth, he said:

So, uh, when he said that, I thought of an abandoned house down the street from me, so I went and looked in that. Then another friend of mine, Tony Hudson came over. And Tony Hudson and my wife and I up here on the Service Road where there used to be the Mid-Continent Building and it blew down and they're re-building it now. We thought, well maybe that's not locked and they can get in there. So we went down there and looked, and there was a ladder in the back. And Tony climbed up the ladder and got up on the roof and looked and he even got down inside the thing and looked around. And then there was a black van parked there on that lot. Just a solid black van. And I, it was locked. I went up and tried the back door, and the side door and other doors that was locked and all I could see through the window was like, garbage bags and paper and I just was kind of assuming that the people that were working on the building, it was like a work van of there's that maybe it just had their tools or equipment in it. Then that trailer that sits back there, we went back there and tried to see if that trailer was unlocked, and looked around that trailer and all. Then Tony brought Melissa and I home, and he said, I'm going to make, you know, a few more rounds around the neighborhood. And it's probably 2 or 3 o'clock [in the morning]. [John Mark Byers statement, May 19, 1993]

The construction site being referred to was situated between Goodwin Avenue and the South Service Road, just east of 18th Street, a short distance from the backyard of suspect Jimmy Sellers.

Another reference to what may have been the van was taken by Regenia Meek on the night of the fifth.

Police log, Regenia Meek (#256), May 5th 3-11 pm.

From Meek's description of her search efforts during the trial, this would have placed her near 20th and Goodwin. The license plate recorded is one character (letter or digit) short of being the correct format for Illinois license plates. Passenger cars had seven digits. Vans had six digits and a letter. The numbering would be consistent with a van first plated in the mid-eighties.

Although the menace of the white van pursuing them may have been exaggerated by the imagination of children, the van at the Mid-Continent building site and its driver brandishing a gun deserved to be checked out further.

Quirt Gregory, 1993.
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Rumors and Confessions.

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 4:58 pm

West Memphis has a population of 30,000. In spite of this, names and places recur often in this case. The same families often played multiple roles, unlikely connections being made between witnesses, investigators and suspects. This section, in which rumors are traced, includes a large number of names, each person a link in the story. Unlike the group of children in Marked Tree who said they overheard Echols confess, the source of other rumors was often elusive.

Debra O'Tinger testified as to seeing the missing children outside her house at 1309 Goodwin Avenue just before 6:00 pm. She said she and her husband had to wait as the children passed behind her truck before they could back out of their driveway on their way to her mother's for dinner.

O'Tinger's mother, Mae Beshires, lived across town at 506 Balfour along with Debra's fourteen-year-old brother, Craig Beshires. Craig gave a statement about how he and a friend John Graham had, two years ago, seen two men in their late twenties or early thirties with red, white and black paint on their faces dancing in Robin Hood Hills. In his statement, John Graham did not mention dancing and said it was three men in make-up carrying guns. The police used such statements as evidence of a cult gathering near the site of the murders.

Next door to the Beshires, at 504 Balfour, was the residence of Ricky and Debbie McKay. Together with Officer Diane Hester, Ricky McKay would haul off the discovered bicycles. The McKays' daughter, Meredith, would give Damien Echols an alibi for the evening of the fifth. She stated she saw Damien Echols and his family drive up to her cousin's house across the street at 505 Balfour at 7 pm on May the fifth. Her cousin, Stacy Sanders was with her at the time and testified in court to seeing Echols. Jennifer Sanders was at the house at 505 Balfour and testified that Damien and his family had visited. The Sanders had known the Hutchisons and Echols for a long time - years ago they had lived together. If Echols was indeed there, O'Tinger was having her supper across the street from him.

Four houses down the street at 408 Balfour was the home of Richard Simpson. LG Hollingsworth said he spent the evening of the fifth with Simpson, although Simpson denied it.

Photography and the William Jones confession

Karen McAteer [née Beshires] lived at 515 Belvedere, just off of Balfour. She reported her eleven year old daughter, Jessica Bryant, and friend, eight-year-old Heather Smith, had seen Echols photographing them. In her interview, Jessica Bryant said she saw Damien squatting behind a bush looking at them out of the corner of his eyes. He had black under his eyes and "something like" a rabbit's foot in his hair. She did not see a camera. He ran off in the direction of Balfour. There is no statement from Heather Smith.

On May 26, 1993, eighteen-year-old William Jones spoke to the police stating Damien Echols had confessed to him. A transcription of his statement became one of the few documents included as support for the search warrants.

Jones stated Damien was a satan worshipper - but did not explain how he knew this. Jones went on to say that late in the evening on the previous Friday (May 21st) he questioned Damien about his rumored involvement in the murders. ". . .everybody want me to ask him, so I asked him, and he said, that he cut them and that, you know, had sex with them, molested them." [William Jones statement, May 26, 1993] Damien allegedly went on to say he sodomized the victims and cut them with what was described as a ten to twelve inch knife. Jones said he talked to Damien about the confession the next day and at that time Damien denied it.

Jones's aunt, Shari Gilbert, placed this confession earlier. "Approximately 2 days after the boys were discovered my nephew William Jones and I were watching TV and William told me that a boy named Damien told him that him and Jason Baldwin and a third unknown person were the ones that killed the boys." [Shari Gilbert, handwritten note, June 7, 1993]

In undated notes, Detective Shane Griffin wrote: "He stated Damien is a devil worshipper and he is dangerous and he William Jones is afraid of Damien." This contrasted with his taped interview.

Ridge: But, you don't want to go to the police department?
Jones: No sir
Ridge: Because you're scared of Damian?
Jones: Naw, I am not scared of Damian.
Ridge: What are you scared of?
Jones: I've been in trouble before and I just try to stay away I guess, not really you all, you know, but Crittenden County, I try to stay away. They don't like me. [William Jones statement, May 26, 1993]

This echoed Misskelley's confession.

Ridge: Why did you not come forward with this information?
Misskelley: Cause I was scared
Ridge: Scared of Damien? or scared of the police?
Misskelley: Scared of the police. [Misskelley confession, June 3, 1993]

When interviewed by Ron Lax, the investigator for Echols defense team, Jones retracted his statement, saying he just made up something he thought the police wanted to hear.

Ridge was unsatisfied with this retraction and suspected Jones might be afraid of satanists. In a taped conversation with Joneses mother one week before the jury was to be selected for the Echols/Baldwin trial, Ridge asked whether Lax had threatened or intimidated Jones.

Ridge: Even if it's not a direct threat. Kind of like, well, well you, do you really know what you're doing? Testifying against somebody supposedly involved in this Satan worshipping and what they might do to you. Remember what they did to those little kids? [Ridge phone conversation with Dequita Dunham, February 15, 1994]

In contrast, Joneses mother gave a different characterization of the conversation with Lax.

Dequita Dunham: When he was talking to William he was just talking to him more or less as a teacher would or someone. He was understanding, you know. And, he did tell him several times, all I want is the truth. You know, it doesn't matter what the truth is, 'cause I need the truth. [ibid]

Jones did not testify at the trials. According to The Blood of Innocents,

Fogleman and Davis asked for a hearing in chambers, where they alleged an investigator for the defense had been improperly interfering with witnesses. Ronald L. Lax, a Memphis private investigator, videotaped Jones the day before saying, "I just up and said something that I didn't know nothing about." [BOI, page 289]

The specific accusation was: "Your Honor, there's some information to indicate that this Lax may be intimidating witnesses. . ." [BOI, page 290]. An investigation was launched. In a court hearing on February 25, 1994 investigating officer Bobby Stabbs said that the sole complaint of intimidation referred was in regards to the West Memphis Police and not Lax.

The Skating Rink Girls

Jennifer Ball lived at 907 Preston, near where it intersected with Balfour. On March 1, 1993 she made a complaint to the police. While talking to a friend Amanda Lancaster, a stranger stood outside Ball's window and threatened her. She described the stranger as 5' 10", 120 lbs and wearing all black. At the time of her police report, she said she was unable to identify the stranger. She described other incidents in which a neighbor Michael Beshears* (sic) had also been threatening her. In June, after the arrest of Echols, she identified the stranger at the window as Damien Echols. She went on to elaborate that Amanda Lancaster had warned her Michael "was going to blow my house up." She also stated that a Mark Beshires (sic) and Damien Echols were spying on them.

*The city directory lists the next door neighbors of Jennifer Ball as Michael W. and Heather Beshires. There were both Beshears and Beshires living in West Memphis.

In her interview, Jennifer Ball said she had heard that Damien Echols was going to kill two more virgins. She also described an encounter at the skating rink in which Damien followed her with his eyes. Then,

While we were walking out of the blue Amanda started saying shut up shut up. I looked at her & asked her wat was wrong. She said that she could hear Damien in her mind saying "Bitch you're gonna die, you know to much." (Last year Amanda had P.E. w/Damien. She said he would sit there & enter her mind. It really freaked her out.) [Jennifer Ball, June 10, 1993]

Amanda Lancaster confirmed being on the other end of the phone call when the stranger appeared at Jennifer's window. Amanda went on to say "Jennifer Harrison had said that she thought Damean had done it cause he new way to much, and he went around Horseshoe the same day the murders had happened, and had dog intestents around his neck." [Amanda Lancaster statement, June 10, 1993] Amanda Lancaster's cousin, Heather Cliett, was dating Jason Baldwin.

The skating rink was the site of several other stories surrounding Damien Echols. Joni Brown, aged 14, said she was at the skating rink on Friday, May 14th, 1993. She said her friend Whitney Nix told her she overheard Robert Burch say he and Damien Echols murdered the three victims and were going to kill two more. Brown also said Toni Cissell had overheard Damien confess. In turn, fifteen-year-old Toni Cissell stated she had heard this story from Jennifer Ashley and Crystal Hensley.

Whitney Nix, 12 years old, stated she had heard this from a friend Nicol Bumbaugh. And here the story ends, for now, inasmuch as Ashley, Bumbaugh and Hensley documents are unavailable to follow this to its ultimate source. Nix went on to relate this story about Echols.

My friend Natalie told me that he went to her Church one night and it was a lord super and he droped the brade and he would not drinke the o jushe. [Nix statement, June 15, 1993]

Twelve year old Brandy Wilson said she overheard Echols talking about the victims at the skating rink on the Friday night after the murders. Damien was sitting with Jason and Domini when he allegedly made this ambiguous statement.

He said that he had something to do with these three boys and him and Jason just started giggling and laughing. [Brandy Wilson, June 16, 1993 interview]

Brandy's mother confirmed the night although her account was even less incriminating than "something to do with these three boys."

Cummings: Will the girls did say something about it the night that we came home but they didn't nothing the kids or nothing like that just like there was some weird boys there and a couple of other things went on but no I we all really didn't talk about it [until after the arrests] [Penny Cummings, June 16, 1993 interview]

The Softball Girls

Shortly after the arrests, the police received information that a Jenni Deacon, aged 13, had overheard Echols confess. Jenni Deacon stated she had been at J.W. Rich Girls Club softball field on the first of June but that it was her friend Rachael Myers who had told her that she (Myers) had overheard the confession.

According to notes from Detective Ridge, Rachel Myers had said a "Shelly Wolf" (correctly, Wolfe) had overheard Damien confess while at a softball park. Ridge interviewed Wolfe who said she had heard this from Shannon Boals.

Shannon Boals, aged fourteen, described it a bit differently.

Around May 21, 93 [6:30 or 7:00 written above line] I was at the Girls Club in West Memphis at my softball game and this girl name Michelle Carter told me that Damien Echols came up to her and said that he killed those boys and I just said really and she said yes. [Shannon Boals, September 7, 1993]

Returning the favor, Michelle Carter (age unknown) said she was told by Shannon Boals. "About 2 weeks ago at my ballgame at the Girls Club I was told by Shannon Boals from Marion that there was a boy named Damien that said he killed the boys and he didn't cut their thing off he bite it off." [Michelle Carter, June 9, 1993]

Trey Boals [15 y.o.], Shannon's brother, said he and David Smith heard a David Way state he had overheard Echols confess. David Way [18 y.o.] said he heard this from David Smith. There are no notes regarding David Smith's version.

The Wolfes lived at 406 Balfour (next door to Richard Simpson), however, Ridge described going to take Wolfe's statement at 504 Balfour. This was the residence, yet again, of the same Ricky McKay who helped Detective Hester collect the bicycles, whose family was part of Damien's alibi, and whose next door neighbor was O'Tinger's mother. While conducting the interview with Wolfe, Detective Ridge encountered Katie LaFoy.

Thirteen-year-old Katie LaFoy said she was present at the softball field at the Girl's Club (on Shoppingway, near Balfour) on the first of June, when Damien spoke to a group of girls including a "Jody Medford." Although Katie said she missed the beginning of the conversation, she did hear Damien say, "yea that I’m going to do it to some more people too." She said she had heard enough to know he was referring to the homicide. Damien then went on to threaten them so they would not talk. Katie said Jason Baldwin was there.

In a June 7th statement, 14 year-old Jodee Medford said during the week of May 24th, she had overheard Damien Echols talking to a group of five or six people at the Girl's Club. She did not recognize the people, but Jason was not among them that night - although she said he was there the next night. She said she heard Damien say "that he had killed the 3 little boys and that before he turned himself in - he was going to kill 2 more and that he already had one picked out." She said Jackie Medford and Christy Van Vickle were with her. In a June 11th statement she changed this, saying Damien had said this to a group including Jason Baldwin and Heather Cliett.

Her sister, ten-year-old Jackie Medford, confirmed part of the story, saying she was there with her best friend Christy and her sister Jodee when she heard Echols say he killed the three little boys. She did not recognize any of the people to whom Echols was talking.

Although not mentioned as being there in her sisters' or mother's statements, twelve-year-old Jessica Medford said she was sitting with her mother when her cousin, Katie Hindrix (Hendrix) asked Echols a question and Jessica overheard Echols answer he killed the three boys.

Donna Medford, the mother of the Medford girls, said she drove a carload of the children home after the ball game including her daughters Jodee and Jackie, Christy Van Vickle and Katie Hendrix. Noticeably absent from her account was Jessica Medford. "They all started talking at once telling me about what the wierd black haired boy had said that night. The all said they heard him say that he had killed those 3 little boys." [Donna Medford, June 7, 1993] According to Donna, Katie Hendrix went on to say ". . . he had said he was going to bite her titties off. When he left she yelled 'Did you really kill those 3 boys & he yelled 'yes'." [ibid] Donna Medford said she did not overhear Echols say anything, but she did see him there that night. Katie Hendrix does not have an interview folder.

Eleven-year-old Christy Van Vickle in a June 11th statement said two weeks ago she was with Jackee Medford at Girls Club. She said she saw Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin talking to a lot of people. "I heard him say that he killed the three boys. It scared me so I walked away. I didn't hear him say any thing else." [Christy VanVickle, June 11, 1993]

The statements of Christy VanVickle and Jodee Medford were each one short paragraph. They were called as witnesses.

Jodee Medford: Um - I heard Damien Echols say that he killed the three little boys and before he turned himself in, that he was gonna kill 2 more and he already had one of 'em picked out. [Jodee Medford testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

Jodee Medford elaborated her account during testimony. They arrived about 5:00 p.m. Her sisters, Jackee and Jessica had early games, she was waiting for her game to start. At about 6:30 pm she walked around the corner of a concession stand and saw Damien Echols about 25 feet away. Echols was talking to a group of six or seven people. Jason Baldwin was nearby and his girlfriend, Heather, was standing next to him. In contrast to her June 7th statement, she said Jackee and Christy were not with her.

Fogleman: Ok. And uh - where - were you with your sister Jackie at that time?
Medford: No sir. [snip]
...cross examination, Scott Davidson.
Davidson: Ok. Did - when you say you heard this conversation, did you see, uh - Christy?
Medford: Uh uh.
Davidson: She wasn't around?
Medford: No sir.

Jodee said after she heard this she told her mother. Her mother said it was in the car heading home, so this would have been after Jodee's game. They didn't inform the police or authorities for two weeks. Jodee testified she had never seen Echols before and did not know who he was until after the arrests when she saw him on television.

Christy VanVickle did not add much to her statement during testimony. She said she was with Jackie Medford when she overheard Echols confess.

Davidson: Ok. And were - who were you with at the ballpark?
VanVickle: Um - Jackie Medford.
Davidson: Jackie Medford?
VanVickle: Um hmm.
Davidson: And anybody else?
VanVickle: No sir. [VanVickle testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

In contrast Jackie Medford had stated Jodee Medford was with them and in her testimony Jodee Medford had stated she was alone. VanVickle did not quote Echols words, just that "I heard, um - Damien Echols say that he killed the three boys." [ibid] Christy could not provide any details about the context or tone of the confession. Among the twelve instances when she answered she didn't know or couldn't remember:

Davidson: Don't remember when it was, what day of the week was it on?
VanVickle: I don't know. [snip]
. . . . .
Davidson: Did - what did he say before you say that he said he killed those three boys, what did he say before that?
VanVickle: I don't know.
Davidson: What did he say after that?
VanVickle: I don't know.
Davidson: And how close were you to him?
VanVickle: I wasn't close.
Davidson: You weren't close. Did he scream it?
VanVickle: I don't know. [ibid]

Like all of the softball girls, Christy VanVickle only came forward after the arrests.

The one adult who claimed to overhear a confession was the cult doctor, Dale Griffis. In a statement that would one-up that of the softball girls, he said:

When he [Echols] got done testifying, what you didn’t see on television, what you didn’t see in the movie 'Paradise Lost,' was the fact that Damien Echols said, 'I got three, I had 10 more to go for my coven, but that damn cop from Ohio stopped me.' [Dale Griffis interview with Zachary Petit, Tiffin Advertiser Tribune, March 11, 2007]

There were many rumors of confessions, almost exclusively from children and teenagers. Often the ultimate source of the rumors could not be pinpointed. In the case of the softball girls, there were several witnesses who gave contradictory stories that Echols had confessed at the Girl's Club on multiple nights under multiple circumstances, in front of a crowd or not, with Jason present or not, with Damien either making a short declaration or else answering questions. The names of the girl's friends who were with them at the time also conflicted between accounts. From the many claims of casually overheard confessions, two made it to trial, two young children were left to accuse Damien Echols.

The Softball Girl Lineup


Jenni Deacon said Rachel Myers had overheard Echols confess at ballpark.

Third base:

Rachel Myers said she overheard this Shelly Wolfe.

Tinkers to Evers to Chance to Evers:

Shelly Wolfe said she heard this from Shannon Boals.
Shannon Boals said she heard this from Michelle Carter.
Michelle Carter said she heard this from Shannon Boals.

Out in left field:

Katie LaFoy said she heard Echols confess at ballpark on the first of June. She said also present was Jodee Medford. No other statements, including Jodee Medford's mentions her presence.


Jodee Medford said she heard Echols confess during the week of May 24. In her June 7, 1993 statement she said her sister Jackie Medford and Christy Van Vickle were there. In her testimony she said Jackie and Christy were not with her.

Bench warmer:

Jackie Medford said she was with Jodee Medford and Christy Van Vickle when she heard Echols confess.

Backup out in left fielder:

Jessica Medford said she overheard Katie Hendrix ask Echols if he killed the children. Jodee, Jackie and Christy not mentioned as present.

Injured reserve:

Katie Hendrix - No interview is available.

Clean-up hitter:

Christy VanVickle said she was with Jackie Medford when she heard Echols confess.

Team doctor:

Dale Griffis.


Donna Medford said the kids discussed the incident in the car afterwards and later during their Memorial Day trip.


West Memphis, AR, including the victim's neighborhood and the softball park.

Satellite view of Balfour Road. 506 - Mae Beshires, 504 - Ricky McKay,
505 the Sanders, 408 Richard Simpson, 406 Shelly Wolfe.

The bush where Jessica Bryant said Echols was spying on her.
Police photo and markup. Taken from place where Jessica was.

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The Victims

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 5:09 pm

Left to right: Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Steve Branch.

They were in the second grade at Weaver Elementary School, the school located just a couple of doors down from the homes of Byers and Moore. Each household had two children and the loss was particularly harsh on the sibling. Each had achieved the rank of "Wolf" in the local Cub Scout pack.

Michael Moore enjoyed wearing his scout uniform even when he was not at meetings. He was considered the leader of the group. He lived with his parents, Roy Todd and Diana Moore and his nine-year-old sister, Dawn.

Steve "Stevie" Branch taught himself to flip and make karate moves like the Ninja Turtles. He bought a birthstone ring for Michael Moore's sister, Dawn. He had a pet dog named King and a pet turtle. He was an honor student. He lived with his mother, Pamela Hobbs, his stepfather, Terry Hobbs, and a four-year-old stepsister, Amanda.

Christopher Byers was hyperactive and naturally curious. He enjoyed swimming. He was nicknamed "Worm" for the way he squirmed so much. He lived with his mother, Sharon Melissa Byers, his stepfather, John Mark Byers, and his half-brother, Shawn Ryan Clark, aged 13. According to his mother, he was a typical eight-year-old. "He still believed in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. He liked to play in the dirt with trucks. He liked to color." [Melissa Byers, West Memphis Evening Times, May 7, 1993]

[sources: Memphis Commercial Appeal and West Memphis Evening Times]


Michael Moore. b. July 27, 1984 in Key West, FL. d. May 1993.
Sister: Dawn Moore of West Memphis, AR.
Parents: Roy Todd and Diane "Dana" Moore of West Memphis, AR.
Uncle and aunt: James F. Moore and Linda Carson Moore of Marion, AR.
Maternal grandmother: Carolyn Howard, OK.
Maternal great grandmother: Louise Smith, OK.
Paternal grandparents: James and Georgia Landrum of Memphis, TN.
Great grandmother: Mae Pugh, West Memphis, AR.

Christopher Byers. b. June 23, 1984, Memphis, TN. d. May, 1993.
Mother: Sharon Melissa Byers. b. Jan. 16, 1956. d. Mar 29, 1996.
Her parents: Kilbourn A Defir (1924-2004) and Doris C Defir, Memphis, TN.
Maternal uncle: Dennis Defir, Horn Lake, MS (residence 2004)
Father: Ricky Lee Murray, b. July 1961
Stepfather: John Mark Byers. Both of West Memphis, AR.
(Family below are through stepfather)
Step-sister: Natalie Byers of Booneville, MO.
Half-brother: Shawn Ryan Clark of West Memphis, AR
Step-brother: John Byers of Booneville, MO.
Step-uncle and aunt: Sonny and Marilee Simpson of Little Rock, AR
Step-aunt: Beth Cossey of Jonesboro, AR.
Step-uncle: George W. Byers of Memphis, TN.

Stevie Branch. b. November 26, 1984 in Blytheville, AR. d. May 1993.
Brother: Dillan Gordon Branch of Osceola, AR.
Mother: Pamela Hobbs of West Memphis, AR.
Her parents: Jack and Mary Hicks of Blythesville, AR
Father: Steve Branch of Osceola, AR.
Stepmother: Sherri Branch of Osceola, AR.
His parents: Billy and Geneva Branch of Earle, AR.
Step-father Terry Hobbs of West Memphis, AR.
Step-brother: Bryan Hobbs of Malvern, AR.
Step-sister: Amanda Hobbs of West Memphis, AR.
Greatgrandparents: Stacey Hicks of Gobler MO, Bonnie Hale of Cooter, MO.
Willie and Lola Fitzhugh and Almeda Branch, all of Earle, AR.

[source: obituaries. Unless noted, residences were for 1993]

Image Pam Hobbs and Terry Hobbs. Terry the source of hair found in Michael Moore's binded lace.
Todd and Diana Moore.

Melissa and John Mark Byers.

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"I Needed Somebody to Hate"

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 5:22 pm

Untying the Knot: John Mark Byers and the West Memphis Child Murders, the new book on the case that many are calling the crime of century, is nearing completion, and more details will be available soon. The book chronicles the life of Mark Byers, arguably the most controversial character in a case steeped in disagreement and debate. Long regarded as the chief alternate suspect in the eyes of the public, Mark continues to spark as much contention today as he did back in the days when he was shooting pumpkins and burning mock graves to vent his anger against the three men he was sure murdered his son. "People have tried to take me out", he said to the cameras in Revelations: Paradise Lost 2, "but I’m still here, Jessie, Jason, Damien. Those names ring in my ears daily. And I still hate you." More recently, however, his words and actions are angering those who have maintained that the so-called West Memphis Three belong in prison and that two juries in 1994 convicted the right people. So what has changed?

John Mark Byers has lived through the murder of his eight-year-old son Christopher and two other boys, the unexplained death of his wife Melissa three years later, spent fourteen years as a suspect in the public eye, and a hellish fifteen months in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. But a startling series of new developments - including the discovery of DNA evidence pointing to another victim’s stepfather - has turned Mark Byers into a staunch advocate for the release of the convicted killers, dubbed the West Memphis Three by their supporters. Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. have spent fifteen years in prison for a crime that Mark Byers no longer believes they committed. "It's the worst nightmare you could ever imagine", Byers said recently on Larry King Live. "I know the nightmare that the three in prison feel to be wrongly accused." He also told Johnny Dodd at People, "I was fooled for fourteen years. But now I know that an injustice was dealt upon these boys by the State of Arkansas."


When asked by Jason Miles of WMC-TV in Memphis, "Do you think [Steve Branch’s stepfather] Terry Hobbs killed your son and the two other boys?", there was only a slight hesitation in his response: "In my opinion", Byers said, "I do. If it takes the last breath in my body, [seeing Terry Hobbs in jail] that’s my goal." Regarding the convicted men - notably Echols, who sits on death row in the Varner Supermax prison in Grady, Arkansas, Byers says, "I want him to know I’m here for him."

During his interview for Larry King Live, Echols said of Byers, "I appreciate everything he’s been expressing lately. I’ve heard him make comments like that several times on different local news stations and I’ve heard people repeat that to me. And I really, really do appreciate that. It means a great deal."

Byers and Echols, once fierce adversaries, are now united in the fight to save Echols’s life. They have joined forces with a cadre of celebrity supporters - Winona Ryder, Johnny Depp, Jack Black, Natalie Maines, Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), and Margaret Cho, to name a few - who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a technical showdown with the State of Arkansas that promises to rival the O.J. Simpson and Sam Sheppard trials in drama and visibility. Forensic experts Dr. Michael Baden (O.J. Simpson), Dr. Vincent Di Maio (Scott Peterson), and former FBI profiler John Douglas (Mindhunter, Inside the Mind of the BTK Killer), have supplied the Echols defense team with enough horsepower to file a writ in federal court to have the conviction of Damien Echols overturned, or to grant a new trial. Echols’s attorneys have declared that they will be ready to file with the state courts by the middle of February, a step that was mandated by U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson, Jr., after which a hearing in federal court is expected in late spring.

Others are less enthusiastic about Byers’s change of heart. Amanda Hobbs, 19, daughter of Terry and Pam Hobbs, and the younger sister of victim Stevie Branch, thinks Byers is a hypocrite. "It makes me sick, it really does. It’s just crazy, you know? It’s like Mark Byers has been in these shoes for fourteen years and now he wants to try to put my father in those shoes?" Byers remains unmoved. "I personally believe it was a punishment crime that got out of hand."

But Terry Hobbs is still not considered a suspect by the West Memphis Police Department, though according to a CNN news story, WMPD Chief Bob Paudert says, "If they have DNA evidence that would give evidence that these three did not commit that crime, I would want to see it absolutely. I’m the first to say that if they have evidence to free those three I would support it 100 percent." The state prosecutor’s office has so far issued a "no comment" to reporters seeking information on the case.

Hobbs himself is stung by the accusations. "It’s hard as a parent to live with the loss of your home, of your wife, your family and then to have your friends and neighbors look at you and think, ‘Is there something else there?’ That hurts," he said.

But Mark Byers is haunted by the way he has felt for the last fifteen years. "I needed to hate somebody at that time in my life and I was blinded by rage, and anger, and grief", he told Miles, referring to a time not too long ago when he had no reason to believe anything other than what the state of Arkansas told him during the 1994 criminal trials. The new evidence has convinced him otherwise. Only time will tell what this uniting of the strangest of bedfellows will bring.

http://blog.johnmarkbyers.com/2008/01/1 ... -hate.aspx
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Post from Michael Moore's father (in regards to Cold Case)?

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 5:31 pm

This is the father of one of the innocent 3 eight yr. old boys that were brutally raped and murdered in west memphis, ar. and I like many, many others do not wish for this tv show to portray the murder of our children as a "cold case" the Ar. supreme court and the US supreme court has upheld the convictions of the 3 child raping murderers and think that such an episode is wrong and wish that every parent of a young child would stand agaist such an episode to be aired as if it were entertainment for the masses, It is not! it however is the pain we live with each and every day that our children are being exploited first by HBO and now by CBS this is a shame that should not be allowed. Todd Moore, father of a innocent child that was raped and murdered, is this entertainment?.

Posted by: Todd Moore | Sep 14, 2007 9:48:08 PM

http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com ... usic-.html
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Another Good WM3 Site

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 5:33 pm

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The (supposed but not likely IMO) Crime Scene-

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 5:38 pm

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

http://members.tripod.com/~VanessaWest/ ... me%20scene

There is no evidence of blood or a weapon at the scene. The boys' bicycles and clothing were in the drainage ditch as well, effectively washing away any trace evidence that may have been present. The boys' clothing had been held down with sticks, but these were not taken in as evidence by authorities. (Six months later, police would find two sticks in the woods and claim they were the same sticks used to weigh down the boy's clothing.)Two pairs of the boy's underwear were also missing. The only blood present was where authorities had removed the bodies from the ditch. An area of the drainage ditch's bank and had deliberately cleared, and an impression of a tennis shoe was found. The boys were probably killed elsewhere and then dumped in the drainage ditch in an attempt to conceal evidence.


Vicinity where bodies were found.

Sticks that were supposed to weigh down the boys' clothing.

The boys' bikes.

The cloth. Where did it go? :?
Last edited by Obscuregawdess on Sat May 17, 2008 5:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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The strange demise of Melissa Byers

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 5:42 pm

The mother of one of the three boys murdered in West Memphis died, but investigators have yet to figure out how.

By Mara Leveritt

December 26, 1997

On March 29, 1996, at approximately 5:40 p.m, Sonny Powell, the sheriff of Sharp County, called Investigator Stan Witt of the Arkansas State Police to report a suspicious death.

Powell told Witt that a woman named Melissa Byers had been taken by ambulance from her residence in Cherokee Village to Eastern Ozarks Regional Hospital. She was pronounced dead after efforts to revive her failed.

Powell was acquainted with Melissa Byers. As most people in the area knew, she was the mother of one of three boys who were found murdered in West Memphis in 1993. The following year, three West Memphis teen-agers were convicted for the killings in a pair of sensational trials, which hinged on allegations of Satanism. Throughout the trials, Melissa Byers and her husband, John Mark Byers, were seen frequently on TV, often cursing the defendants.

Since moving to Cherokee Village in 1994, the couple had had frequent run-ins with police. In 1996 they appeared on television again, this time in a highly praised documentary about the West Memphis murder case that was shown on HBO.

Now, not quite three years after the murder of 8-year-old Christopher Byers--and with some criminal charges against her and her husband still pending--Melissa Byers was dead. The problem facing Sheriff Powell was that no one at the hospital could figure out why. That inability on the part of the doctors to determine the cause of Melissa Byers' death was what prompted Sheriff Powell to telephone Witt.

Melissa Byers was only 40 years old. Her body showed no visible signs of trauma. To Powell, her death looked like a possible homicide. Witt arrived at the hospital about 35 minutes later. There he met with local law enforcement officers and with John Mark Byers, Melissa's husband. While a Sharp County deputy took a statement from John Mark Byers and got his permission to search his home, Witt began taking notes about the condition of Melissa Byers' body. It was nude and lying on the stretcher where she had died. "A visual observation of Byers' body revealed IV puncture marks on the top of her right and left foot, on the inside of her right wrist, and on the upper right thoracic area," Witt noted. "The right thoracic puncture mark and the right wrist puncture mark were both covered by Band-Aids. The puncture marks on the top of her right and left foot were not covered. ... The victim had a silver-colored necklace with a cross around her neck."

The investigator entered several other observations and had the body photographed. While he did that, another state police investigator was questioning a woman who had contacted Cherokee Village police upon hearing that Melissa Byers had been taken to the hospital. The woman told Investigator Steve Huddleston that she had known the Byerses for years, that the couple had recently been estranged, and that Melissa had been taking Dilaudid, a powerful narcotic that, when diverted to the black market, is one of the most popular illegal drugs in the country.

At approximately 9:40 that night, Witt and eight other officers organized a search at the Byers' home. Before granting his permission for the search, John Mark Byers had told a deputy sheriff that police would probably find a small amount of marijuana in the house. The deputy signed an agreement stating that, if they did, Byers would not be charged with possession. Consent thus obtained, the team searched the small, two-bedroom house at 75 Skyline Drive, while Byers waited outside. They found marijuana in a closet of the master bedroom and on a night stand in the other bedroom. They seized the marijuana as evidence, along with a glass on the night stand which contained an alcoholic beverage, believed to be peach schnapps. In addition, they seized six types of medication that had been prescribed for Melissa Byers. Dilaudid was not among them.

At midnight, Witt went to the house next door to interview Norm Metz, a neighbor who had followed John Mark Byers to the hospital. Metz had been one of the last people to see Melissa Byers alive. He told Witt that at a little after 5 p.m. that evening, John Mark Byers had called him on the phone, saying that he could not awaken his wife. Byers asked Metz to come over and see if she had a pulse.

Metz responded by asking Byers why he didn't call an ambulance. The neighbor said Byers responded, "Well, come over. Come through the kitchen door."

As Witt later recorded: "Metz advised that he went to the Byers' residence and went inside through the door leading from the carport and saw the Byers' son, Ryan Clark, and his girlfriend nude on the couch. He advised he went immediately to the bedroom and saw that Melissa was totally naked lying on the far side of the bed on her back. He advised her mouth was wide open, her eyes were closed, she was totally limp, and her arms were down by her side. Metz advised he checked for a pulse, lifted her eyelids, and looked at her eyes. ... He told Mark he was going to call EMS."

When Metz returned to the room, Witt wrote, "Ryan was trying to help John Mark put some pants on Melissa, and he asked John Mark if Melissa was dead. He advised that John Mark advised no, and Ryan had a funny, eery [sic] look on his faceŠ. He advised that when the EMTs got to the residence, Mark kept telling them, 'They've got to bring her back.' Metz advised that Ryan kept mumbling something and he did not seem coherent. He advised that when [Ryan] left, he almost flipped the car over he left so fast, spinning gravel." According to Witt's notes, when Metz later joined Mark Byers at the hospital, "Mark told him he was afraid Melissa had overdosed on a drug that is in the streets of Memphis. Metz advised that Byers told him it could be bought for $50 on the street. He told him the name of the drug. Metz could not remember it but thought it started with the letter 'D.' Metz advised that John Mark Byers also told him he thought her death was a drug overdose and that they were going to accuse him of smothering her. He advised that Byers did not clarify who 'they' were."

The Byers family has been part of the news in Arkansas since the morning of May 6, 1993, when the bodies of three 8-year-old boys--Steven Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers--were found in a drainage ditch in a wooded area near the West Memphis subdivision where they lived. Autopsies revealed that two of the boys had drowned where they had been thrown, hog-tied, into the water. The third boy, Byers, had died of loss of blood suffered during the removal of his penis. The mutilation appeared to have been inflicted with a knife. The murders shocked West Memphis, but weeks passed without an assailant or assailants being found. Finally, a month after the murders, three West Memphis teen-agers--Jessie Lloyd Misskelley, 17; Charles Jason Baldwin, 16; and Damien Wayne Echols, 18--were arrested and charged with the crimes. Their trials were recorded by a pair of documentary filmmakers working under contract with HBO.

The trials were sensational from start to finish, partly for the gruesomeness of the crimes, and partly because the police case was predicated on the belief that the killings had been part of a Satanistic orgy. No physical evidence was produced linking any of the accused teen-agers with the crime, and no motive for the killings was introduced other than that the murders had been part of an demonic ritual. All three boys were found guilty. Misskelly and Baldwin were sentenced to life in prison, and Echols, who was identified as the ringleader, was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

A year later, when the film "Paradise Lost" was shown on television and then released to theaters, John Mark and Melissa Byers were brought to national attention. Not only had their son Christopher sustained the most savage of the attacks, but John Mark and Melissa Byers stood out as the most demonstrative of the parents in the film. At one point, Melissa looked into the camera declaring her hatred for the three accused teen-agers "and the mothers that bore them." In another scene, John Mark and the father of one of the other murdered boys appeared shooting pumpkins which they pretended were the defendants.

In April 1994, eleven months after the murders, John Mark and Melissa Byers and their surviving son, Ryan, moved to Cherokee Village. But from the start, their residence there was marked by turmoil, including several incidents verging on violence:

--In early 1994, shortly after their arrival, John Mark and Melissa Byers were jailed in Sharp County on charges of residential burglary and theft after more than $20,000 in antiques were taken from a neighbor's home.

--In July, John Mark Byers was involved in an incident in which a group of teen-agers fought while Byers reportedly stood watch with a rifle to make sure the fight went on. One of the boys in the altercation carried a pocket knife belonging to Byers. The boy he was fighting was injured seriously enough to require hospitalization. Byers was later charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

--In September, Melissa Byers was charged with disorderly conduct after a neighbor reported that Melissa had threatened to kill her family. The neighbor quoted Melissa Byers as having screamed, "You can't watch your family 24 hours, and you are going down."

--In October, Melissa Byers was arrested once again and charged with aggravated assault, this time for pointing a rifle at carpet layers who refused to work in her home until the floors were cleaned. By the time the Byerses had been in Cherokee Village six months, police had been summoned to their residence at least eight times.

--In January 1995, John Mark Byers was found guilty on the charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was sentenced to a year in jail, with nine months suspended, and ordered to pay half of the injured boy's medical bills.

--Other charges against Mark and Melissa Byers, including those for the residential burglary, were still pending in Sharp County Circuit Court on March 29, 1996, when Melissa Byers mysteriously died.

Her body was sent for autopsy to the office of the medical examiner at the Arkansas Crime Laboratory in Little Rock. Witt, stymied until he knew the cause of death, waited--and waited. By the end of August--five months after the death--he still had received no word from the crime lab concerning the autopsy results.

But life was continuing for John Mark Byers. On Aug. 28, 1995, he entered into a plea agreement negotiated by his attorney and Stewart Lambert, a deputy prosecutor for the Third Judicial District. According to the negotiated plea, Byers was to pay $20,000 to the woman whose house was burglarized, make restitution to the father of the boy who was injured in the fight, and pay a $250 fine.

An additional part of the agreement was that Byers would leave the Third Judicial District, which is made up of Sharp, Lawrence, Randolph, and Jackson counties and not come back to them, or to Fulton County either.

Lambert, the prosecutor, said he entered the plea agreement with Byers because a key witness in the burglary case was a minor whose mother was reluctant to have him testify, making a successful prosecution difficult. As for ordering Byers out of the district, Lambert said, such an arrangement can be legal if done with the agreement of the party being banished. Byers accepted those terms, but has not made the required payments.

At the end of September 1996, a month after Byers' appearance in court, investigator Witt received the medical examiner's report on Melissa. It noted that she had been 68 inches tall and weighed 211 pounds. Both wrists bore multiple, well-healed, linear scars. A tattoo of a heart and scroll were present on her right upper back, with the name "Christopher" written in the scroll. No distinct scarred needle tracks were present.

However other needle marks were evident. Two of those, which were covered with bandages, were clearly the result of unsuccessful medical attempts at cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as were a couple of fractured ribs. The origin of the other needle puncture wounds--in the groin, arms, and feet--was undetermined.

There were a few small bruises on the body, some or all of which may have occurred on the way to and at the hospital. And there were some signs of deteriorating health, such as obesity, narrowing of some arteries, and a gallstone. But none of the conditions the pathologists observed would normally prove fatal, either alone or in combination.

Under the circumstances, they were particularly interested in what toxicology tests would reveal. But those findings did not solve the riddle of Byers' death either. Although a glass of peach schnapps had been found at her bedside, she had apparently drunk very little, as no alcohol was detected in her system. Nor were any opiates were found in her blood. Traces of one of her prescribed medications, an anti-seizure medicine used to treat post-traumatic stress syndrome, were present, as were traces of lithium, a medication that had been prescribed for her to treat manic depression. But that was all, and the amounts of neither of those substances exceeded therapeutic levels.

Only her urine was abnormal. It tested positive for marijuana and for hydromorphone, the synthetic narcotic more commonly known as Dilaudid. Melissa Byers did not have a prescription for Dilaudid. On the street, it sells as much as $50 per tablet. The drug is a potent opiate. It can slow breathing, heart rate, and brain activity. What was strange was that, while the drug showed up in Melissa Byers' urine, suggesting recent use, it was not found in her blood, which would be expected of a lethal agent. Moreover, that anomaly in the body was matched by an anomaly in the report.

Through what Jim Clark, the director of the crime lab, recently described as a "typographical error," no mention of the finding of Dilaudid appeared in the autopsy report's conclusions. Instead, on the report's final page, the word "hydromorphone," or Dilaudid, appeared as "hydrocodone," which is another drug entirely. Nor was the Dilaudid mentioned on the page listing the medical examiner's findings.

Asked if the discovery of an illegal drug in the body of a possible homicide victim was not a finding worth listing, Clark affirmed that, "There may be room for some further investigation as to how she obtained the drug." As for the needle marks in the body's arms, feet, and groin, Clark said, "In the pathologist's opinion, all those wounds were probably done at the hospital."

When Witt received the report, it offered no indication that Byers' death might be connected to illegal drug activity. Instead, he had the crime lab's vague conclusion that, "because of the lack of definitive anatomic or toxicological findings, the cause and manner of death are left undetermined." According to Clark, the causes of about 4 to 8 percent of deaths that are presented to medical examiners nationally are found to be undetermined.

In December, Investigator Stan Witt closed his case on Melissa Byers. Sheriff Powell is keeping his open.

'This is a deep story'
John Mark Byers contemplates the deaths of first his son and now his wife.

After her 8-year-old son Christopher was murdered, Melissa Byers became depressed, her widower, John Mark Byers recalled. "She gave up her will to live," he said in a telephone interview. "She didn't want to live without him." Asked if his wife had been using illegal drugs, Byers answered: "To my personal knowledge, no. I did not see her taking illegal drugs. But, if she was or if she wasn't, I'm not going to talk bad about my wife who's passed away. Melissa's death was another tragedy, another heartbreak. I'm the victim here, let's not forget that."

The two had been married for 10 years. After the murders of Christopher and two other boys in 1993, the couple moved to Cherokee Village to get away from what Byers described as persecution in West Memphis. "This is a deep story," he said. "There's a lot of crazy people out there. I mean really crazy people."

After the trials in which three West Memphis teen-agers were convicted of killing the younger children, Byers said residents of the city left dead animals on their car and in their yard, along with notes "saying all types of terrible things." He described the time there as being "pure hell."

But life in Cherokee Village proved no easier. "It was very hard," he said, "because of the backward people that live up there, people that are so narrow-minded. We thought there would be intelligent retired people from up north, but instead there were a lot of inbred, banjo-picking hillbillies living there, people whose family trees run in a straight line."

Asked if they did not perceive him and Melissa as sympathetic figures, being the parents of a murdered child, he said no, that for some reason "they got it confused; they thought I was the father of one of the boys who committed the killings."

Byers now lives "in a modest little apartment" in another city, the name of which he does not want revealed. He subsists on a Social Security disability check which he receives because of a tumor he says is located "in the front right lobe of my brain." Because of the tumor, he said, he cannot work--he used to be a jeweler--and he suffers "terrible migraine headaches."

In the interview, Byers described his life as an unmitigated series of woes, as "pain piled upon pain." Publicity about the West Memphis deaths has kept them "an ongoing thing," he said, prompting people to "want to open the wound and pour salt in it." Asked why, then, he and Melissa had agreed to cooperate with the filming of the documentary "Paradise Lost," he explained, "I just could not stand for my son and his two friends to die for nothing. We didn't want people to forget who he was. We wanted them to know that this witchcraft and black magic and demon worship was real. There's black and there's white, like we said on 'Maury Povitch.'"

One of the most remarkable parts of the film was a segment in which Byers and Todd Moore, the father of one of the other dead boys, blasted pumpkins that they pretended were the heads of the convicted teen-agers. Byers said the producers "asked us what we did with our aggression and our anger. We said we go out and target practice. We said we go out and shoot. We were out there basically just releasing anger, and in our minds, thinking, 'If that was the three of you. ...' We were still very raw with anger. I think anybody would be. But it was not detrimental to anyone. And if we wanted to think that that was them we were shooting, and it made us feel better, what was wrong with that?"

First, he said, he had to suffer being viewed as a suspect in his son's death. "I did not know that when a child is murdered that sometimes they think Š like in the Jon Benet Ramsey case Š that they look at the family members. The police had to explain to me that this is a big puzzle. They said, 'We've got to look at all the pieces and throw away the ones that didn't fit.'"

Byers knows that there are people who still believe that he may have been involved in the three boys' murders. "They just don't have anything better to do with their time," he says of them. "They could just watch the movie "Paradise Lost" and they would know that I'm just a victim. I'm not the villain."

Suspicion of Byers intensified when, toward the end of the filming of that movie, he offered as a gift to the HBO camera crew a knife that, though he said he had never used it, turned out to bear traces of human blood. The blood type matched his own, as well as Christopher's. Critics of the West Memphis Police Department have complained that officers allowed the incident to go uninvestigated.

But Byers has other complaints against the department, chiefly that police did not act quickly enough to find the murdered boys when their families reported them missing. He is also critical of police in Cherokee Village, who he said failed to respond when neighbors threatened him and shot up his house. "I was railroaded up there," he said.

In court, when he was tried on the charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, he recalled, "I told them, 'The boys got in a scuffle. The boy who went down seemed to be all right. It was no big deal. It's not like boys up there or anywhere else don't get in fights when people talk about their mama. ...' "The boy who was knocked down, his daddy just happened to be a freakin' lawyer. He got a judgment against me, but I didn't have to pay a dime. I didn't have anything to give the man. I'm judgment-proof. I'm indigent. That's why they told me up there just to pack up and leave, to get out of Sharp County, and don't come back.

"I went from my big, fine home and being a responsible citizen to feeling like I'm just an outcast and thrown to the bottom of the pit, when I didn't do anything. It feels so unjust and so unfair, but there's nothing I can do about it."

He was also disappointed with the way the ambulance workers treated Melissa, who he said had drunk a little peach schnapps before the two of them had settled down for a nap at 3:30. When he woke up at quarter to five, he tried to awaken her but she didn't respond. "When the paramedics came in, they jerked her off the bed and onto the floor. They didn't shock her with the paddles but one time. That kind of bothered me. They kind of acted like they didn't care, like, 'Well, good. She's dead. Maybe now he'll leave.' I just felt like they didn't care if she died or not."

Byers had not seen the autopsy report on Melissa, which only became public in December, when the State Police closed their investigation. Asked about the reported comment by his neighbor Norm Metz, that when Melissa was brought to the hospital Byers had said, "he was afraid Melissa had overdosed on a drug that is in the streets in Memphis," the name of which he thought "began with the letter 'D,' and that "could be bought for $50 on the street," Byers denied having made such a statement. He also denied telling Metz, as Metz had reported to police, that "he thought her death was a drug overdose and that they were going to accuse him of smothering her."

In the years since Christopher's death, evidence has come to light suggesting that, prior to the murders, John Mark Byers had worked with Memphis narcotics police as a confidential informant. Asked if that were true, he answered, "I'd have to say 'no comment' on that." When he was told that the police and autopsy reports on Melissa mentioned "numerous needle puncture marks" on her arms, feet, and groin, he responded, "That's news to me."

He also expressed surprise that Dilaudid was found in her system. Rather, he spoke of "drugs and all" as evil. "I think there's a lot of evil in the world," he said, "and if you live in today's society, you will experience evil. It's sent from the devil himself to kill the world. The devil has it out for everybody. The Bible says he's like a roaring lion seeking to and fro to whom he may consume."

But he added, "I have to believe that all things work for good for those who love the lord, so maybe he's letting me live to tell people that there is a devil out there, that there is evil and it will consume your life if you let it."

He has said he considers his son's killers as having been sent from hell. "Anyone who takes anyone's life, it's got to be someone that's very depraved and very twisted," he observed. "Not retarded sick, mean sick. They must have some type of problem that's deeper than I can imagine." He added, "I don't know what makes someone like that tick, because I'm not that way, so I can't say. I don't have the mind or the consciousness of a murderer, so how could I say?" The fact that no cause has been found for Melissa's death "hurts even more," Byers said.

And he wondered toward the end of the interview, "Did she have to die? Did she will herself to die? Did she not want to live anymore because of her son's being murdered? Did God just answer her prayer and take her off this earth?"

http://www.prisonpotpourri.com/JUVENILE ... 01997.html
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Alleged Post from Michael Moore's father

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 5:45 pm

(on new evidence)

Oct 30, 2007 | 10:24 PM All of this is a whole lot about nothing. this is nothing more than another sad attempt by high priced lawyers who want to confuse the public with their smoke and mirrors, this is nothing new with yet another new defense team trying to point the blame at anyone other than the convicted, this only proves what can be done when you have millions of dollars at your expense to change the publics view and gain a few supporters along the way, this is nothing more than a last ditch attempt to free thier client. the media event planned for this thursday will prove nothing new but only what money can buy in hopes to changing the publics mind and draw attention to their efforts. Do not most of the viewing public wonder why only two family members attended the meeting and not all of them? the answer is simple, none of the rest of us bought into this latest attempt. Todd Moore, father of a slain son Michael.

http://community.myfoxmemphis.com/blogs ... st_Memphis

ETA: Chris Byers' mother is dead and father wrote a letter supporting the WM3 defense. His stepfather, John Mark Byers, attended the meeting and fully supports the WM3 now. Steven Branch's mother attended, and his father was never really a part of his life and does not speak out to anyone about this, nor is he acquainted with the Moores. Terry Hobbs obviously does not upport the WM3 defense, as his DNA was found, as well as his friend's, at the crime scene. He and Stevie's mother are now divorced. The Moores are the only ones still believing the WM3 are guilty. Rumor has it they are friends and have family involved in the WMPD and have great faith in the police force/Arkansas government.
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More of Judge Burnett's BS...

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 5:54 pm

Testimony by Brent Turvey and Val Price.

I talked to a reporter from the local NBC affiliate. She admitted that she didn't really know all that much about the case, but that she'd "heard" that there was "overwhelming evidence" against the West Memphis Three. Trying to be polite, I respond, "If there was ANY evidence, I wouldn't be here." She smiled, and seemed to be honestly trying to hear me out as opposed to simply thinking that I was a cult member or something.

Sitting quietly in our nice suits, we were the picture of obedient citizenry, but the bailiff finally approached us and said, "The judge has asked that you remove those patches or go outside." The sound of our "Free The WM3" lapel stickers being ripped off of various articles of clothing was heard several times throughout the courtroom. I felt a little "naughty" as if I'd worn a Marilyn Manson T-shirt to junior high.

Brent Turvey, the forensic scientist/profiler was scheduled to testify, but unfortunately time did not permit him to. His testimony will have to wait until September 2-4 in Marion, Arkansas. There was also talk of Damien taking the stand, but this too, will have to wait until September.

Mallett opened the proceedings in his polite and careful manner, presenting the court with documents relating to the previous hearing. Brent Davis (wearing a snappy Grizzly Bear necktie) made objections to the relevancy of several of Mallett's arguments, as he went over the items. Mallett tried again, unsuccessfully, to request that Judge Burnett excuse himself. "I hope you're not taking this personally," he said.

"No, I'm not taking it personally. I'm on the horse and I'm gonna ride it!" Burnett said in his weary, irritated drawl. His delivery bears a remarkable resemblance to that of an exhausted father scolding a chronically disobedient child.

Finally, Val Price took the stand (and remained there for almost the entire duration of the two day hearing). He was carefully questioned by Mallett about the contract that he signed with CTI (Creative Thinking International - the HBO filmmakers), the money that he received from them, and the money that was supposed to be put into a trust fund for Damien's son. It was revealed that Val Price and his partner Scott Davidson partially reimbursed themselves for their expenses from this fund without consent from Damien. The fund was quickly reduced to zero.

Price was questioned about his reasons for not fighting for a better change of venue, and for having the trial so soon after the Misskelley trial (only two weeks had passed). It was suggested that these decisions were made to better facilitate the making of the film PARADISE LOST. It was also revealed that at least one scene in the film had been at least partially "staged." That is, a conversation which had already occurred, was reenacted for the CTI cameras. Price stated "HBO still owes us (meaning Damien) $2,500."

Price was questioned about jury selection. It was suggested that prejudicial questions were asked during the voir dire, and that certain potential jurors may not have been excused despite their knowledge of the case from media reports. Mallett's main argument seems to be that the Defense didn't push hard enough for a more effective change of venue.

During a recess, a reporter asked Pam Echols (Damien's mom) if Damien was still able to stay in contact with his "cult." She responded flatly that Damien had never been a member of a cult and that it was the news media that had started those stupid rumors in the first place.

I spoke with a reporter from the Commercial Appeal, which is the Memphis newspaper notorious in certain circles for publishing excerpts from Jessie's "confession" before his trial. It seemed like he was trying his best to redeem his paper for their indiscretion in 1993, by abandoning the sensational "Satanic" angle that the Commercial Appeal seems so fond of in favor of a more rational approach. The facts of this case are so much more interesting and sordid than any fictional Satanic cult could ever be.

After the recess, Val Price was still on the stand. He was questioned more about the jury selection process, and the HBO contract. It was revealed that the contract had been signed on March 15th, 1994 (the trial started on February 22, 1994). Price seemed to be suggesting that he felt that the deal with HBO would provide better financial resources for their case than a request for additional funds from Judge Burnett would have. "You decided to go to HBO instead of Judge Burnett for funding?" Mallett asked.

"Yes sir," Price responded.

Mallett returned to the issue of "staging" scenes for the film. He brought up the celebrity status of attorneys like F. Lee Bailey and Barry Scheck, and suggested that perhaps Price had this in mind when he was making his deals with the filmmakers. "Did you ever think that the media coverage would impact on your fame because of this trial?" Mallett asked.

"I might have thought about it," Price said reluctantly.

The judge was asked about his own involvement with the film, and he said, "I didn't know that it was going to be a commercial venture of that nature."

Mallett brought up John Mark Byers (stepfather of victim, Christopher Byers) and asked Price if there might have been a conflict of interest concerning his suspicion of Byers, due to the fact that at the time of the Robin Hood Hills murder trial, Byers was also on trial for breaking into a jewelry store. Davis objected, and once again used his favorite saying "Mr. Mallett is going on a fishing expedition with this conflict of interest thing..."

Burnett sustained the objection, "Let's move on," he said.

Davis objected to his objections being ignored. He complained that Mallett has a tendency to continue a line of questioning despite it being successfully objected to. Mallett was finally forced to drop an entire line of questioning and "reorganize."

"I have to be in Hot Springs tomorrow, so we'll have to end this soon..." the Judge said in reference to the next days' schedule. Day one ends at 4:10 pm. We rushed back to the hotel to watch the evening news, which surprisingly seems to be growing more and more "friendly" as time passes, and more information becomes available. A large group of supporters, now including our pal "VeryScaryCarnival," Sara and others hit the road in a small convoy for dinner at an Italian restaurant. Everyone obediently drew pictures on the paper tablecloth with their crayons. Kathy made good on her claim that she can draw any breed of dog that anyone can name. Soon, there were multicolored dogs everywhere.

That night, we all congregated in one of the larger hotel rooms and discussed (guess what) the case. Bruce Sinofsky offered an amazing collection of bizarre anecdotes about the filming of PARADISE LOST... and then all of a sudden it was 2 am.

http://www.wm3.org/live/trialshearings/ ... =98&page=2
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Some Case Related Photos:

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 6:57 pm

Jury Notes on Jason and Damien:



At a pre-trial hearing, Damien and Jessie:


Some maps...



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Corruption In Arkansas

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 8:41 pm

FBI chief touts investigation into West Memphis corruption
Posted by Mara on Friday November 10, 2006

A high-ranking FBI agent in Arkansas recently cited his office’s work in combating public corruption in the West Memphis area. In announcing the creation of a new FBI hot line for reports of public corruption, Bill Temple, the agent in charge of the Little Rock office, noted that several police officers there had been convicted of crimes. Temple said evidence of the illegal activity was uncovered in an FBI sting called “Operation Gold Road.” In recent years, officers for the West Memphis Police Department and the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office have been tried on charges relating to the illicit confiscation of drugs, money and other property during traffic stops on the highways that intersect West Memphis.

Temple said public corruption is, by nature, “a hidden crime,” because it may involve a closed circle of subjects. He said that anyone with knowledge of public corruption could call the Little Rock FBI office at (501) 221-8200, or report it online at FBI.gov, and remain anonymous. “The vast majority of public officials in Arkansas are honest, and they serve their communities well,” Temple said. “But even a small percentage of corrupton at any level of government is unacceptable and is damaging to our public institutions.

http://www.maraleveritt.com/news/FBI%20 ... corruption
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One of The Tee Shirts Available...

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 8:43 pm

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The Original West Memphis 3

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 8:49 pm

By RazorsEdge, published May 07, 2007

By now many of you are familiar with this grisly, fascinating and controversial case. The group making the most noise, of course, is the WM3 supporters. They have their own website, along with celebrities such as Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Margaret Cho, and others who proclaim the innocence of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. in the murders of the 3 victims. The bodies of the three 8 year old boys, Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore were found nude in a stream with their ankles bound to their wrists with their shoelaces. Byers had been castrated, and the other two were a bloody mess. In all the hue and cry about the West Memphis 3, or WM 3 for short, rotting away in prison for crimes they are supposedly innocent of, there is very little talk about the other West Memphis 3, the victims who were done the ultimate injustice.

The three boys were on two bicycles, with one riding on the back of his friend's rig. They either rode into a wooded area known as Robin Hood Hills, or were taken there after being abducted. Now, there are problems with the investigation of this case. There were no fingerprints found, little or no blood evidence, and no eyewitnesses, at least no reliable ones. There was much corruption alleged in the West Memphis Police Department, evidence was lost and sort of a half-ass investigation of a bloody man reported to be in the bathroom of a restaurant a mile or so away. Odd, because reports of a bloody black man near a murder scene normally brings the SWAT team or the National Guard. However, none of the corruption touched lead Det. Gary Gitchell. Gitchell retired shortly after the case and stated he would not have done so if he was not certain he had the right men.


have viewed Paradise Lost I and II, read a book called Devil's Knot, and another called The Blood Of Innocents, and I still for the life of me cannot say 100% for sure that the WM 3 are guilty, given the problems with the case. Yet, I also can't say they should be turned loose. There was testimony that the confession was coerced, but Misskelley did confess 3 or 4 times, one with his attorney present. Having seen Misskelley on the video, I don't believe he is "retarded" as some claim. He definitely isn't the smartest individual, but appears to me to know right from wrong. His attorney, Dan Stidham, is still making the rounds claiming his client's innocence 13 years after his conviction. Stidham, now a Judge in Paragould, AR, was recently in Fayetteville, home of the state's flagship University, all the way across the state, giving a speech on behalf of his client.

The supporters of the WM 3 claim that Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley were convicted based on them being "different", listening to Metallica, and wearing black. The prosecution brought "expert" witnesses, one of whom had a mail-order PHD, to say that the murders had "satanic trappings" or something like that. There was no real evidence of devil-worship at the scene, but police could hardly be blamed for looking for someone or ones "different". Whoever committed these murders is different. As for the whole Metallica, metal-head, fish out-of-water theme of the supporters, I was considered "different" myself. I listened to heavy metal when I was young, wore black quite a bit, and never quite fit in in most of the many schools I attended. However, I never admitted to drinking blood, threatened to eat my Father alive, or carried a knife concealed in a black trenchcoat, as Echols, the ringleader of the group, did.

The single most damning evidence in the trials of the WM3 was not anything put on by the prosecution. There was a lot of hearsay evidence, not remarkable by itself, but there was just so much of it. The "softball girls" who said they heard Echols bragging. The convict who claims Baldwin did the same. Later, after the trials, the officers who said Misskelley confessed yet again while being driven to prison. However, the single most damning evidence was the psychiatric records of Echols introduced by the defense in the sentencing phase. The prosecution had a field day with that, considering that Val Price, one of Echols' court appointed attorneys, allowed the prosecution to bring up testimony that otherwise would have been prohibited. It was brought out that Echols classified people as sheep and wolves, that he was a "wolf" and most of the world were "sheep", that wolves eat the sheep, that he "hates the human race", that drinking blood "makes him feel like a god" and on and on.

The 2 Paradise Lost docs were somewhat slanted, especially the 2nd, which seemed to be hellbent on proving their innocence. Mara Leverett, the author of Devil's Knot, has written several articles for the Arkansas Times for years, proclaiming the innocence of the WM3. The book is well written and has tons of footnotes, but it is fairly obvious that even though Ms. Leverett includes some information that makes the subjects look bad, that she believes Mark Byers, the stepfather of Chris Byers, committed the murders. Mark Byers long criminal past is well documented, fair enough. The fact that Byers avoided jail time for so long in spite of a long list of transgressions, is suspicious. The man needs to be behind bars for something, whether or not he is a murderer. However, there are still as many or more questions about this case as there are answers. Here are a few, in spite of some research, I have been unable to find answers to:

What happened to the black trenchcoat Echols reportedly wore everywhere? In The Blood Of Innocents, which doesn't have an obvious agenda and lets the reader pretty much decide, it is written that the trenchcoat was never found. Echols either testified or told police that it was on the floor of his room. Could the WMPD have missed something that obvious? If Echols wore it everywhere, no matter the weather, he surely would have worn it that night. If he committed the murders, it likely would have been covered in blood. Did he destroy it?

Why did WMPD not look into the bloody man more seriously?

If the WM3 was arrested only for wearing black and listening to heavy metal, I am assured by a friend of mine from West Memphis, that there was no shortage of such suspects in the area. I find it absurd that elitists from outside the state haughtily subscribe to such nonsense. My friend knew 2 of the WM3, by the way. he believes them guilty. Not evidence, but more than most outsiders have to go on. Good old H.L. Mencken style-Arkansas bashing never goes out of style in some quarters, even though all 50 states and Puerto Rico have their warts, not to mention the bloviators in DC.

I can't help but wonder how many of the WM3 supporters believe in O.J. Simpson's innocence? Not very many, I suspect. Barry Scheck, famous for his work on behalf of Simpson in the 1994 "trial of the century" is now working on behalf of the WM3. Hmmm. There couldn't be injustice anywhere but Arkansas, right? Meanwhile OJ searches for the "real killers"....on every golf course in South Florida.

The WM3 has enlisted the services of a criminal profiler, Brent Turvey, who claims there was a bite mark on one of the victims' forehead. Part of the claim is that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley's teeth don't match the mark and lo and behold, Mark Byers, stepfather of Chris Byers, has had his teeth pulled and gives varied reasons why. The problem with that theory is: the medical examiner concluded that it was NOT a bite mark. In PL II, you can see for yourself up close and it sure doesn't look anything like a bite mark to me. And if you're going to bite someone, the forehead seems like an unlikely place to do it. It looks like the imprint of a belt buckle to me. Turvey and the WM3 supporters are the only ones who seem sure it is a bite mark.

As for the rest of us, I would have a hard time sentencing anyone to death given the problems with this case, so until all avenues are exhausted as far as the evidence, in my opinion Damien Echols should be spared. There are reportedly DNA tests still being done, so hopefully something conclusive will be proven to determine once and for all whether the WM3 are guilty as charged, and if not, prove who did commit this horrific crime.

In the meantime to release the WM3, regardless of what Eddie Vedder, Margaret Cho, or Marilynn Manson think, along with the growing movement, would be to overturn the verdicts of 2 juries. It would be a terrible injustice for these 3 to be imprisoned if innocent, which is open to debate. What should not be open to debate is all the focus being on the convicted and so little on the West Memphis Three who were done the greatest injustice of all: Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. I know nothing will bring them back, and no one, except maybe Mark Byers, would want to take just anyone and blame them for these deaths, but I and others are not convinced that has happened.

It was interesting that one of the first scenes in PLII was Damien Echols doing damage control like a politician concerning the statement he made at the end of PLI about being remembered forever as the "West Memphis Boogey-Man". That was a chilling statement he made, one that sounded almost like a confession. I just wonder if Baldwin attorney Paul Ford made a "Freudian slip" when he pleaded with the jury not to vote his client "Guilty by association", a statement for which Echols stated he wanted "to strangle" Ford in PLI.

It all adds up to one of the most convoluted, controversial cases this side of OJ Simpson. If DNA evidence can prove the WM3 innocent, the state cannot ever repay them for the loss of years of their lives and I would gladly admit to being wrong. Until then, the verdicts should be respected and May 5 should be given at least as much attention as the date in June marking the anniversary of the arrests, no matter what Margaret Cho or some celebrity thinks about it.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/articl ... tml?page=4
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West Memphis, Ark., Police Officer Pleads Guilty

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 8:52 pm

To Felony Civil Rights Charge

By Kari Livingston, published Jul 24, 2007

In yet another blow to West Memphis, Ark., law enforcement, former Crittenden County Sherriff officer Shannon Houchin pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to a felony civil rights charge.

The charges stemmed from a May 2006 incident in which Houchin assaulted an arrestee while at the Crittenden County Detention Facility. Houchin faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250, 000.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said, "It is unacceptable for law enforcement officials to willfully abuse those committed to their custody. The overwhelming majority of correctional officers dispatch their difficult duties with honor and professionalism. The Justice Department will aggressively prosecute those who cross the line and violate federal law."

The guilty plea is the latest in a long line of problems for the West Memphis law enforcement community. Last month, Sgt. Erik Sammis of the West Memphis Police Department shot and killed 12-year-old DeAunta Farrow after claiming to see a gun. Farrow's mother said that he was carrying only chips and a soda. Sammis and another officer were on an unrelated stake-out. The case has drawn the attention of civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton. A special prosecutor has been named to investigate the shooting, and the FBI has taken over the investigation into the shooting. Public outrage has continue to grow and citizens organized a "No Buy Day" boycott of West Memphis businesses.

Since the name of the officer involve in the shooting has become public, other allegations of abuse against Sammis have come to light.

Sammis was one of the officers involved in a lawsuit scheduled to go to trial next summer, where an elderly man claims he was assaulted during a meth lab bust. Three other lawsuits against Sammis have been filed.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/articl ... leads.html
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Fall semester High Tables begin in Farris

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 8:54 pm


By Amy Widner
News & Features Editor
Published: November 1, 2006

A documentary and panel discussion about the West Memphis three held Thursday night in Farris Hall marked the beginning of the Honors College High Table fall semester schedule.
High Tables continue each week from 3-4 p.m. in McAlister 302 for the rest of the semester.

Today Noel Murray presents "Who Owns Your Face?: Intellectual Property and Fair use in 2006," an exploration of image use in the Internet age, and the legal and ethical applications for academics and journalism. Murray is a freelance writer who covers movies, music, TV, books and pop-culture.

Nov. 8 Honors College students Benedict Igwe and Emeka Atuegbu present "A Virtual Visit to Africa."

Nov. 15 Caleb Lucien presents "The Effects of Missionaries on the Haitian Economy and How the U.N. can Help," his recommendations for a path to improvement in Haiti. Lucien is from northern Haiti and completed his bachelor's and master's degrees in the United States. Lucien returned to Haiti and worked to improve conditions in his community. He is now assistant district governor for District 7020 in northern Haiti.

Dec. 6 Matt Taylor presents "A Musical Performance."

High Tables are presentations on a variety of topics organized by the Honors College for honors and UCA students, staff and faculty and the public. Honors College students are required to attend one High Table each semester.

Honors College instructor and High Table coordinator Doug Corbitt said High Tables were delayed this semester because of organizational problems.

Thursday's viewing of "Paradise Lost," a documentary about three teenagers convicted of murdering three West Memphis second graders, led to a discussion of police corruption and justice.

"Arkansas Times" reporter Mara Leveritt wrote a book about the case called "Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three," released in 2001. Leveritt provided background information for the High Table audience.

In 1993, 8-year-old Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Steve Branch were found murdered in the Robin Hood Hills area of West Memphis. The boys showed signs of physical and sexual abuse, and one had been sexually mutilated. In 1994, 18-year old Jessie Lloyd Misskelley, Jr., 16-year-old Jason Baldwin and 18-year-old Damien Echols were convicted of murdering the boys. Misskelley and Baldwin were sentenced to life in prison, and Echols received the death penalty.

HBO filmed their trials and released "Paradise Lost" in 1996, spawning outrage across the nation and world from those who argued the West Memphis three did not receive a fair trial. The three were arrested on the basis of a confession by the borderline mentally handicapped Misskelley and convicted without physical evidence. The prosecution associated the murders with Satanic ritual, and Echols argued he had been singled out as an outsider because he wore dark clothing and listened to metal music.

UCA students in writing instructor Lanette Grate's composition classes have researched and done projects on the West Memphis three. Several students organized a discussion group called The UCA Demand Justice Student Panel who tour colleges and high schools, showing the documentary and participating in discussions.

Grate said the panel hopes to raise awareness and spark discussion about the case.

Leveritt said the case garners a lot of national and international interest, but has been largely ignored by Arkansans.

"[Watching this documentary] is just a way to stimulate discussion and let people come to their own conclusions," Leveritt said. "Just keep in mind that [the West Memphis three] were younger than you are right now when they were sentenced to life in prison."

Student panelist Treva Chrisman, a sophomore interior design major, said: "I hate to think a bad fashion choice I made when I was 15 or 16 could convict me for the rest of my life."

Audience questions led to a discussion about police corruption.

Some students said they were skeptical about how much of a role corrupt police played in the West Memphis case or in general. Corbitt said interviews he's conducted with juvenile detention detainees have opened him up to the possibility.

"The stories have been awfully similar," Corbitt said. "I know it's scary to think about, but the police department could be corrupt. I hope it isn't true, but I've been doing this for five years and keep getting the same story.

"But by talking about things like this – hey, this is how we keep society honest, folks. Discussion can create the drive for you to become lawyers, police, journalists – by getting involved and doing something about it," Corbitt said.

Student panelist Cory Ingram, a sophomore political science major, said "And that's what we really want people to do, more so than decide as a group one thing or another about the West Memphis three. We just want people to make up their own minds."

The other student panelists were applied math graduate student Beau Jones and sophomore philosophy student Mason Brothers.

Those interested in following the three as they go through the appeal process can visit wm3.org. Those interested in speaking at spring semester High Tables can call 450-3198.
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A Skeptical View of the Judicial System

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 8:56 pm

(one message from a board)


Then there’s the issue of nonsense itself, not being tried, but being used to try cases. Those interested are referred to the two excellent, and frightening, documentaries about the West Memphis Three. Then teens, the three were accused of murdering three little boys by a creek in West Memphis in Arkansas. After 10 hours of grilling, the police squeezed a confession out of one of the teens, who also happens to be border-line retarded. A prosecution witness, whose correspondence courses in satanic rituals qualified him as an “expert,” testified that, “Yep, these are just the kind of godless, teenage heavy metal fans who would commit murders like that.” Of course it was off to death row and life terms for the teens, who have now spent half a lifetime fighting for their lives. This miscarriage of justice was also notable for the sociopathic step-father of one of the murdered boys who had all his teeth pulled before they could be matched to the bite marks on his dead step-son. He was never even questioned. The bites did not match the dental patterns of any of the WM3.

We could go into the absurdity of lifetime appointments for judges; the conflicts of interest in the processes to remove crooked lawyers and incompetent judges; the lack of penalties for over-zealous proscutors and lazy defense attorneys; the contradictions in sentencing guidelines… But you get the idea.

The judicial system seems long overdue for some skeptical inquiry and reform.
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Questions Raised About West Memphis Convictions

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 8:59 pm

By TChris, Section Innocence Cases
Posted on Fri Apr 07, 2006 at 08:51:11 AM EST

Jessie Misskelley and two others were convicted of the gruesome murders and mutilations of three 8 year old boys in West Memphis in 1993. A reporter and a lawyer are raising serious questions about their guilt.

[Attorney Daniel] Stidham contends Misskelly had the I.Q. of a 5-year-old and was told by police what to say though hours of interrogations. "It's not really difficult to get someone mentally handicapped to confess to something they didn't do," says Stidham.

Police called the murders a satanic ritualistic homicide. Stidham says Misskelly, who was labeled a Satan worshiper, didn't even know who Satan was. Stidham is calling for a new trial for his clients.

He says, "We now know there's no such thing as a satanic ritualistic homicide, we now know that false confessions do happen. Back in 1993, no one understood that." ...

Stidham says in the past 13 years, more evidence has surfaced and witnesses have retracted their statements. He believed his clients will be free if jurors can hear the case again.

Stidham says he also believes West Memphis police mishandled the crime scene and never found any forensic evidence. He also believes a serial killer murdered the boys.



*Thanks for creating this important thread. I have always thought that what happened to the West Memphis Three was tantamount to a modern day witch hunt and part of the "Satanic Panic" that hit the U.S. and abroad during the late 80's and early 90's. (I read "The Devil's Knot" and watched the two documentaries on the case. I have even written to Damien Echols in the past, offering to help out with his appeal in any way that a freelance paralegal could). What happened to those murdered boys was horrible. But what happened to Damien, Jesse and Jason was horrible, too.

*Too often the public believes that every person on death row is there because there was an ironclad case against them. This is simply not true. Of course there are guilty people there, but so many have been convicted on circumstantial evidence, shaky confessions or false testimony from jailhouse informants. BTW, the "Satanic Panic" hit the UK in the form of children being taken away from their parents due to suspected abuse. As far as I'm aware, none of this was ever proven. The evidence against one set of innocent parents was two lollypop sticks tied together in the shape of a cross and a vessel containing holy water found in their house. (They were Catholics.) Accurately applied psychology is one thing, but psychobabble in the place of facts and common sense is unacceptable and leads to poor decisions. In West Memphis, a crime actually did occur, so not only does it seem that innocent people were wrongly accused, but in this case, the real perpetrator(s) may well have gone free.

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Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 9:01 pm

ARWAR is a growing Arkansas based reform project focused on exploring human rights and civil liberty
issues, and vocalizing concern when instances of injustice arise. Attacks against our civil liberties occur
regularly and in a variety of areas. Failures in our criminal justice system, unjust legislation, corruption in
leadership, and unequal treatment of entire segments of the population are all areas that call for citizen
involvement. There is a dire need for momentous change in our state. This change is dependent on the
efforts of each citizen. Be aware of injustice and react accordingly. Regardless of your age, race, gender,
education level, or socioeconomic status, you too can work to create a better society with more choices
and less fear. ---

Our goal is to use this site as a vehicle in creating a citizen alliance. By connecting various individuals with
common ideals, and examining possible efforts and actions, we hope to perpetuate progress in reforming
our state. ARWAR,org serves a network for those who wish to protest injustice and unfairness on a
grassroots level. Although Arkansas based, contributions to our efforts are not limited to Arkansas residents
and participation is nationwide. We hope to educate people with the facts on important issues and open
minds that have been closed far too long.
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Satanic Panic and the West Memphis 3

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 9:02 pm

July 19, 2007 by Rick Maynard

For the first time in the fourteen year history of the West Memphis Child Murders, there is actual physical evidence conclusively pointing to a suspect— And as most people with functioning brain stems expected, it does not point to the West Memphis 3.

The DNA of Terry Hobbs, stepfather of murder victim Steven Branch, was found in the rope used to tie up one of the murder victims. You can read the forensic report here.

There was a time when I thought the West Memphis 3 did it. One of the suspects had allegedly made a full confession, and West Memphis Police Chief Gary Gitchell (Think Inspector Clouseau with a southern accent) never tired of regaling reporters with information that appeared to be the result of a small town rumor mill on crack than any true investigative work.

During the first trial, we found out just how questionable the confession was. Wannabe professional wrestler Jessie Misskelley, whose IQ tested at the lower end of comfortable room temperature, was questioned by police for three hours, only 46 minutes of which was recorded. In this “confession”, he told police that the murders took place in the afternoon before the three young victims were even missing (Something the police can be heard coaching him on even on the recording). He said that one of the boys was raped, which turned out not to be true. He insisted that the boys were all tied up with rope, when in fact, two were tied up with their own shoelaces.

If such a “confession” had been made in New York or Massachusetts, it would have been tossed immediately as having been worthless. But he confessed to something that piqued small town hysteria.

When asked why he, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin killed the three boys, he claimed to have been a member of a satanic cult for three months, and that the boys were killed as part of a ritual.

A quick Google search on churches in West Memphis showed 66 distinct results— That’s quite a bit for a town of only 28,000 people. Church is part of the daily life in the town. When you cry “Satanism!” you get a response.

The defense team for the three defendants asked for a change in venue— Certainly not an unreasonable request considering that Chief Gary Gitchell and his Mini-Me, Detective Bryn Ridge seemed to be in front of the cameras more often than Britney Spears’ hoo-ha.

But it ended up playing into the hands of the prosecution— The trials were moved to perhaps one of the few places more heavily churched than West Memphis. Jonesboro, Arkansas has 206 churches and is so bound by biblical doctrine that alcohol cannot be legally sold in Craighead County.

The jurors spent months listening to stories about Satanism, including unintentionally comical testimony from occult killings “expert” Dale Griffis (Revealed under cross examination to be the customer of a mail order diploma mill) who, with a straight face, said that the defendants’ taste in music (Pink Floyd and Metallica) and their taste in literature (Stephen King and Anne Rice) was proof of their Satanism.

And the jury returned with the shocking, yet at the same time predictable verdict— Guilty as charged.

The news broke two months ago that the case was being reexamined by, among others, noted forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, perhaps best known as the focus of HBO’s “Autopsy” documentary series.

Did Terry Hobbs do it? Perhaps. I do not know. I know that when John Mark Byers, the stepfather of another of the victims, heard erroneously that bite marks had been found, he had his teeth removed. I’m not aware of a strong connection between Byers and Hobbs, so I have no idea if they would have worked in concert or why they would have done it.

But at the very least, this is evidence that should be heard in court, and it’s high time that this case got a second look. The three defendants have lost fourteen years of their lives already. Damien Echols is known to have been raped and severely beaten in prison. Jason Baldwin was just moved from one facility to another as part of an investigation into abuse at the hands of prison staff. The case against them was so weak that my suspicion is that there were only 24 people on earth who couldn’t find reasonable doubt— Unfortunately, they were the jurors at the two trials. They deserve to have evidence that might exonerate them be heard. And all of us deserve the truth— For if three men wrongfully convicted of this murder sit in jail, then the person or persons who did it walk freely among us.

http://thefreedonian.wordpress.com/2007 ... memphis-3/
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A Woman's Opinion

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sat May 17, 2008 9:05 pm

Shortly after three eight-year-old boys were found mutilated and murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas, local newspapers stated the killers had been caught. The police assured the public that the three teenagers in custody were definitely responsible for these horrible crimes. Evidence?

The same police officers coerced an error-filled confession from Jessie Misskelley Jr., who is mentally handicapped. They subjected him to 12 hours of questioning without counsel or parental consent, audio-taping only two fragments totaling 46 minutes. Jessie recanted it that evening, but it was too late Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were all arrested on June 3, 1993, and convicted of murder in early 1994.

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. Unfathomably, Echols was sentenced to death, Baldwin received life without parole, and Misskelley got life plus 40.

For over 14 years, The West Memphis Three have been imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit. Echols waits in solitary confinement for the lethal injection our tax dollars will pay for. They were all condemned by their poverty, incompetent defense, satanic panic and a rush to judgment.

I saw a shocking documentary a few months back called Paradise Lost, you may have seen it, if not I would like to draw your attention to basis of this movie. Just search West Memphis Three, I am hoping to help raise awareness of this travesty of justice.

ThereI have a short wideo on my myspace page if you want a quick look). myspace.com/theseawitchofauckland


http://www.shaolintempleofboom.com/037F ... etail.aspx
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Arkansas Take Action

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sun May 18, 2008 12:28 pm

March 14, 2008
Friends of Arkansas Take Action

Points That Prove The West Memphis Three are Innocent
Dear Friends and Supporters:
DNA evidence completely exonerates all three men. There was no DNA testing done during the trial 15 years ago. As this technology has become more available and accurate, several pieces of evidence from the crime scene have been tested. All tests failed to link Damien, Jessie or Jason to the crime scene in any way. DNA testing did, however, place other individuals at the crime scene. This new evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Damien, Jessie and Jason are not guilty. The lack of their DNA alone proves the WM3 are innocent.

Jessie Misskelley’s “confession” is a textbook example of a coerced, false confession. Even though he recanted his “confession” within hours, it was a major factor in all three convictions. Jessie is mentally challenged with a low IQ of only 72. Knowing he was mentally challenged, the West Memphis police still interrogated Jessie for 12 hours without his parents or an attorney present. Only 46 minutes–a mere 6%–of this entire hostile interrogation was recorded or videotaped.

It is a proven fact that Jessie did not know key details of the crime, including the time of the murders and the materials with which the boys were bound. He simply wanted the $30,000 reward. Since he did not know real details, in his attempt to falsely accuse Damien and Jessie so he could get the money, Jessie ended up saying he was present during the murders to make his made-up story believable. Damien and Jason were not even high school friends with Jessie. They barely knew each other.

Satanic ritual, the only purported motive in this case, is utterly baseless. Scientific evidence proves that knives were not involved in this crime, effectively debunking a large part of the prosecution's theory about how and why the crimes were committed. Some of the nation’s leading forensic experts, including a former chief of the Investigative Support Unit of the FBI for twenty-five years, agree that the wounds on the victims were caused by animal bites – not by knives, as the prosecution claimed. This discredits the prosecution's theory that the motives were part of a satanic ritual, and exposes it as a baseless, fictitious claim. Further highlighting the mishandling of the evidence in this case, the knives presented as evidence were never owned by Jason, Damien or Jessie and were never linked to them as part of any witness’s sworn testimony.

Literally every piece of evidence or testimony that was used to convict the three has now been flatly refuted, either by science or through statements from actual witnesses. Substantial, irrefutable evidence shows that they had nothing at all to do with the tragic deaths of the boys.

This is a lengthy and complicated case. Please review these Frequently Asked Questions to help clarify the facts and falsehoods surrounding the wrongful convictions of the Damien, Jason and Jessie.

What were the WM3 convicted of doing?
Three eight-year-old boys were found murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. Shortly thereafter, local newspapers stated the killers had been caught. The police assured the public that the three teenagers in custody were responsible for these horrible crimes. Yet there was and is not a single piece of evidence linking any of these teenagers (now men) to the crimes.
Why are WM3 supporters confident these men are innocent?
Damien, Jason and Jessie all have strong alibis. There is not a single piece of evidence indicating they were involved --- not one. In fact, recently tested DNA evidence and physical evidence has shown that others were with the boys at the time of their murder. Although there was no physical evidence, murder weapon, motive, or connection to the victims, the prosecution 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. For over 14 years, the West Memphis Three have been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. Echols waits in solitary confinement for the lethal injection. They were all condemned by their poverty, incompetent defense, satanic panic and a rush to judgment.

With all the other causes out there, why are all of you involved with the WM3? The right to a fair trial and being judged innocent until proven guilty are cornerstones of a free nation. When our legal system actively prosecutes innocent people, our system of government is badly damaged. We love our country and seek to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans. Some supporters have also stated that they relate to Jason and Damien’s curiosity-filled teen years and feel a “there by the grace of God” kinship.
Why were Jason and Damien arrested in the first place?
To respond to pressure from the community for a prompt arrest, a large reward was offered for information about the crime. Being young and poor, Damien and Jason were easy targets for a set-up. A mentally challenged young man (Jessie Misskelley) was sent to false witness against these two teens who were not friends, but mere school acquaintances. His interrogators enticed Jessie with the prospect of reward money and the promise that he would be sent home a free man just as soon as he told them what they wanted to hear. In short, Jessie just wanted the money.
Why did Jessie get charged and convicted?
After a 12-hour hostile interrogation (of which only 46 minutes were video taped or recorded), without legal or parental counsel, Jessie Misskelley ended up implicating himself in order to satisfy his interrogators and get the reward money for his family. Court records show that Jessie knew little about the crime. He was coached and coerced by police detectives to rectify the multiple inconsistencies in his confession, which proved Jessie simply did not know the facts of the crime.
I heard Damien changed his name as part of his devil worshipping. Is this true?
No, this is totally false. Damien Echols changed his name when he converted to Catholicism at age 13 as a way to honor Father Damien, who selflessly worked with a leper colony until his own death from leprosy. This is recorded in the Catholic church Damien attended in West Memphis. One of Damien’s most ardent supporters is a member of the Catholic clergy. It is correct, though, that Damien’s name worked against him due to a popular horror movie’s demonizing of this name.
How could a jury of our peers convict three men of murder without any evidence?
Due to prosecutorial misconduct, the jury was misled and misinformed. Jessie’s coerced confession was legally inadmissible. Despite this fact, the confession was highly publicized in the media and the jury was not sequestered so they saw and read all the inflammatory stories being published during the trial. The jury was assured that the prosecution had irrefutable evidence proving the boys’ guilt. For example, Prosecutor Fogelman gave illegal and false information to the jury in his closing stating that he was able to duplicate the marks on Byers’ body by cutting into a grapefruit with the knife in question. Fogelman was not under oath and this proven false statement concerning injuries to the victims was never even admitted into evidence.
What about Damien’s seemingly bizarre behavior and statements during interviews and during the trial?
Damien Echols was an immature 17-year-old boy from a tragically poor family. He was being treated for depression to help him get through an abusive home life. He also fully trusted in our legal system. He believed he had a right to a fair trial and, like anyone would, he believed that an innocent young man would never go to prison. Out of disbelief, frustration and fear, he made many comments that were totally inappropriate. These words and actions reflect a scared kid who became defensive and angry at how unfairly he was treated simply because he was poor and from the wrong side of the tracks. An easy target for a police force out of ethical control with huge community pressure for an arrest---any arrest, at any cost.
It is sad beyond words what bigoted, ill-informed people did to three innocent young men. Damien, Jason and Jessie have spent their entire adult lives (15 long years) in prison enduring untold physical and mental abuse. Their only crime was being young, naive and members of very poor, uneducated families. It is tragic that the actual murderer(s) of the three little boys have not been punished.
What started the satanic ritual theory in the first place?
A completely false forensic conclusion of the crime created mass hysteria in this delta community. During his sworn testimony, the prosecution’s “forensic scientist” who came to a completely wrong conclusion of the murders admitted he had no formal medical training. The prosecution’s “forensic scientist” testified he received a mail order degree from now defunct Columbia Pacific University without spending a single classroom hour learning the science of forensic medicine. Yet, the jury was told repeatedly that this man was an expert by the prosecution. Further more, no DNA testing of any crime scene evidence was done before or during the trial.
How was the satanic theory dispelled?
Qualified forensic scientists, several of whom have authored textbooks used by the FBI, have proved there was no satanic ritual involved in this crime whatsoever. These expert scientists have proven the postmortem injuries (incorrectly identified during the trial as part of a ritual) were the result of animal bites. It was nature, not a satanic ritual that abused these dead boys. As often occurs when a victim is outside, animals scavenging for food will take advantage of the opportunity.
These experts also established that no genetic material of the defendants was present on the victims’ bodies, as it would have been if the crimes occurred in the manner hypothesized at Echols’ trial.  There was, however, genetic material on the penis of Steve Branch that did not come from any of the defendants or victims.  
Of equal importance, new forensic evidence has established that most of the wounds suffered by the victims, and particularly those to the genitalia of Byers, were not inflicted with a perpetrator’s knife, but resulted from post-mortem animal predation.  That analysis and conclusion, reached by more than half a dozen leading forensic pathologists and odontologists who reviewed the autopsy tests, photos, and reports, were shared months ago with the state’s prosecutorial team. These new findings have gone without prosecutorial rebuttal.

The presence of animal predation exposes the falsity of practically the entirety of the state’s case against Echols, putting the lie to: (a) Dale Griffis, a “witchcraft expert” with a fraudulent Ph.D., who claimed the wound pattern of the victims reflected satanic motivation; (b) Michael Carson, the jail-house informant who testified that Baldwin admitted drinking Byers’ blood and putting the victim’s testes in his mouth, a horrifying but wholly perjured assertion-relied upon by Griffis to support his theory of Satanists at work; and (c) the state’s claim that during a pre-arrest interview, Echols had displayed knowledge of Byers’ injuries available only to one who witnessed his castration.

What do the victim’s family members think?
Years before the DNA link between Hobbs and the crime scene was discovered, Pam Hobbs, the mother of Stevie Branch, came forth with evidence that she believed linked Terry, her former husband, to the murders. John Douglas, former chief of the Investigative Support Unit of the FBI for twenty-five years, has done an offender analysis of the murders, which applies to Hobbs. Mr. Douglas wrote that accepted profiling practices do not support the guilty verdict of the WM3.
Was there prosecutorial misconduct?
Yes. The new forensic evidence also exposes the misconduct of prosecutor John Fogelman in closing argument when he conducted an experiment, which he claimed proved that a knife recovered from a lake behind Baldwin’s residence was the instrument that maimed Byers.  No evidence in the record permitted the conclusion that the lake knife was used in the crime, yet Fogelman informed the jury in closing that he was able to duplicate the marks on Byers’ body by cutting into a grapefruit with the knife in question.  The prosecutor’s un-sworn testimony in this regard violated petitioner’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation.  Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935) (holding that prosecutors have a “special obligation to avoid ‘improper suggestions, insinuations, and especially assertions of personal knowledge’”).

Was there police misconduct?
You judge for yourself. West Memphis police officers coerced an error-filled "confession" from Jessie Misskelley Jr., who is mentally handicapped. They subjected him to 12 hours of questioning without counsel or parental consent, audio taping only two fragments totaling 46 minutes of the entire 12-hour interrogation. Jessie recanted it that evening, but it was too late— Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were all arrested on June 3, 1993, and convicted of murder in early 1994. Jessie Misskelley refused to testify against Jason and Damien even when offered a deal for significant reduction in jail time.

How can you get involved in the release of three innocent men from prison?
1. Donate to the defense fund. The DNA testing and legal procedures that will eventually set these three innocent men free are themselves not free. Any amount, big or small, that you can spare will go a long way.

Please make checks payable to:

Damien Echols Defense Fund
PO Box 1216
Little Rock, AR 72203

You can also donate online, through PayPal. It's easy, free and allows you to use your credit or debit card. We also suggest that International Supporters use this option. Please use LDavis11@hotmail.com as the recipient address and kindly include your name and address in the notes box. The button you can click to include your address does not always work.

2. Write to Damien, Jason and Jesse. Each letter they receive provides a little more hope and encouragement, knowing they are being supported by total strangers from literally all over the world.

3. Spread the word! Tell your friends, family, neighbors…anyone who will listen! The more people that know about this case, the more pressure will be put on the powers that be to right this wrong.

4. For comprehensive case information and more ways to get involved, please visit www.wm3.org.

Thank you so much!
Arkansas Take Action

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‘They messed with my words’

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sun May 18, 2008 12:41 pm

http://www.arktimes.com/Articles/Articl ... 77590f8a9a

Today, Aaron Hutcheson isn’t sure what he saw.

Tim Hackler
Updated: 10/7/2004

Aaron Hutcheson has suffered from nightmares for most of the 11 years that have passed since his two best friends were killed in West Memphis. He recently joined the Army and hopes this will help him get his life on track.

What, exactly, Hutcheson told police officers in his first interviews will never be known. The whole affair began as a result of a coincidence.

Vicki Hutcheson was scheduled to report to the Marion police station on the afternoon of May 6, the day after the murders, but before the three bodies had been discovered.

(Hutcheson had taken a lie detector test after employers at the truck stop where she worked believed she might be responsible for overcharge on a credit card. She was reporting to the police department to learn the outcome of the investigation. She was cleared, but also fired.)

Hutcheson brought Aaron with her to the police station. When a police officer learned that two of the missing boys were Aaron’s best friends, he began to ask Aaron questions.

According to the officer, Donald Bray, who talked to Aaron when his mother wasn’t present, Aaron told him things about the murder scene that only someone who had been there would know. This included the fact that two of the boys had drowned.

Is this accurate? Today, 11 years later, Aaron can no longer be sure he actually witnessed the murders.
There’s no doubt that after several interviews he told police that he did, but after daily sessions with therapists, nightly bad dreams and the passage of 11 years, he says he simply no longer knows whether he was at the scene or whether, in his shock at the brutal slayings of his best friends, he only thought he had been at the scene.

There are many inconsistencies among Aaron’s versions of what happened, leaving no doubt that he imagined or made up at least part of the story.

But was he at the murder scene?

Hutcheson said Bray told her that Aaron knew the boys had been hog-tied, and that only someone at the scene could have known that. Yet, in his first tape-recorded interview with police, on August 25, there was the following exchange.

First, Detective Bryn Ridge asks Aaron if any of his friends have told him what they think happened.

Aaron: Uh-h (no).

Ridge: Nobody has told you?

Aaron: Un-un (no) nobody even knows that … that I know what really happened. … What I think happened.

Ridge: Do you know what really happened?

Aaron: I know most of it.

Ridge: Okay.

Aaron: I think they went down there, they uh, the man the men seen them, and that white tank top man, that had on the white tank top, he told the rest of the men to hold them or something and probably did it.

Ridge did not seem to pick up on the fact that Aaron was no longer sure he had actually seen the murders.

Aaron says he knows what happened – "what I think happened."

He says he "thinks" the boys "went down there" and were discovered, and that the man in the white tank top "probably" killed them.

Eventually, Aaron gives an explanation for his knowledge of the case that the police choose to overlook – news media.

Ridge asks Aaron what he thinks should be done to the murderers when they are caught.

Aaron: I told my mom, that the police should do what they did to Michael, Chris and Steve.

Ridge: Oh.

Aaron: ’Cause I … they shouldn’t really even do it to kids that age.

Ridge: Oh, what did you hear got done to the boys?

Aaron: They got rap … they got raped and they got beaten to death, and they got drowned.

Ridge: Oh.

Aaron: See they hogged tied them and then put bricks on them so they wouldn’t float. [Note: The boys’ bodies were held down by sticks, not bricks.]

Ridge: Oh.

Aaron: That’s what I think, that’s what I heard that said.

Ridge: Who told you that?

Aaron: Nobody. I just, I heard that from the news.

Ridge: Oh.

Aaron: And um, Diane … Diane, Michael’s mom, said that she seen his face and it had knife stabs on it.

Ridge: Oh.

Aaron: On him.

Ridge: Okay, you said that they were hogged tied, now how … how do you think hogged tied is?

Aaron: They put their feet together and their arms together like that, ’cause I been took [to the] rodeo. They have kids and hog and if you tie a hog you get two dollars. I … I always know how to do that.

In this exchange, Aaron not only makes it clear that he, like many others in the area, had heard rumors that spread like wildfire about the case, he made a revealing mistake about the evidence. It was his description of how the boys were hog-tied.

He made the assumption most children or adults would make if they heard that someone had been hog-tied. He assumed the murderers had "put their feet together and their arms together…."

It would seem that the terrible way that the boys were actually tied up would make a lasting impression on anyone. In fact, each boy was bound with his back bowed, left wrist tied to left ankle, and right wrist to right ankle.

'Happy in hell'

Aaron, who is now 19, is convinced the three boys were killed by Christopher Byers’ stepfather, Mark Byers. West Memphis officials have acknowledged that Byers, a former drug informant, once was considered a suspect. He was never charged. Aaron contends Mark Byers hated kids.

Aaron is sure he told the police in the first interviews about Mark Byers. His mother also recalls that, but adds there were so many interviews that she can’t remember details from them all. But she remembers one interview in particular.

She says Detective Gary Gitchell had both her and Marion police officer Donald Bray sign an "affidavit of silence" pledging themselves never to mention that Aaron had named Mark Byers.

"I learned later on there is no such thing as an affidavit of silence," says Hutcheson, "but that’s how he described the document we signed."

At the trial of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin, Echols’ attorney, Val Price of Jonesboro, said in court that Aaron had identified Mark Byers as one of the killers. But Gitchell told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal the next day, on Feb. 18, 1994, that Aaron had never implicated Byers.

Aaron is also sure he could not have identified Jessie Misskelley as being one of the killers, because he and Misskelley had been friends and he would have noticed if Misskelley had been a participant in the slayings. ( So did Misskelley know the three boys that were killed? Hmmm...)

Vicki Hutcheson says shortly after the deaths a bulletin came on television before she could turn it off, saying that three boys had been arrested, including Jessie Misskelley. ("They showed Jessie’s picture and Aaron screamed to the top of his lungs, fell in the floor and said, ‘Jessie did not do that.’ I mean he was screaming. I had to call Judy Hicks [his therapist]. She had to administer a shot to him. No one knows the hell Aaron went through.")

Aaron says he had never seen Damien Echols or Jason Baldwin before, and that the only reason he identified them was to please the police officers interviewing him.

In addition, Victoria Hutcheson says she saw the photo "lineup" police showed Aaron. "I wasn’t allowed in the room but when the door came open for Aaron to leave I saw the photos. They were on a poster board like you have in school.

The picture of Damien was in the middle of the others, and it was much larger than the others. So of course Aaron ‘identified’ Damien. He just wanted to say whatever the police wanted him to say."

Understanding of how easily police can coerce statements, even confessions, from children has grown since 1994. Since 1999 a large number of studies and articles have been published on the subject, and state and federal courts around the country have thrown out convictions based on such statements or confessions.

The detectives failed to ask Aaron the questions that could have verified whether he had actually witnessed the slayings.

In his interview on June 8, Aaron told police he was in a tree and badly injured his back when he fell. "I could hardly walk or get up," he said.

In the version he gave police the next day, the killers hurt Aaron with a rock. The detectives neither asked Aaron about this discrepancy, nor asked him to show them the spots on his back or leg where he had been injured.

Nor did they check his wrists to see if there was any evidence of the ropes Aaron said the killers used to tie him up.

The police, then, chose to believe an eight-year-old boy’s story that he watched five men kill and mutilate three other eight-year-olds; that the killers knew Aaron saw the killings, whereupon they grabbed him and tied him up, but he was then able to untie himself and outrun five adult killers.

With each police interview Aaron’s story became more dramatic and less consistent.

In a version Aaron gave police after the Misskelley trial had started, he said he himself had been forced to dismember the body of his friend, Christopher.

In an interview with Mara Leveritt, which she reported in her 2003 book "Devil’s Knot," Circuit Judge John Fogleman, who was the prosecutor in Misskelley’s trial, admitted that Aaron’s story was not credible. "I had some police officers that were absolutely convinced of his story," he told Leveritt, "and I talked to him a couple of times.

"The first time, I was a little bit believing him. The last time, I guess when he started talking about draining the blood into a bucket, or whatever it was he said, it was so inconsistent and stuff that I got real concerned."
As a result, Fogleman did not subpoena Aaron for testimony.

At the time of the killings, Aaron was also sure that one of the five people he saw was a black man. The boy mentioned a black man with yellow teeth in a maroon-colored car in his very first interview with police.

Police and prosecutors ignored the statements, despite the fact that, at around 8 p.m. on the night the boys disappeared, a black man had entered a Bojangles Restaurant a mile from what would later be discovered to be the crime scene.
According to the restaurant’s manager, the man was covered in blood and mud, and his trousers were soaked with water up to his knees. He entered the women’s restroom where he stayed a considerable time.
The manager called the West Memphis police, but the officer who responded took a perfunctory report from the drive-through window and never entered the restaurant.

Though employees at Bojangles cleaned up the mess later that night, West Memphis police did find blood samples when they finally investigated a few days later. That evidence, however, was lost by the West Memphis Police Department.

Now a young man with intense, dark brown eyes, Aaron Hutcheson says today that he would like to become a lawyer so he could help people avoid the injustice he saw in West Memphis as an eight-year-old child.
He especially resents all the "corrections" the police made when he tried to explain what happened.

"It was like, ‘Naw, are you sure about that Aaron?’ They messed with my words a lot."
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The Ultimate Deadline

Postby Obscuregawdess » Sun May 18, 2008 12:46 pm

By David Jauss

Let’s say you’re a prisoner on Death Row at Arkansas’s super-maximum security prison, the Varner Unit, and you’d like to escape. For years now you’ve been living—if you can call it living—in solitary confinement in a filthy, airless, 9 by 12 cinderblock cell. There are no bars for you to look out, much less climb through, and all you can see through your sole window is a brick wall. And the window is really just a slit in one of the cinderblock walls, so even if you could break the bullet-proof Plexiglass, it’s too narrow for anyone to climb out. The meal slot in the solid steel door is even smaller, so forget about that route too. Your only chance would be to overpower your guards while they escort you to the visitation cell on the relatively rare occasion that a lawyer, reporter, or family member comes to see you. However, this is not easy to do when you’re handcuffed and shackled. But let’s say you somehow manage to do it. You would then have to pass through several locked doors, all of them wired with alarms, cross the wide-open prison yard, then scale three separate 15-foot-high fences, each of them topped with dense coils of concertina wire and the middle one charged with enough voltage to knock anyone who touches it to the ground. And you would have to do all of this without being spotted by any of the numerous guards who patrol the prison and man the watchtowers that overlook the prison yard.

Obviously, it’s virtually impossible to get out of this prison. Getting into it, on the other hand, is a breeze. Here’s all you have to do: wear black T-shirts, listen to Metallica, read Stephen King and Anne Rice, watch horror movies, read books about the Wiccan religion, know who Aleistair Crowley was, and befriend a mentally challenged boy with an IQ of 72 who will “confess,” after six hours of interrogation without a lawyer or other adult present, that he, you, and another friend murdered, sodomized, and sexually mutilated three eight-year-old boys. Oh, and there’s one other thing you’ll need to do: write poetry.

Fantastic as this may sound, what I’ve just described are the reasons why a then-teenager named Damien Echols was convicted for stabbing and beating three little boys to death in West Memphis, Arkansas, on May 5, 1993, and they are the reasons why he remains on Death Row now, more than fourteen years later. Despite the fact that this was an extremely bloody, hands-on murder, and despite the fact that the killings took place on a muddy creek bank, investigators were unable to find any physical evidence linking Damien or his friends Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley to the crime scene—not a single hair, fingerprint, footprint, or the slightest trace of DNA evidence. (Recent DNA tests have linked the stepfather of one of the murdered boys to the scene, however; one of his hairs was found knotted into one of the shoestrings the murderer used to tie the boys’ wrists and ankles.) And Misskelley’s so-called “confession” was riddled with significant errors. The source of many of the errors in his confession is clear: they were the rumors that were circulating around West Memphis during the month following the murders. For example, Jessie “confessed” that they:

(1) sodomized the boys both before and after they killed them (forensic evidence later revealed that the boys had not been sexually assaulted);

(2) strangled the boys (Dr. Frank Peretti, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsies, testified that there was no evidence of strangulation);

(3) murdered the boys around noon (when they were still in school) rather than “between 1 a.m. and five or seven in the morning,” as Dr. Peretti testified (or during the night, as subsequent forensic experts have estimated);

(4) tied the boys’ hands but not their legs (in fact, their left wrists were tied to their left ankles and their right wrists to their right ankles); and

(5) tied the boys with rope (rather than with their shoestrings, a fact that Jessie got right, he said, only after one of his interrogators said, “Come on, Jessie, you know it was shoestrings, not rope!”).

These are only a few of the important discrepancies between fact and Jessie’s confession. You might think that these discrepancies, coupled with the lack of any physical evidence tying Damien, Jason, and Jessie to the murder scene, would have been a problem for those who investigated and prosecuted the West Memphis Three, as Damien, Jason, and Jessie are now known. But you would be wrong. When a reporter asked Sheriff Gary Gitchell, the chief investigator, to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how solid his case was, he said, “Eleven.” The state’s deputy prosecutor, John Fogleman, concurred. In fact, however, the state’s case relied not on any evidence but on a ludicrously illogical argument: the prosecution argued that (a) Damien and his friends were interested in the occult and (b) the murders were part of an occult ritual, and therefore (c) Damien and his friends must have committed the murders. Of the three parts of this quasi-syllogism, only one is true: Damien was indeed interested in the occult. (According to the state’s own “expert” in the occult, there was no evidence that Jason was linked in any way to the occult, and no occult-related motive was raised in Jessie’s trial, which was separate from Damien and Jason’s.) But there was no evidence that the murders were part of an occult ritual, and even if there had been, having an interest in the occult doesn’t constitute proof that you committed murder. But this lack of logic didn’t deter the deputy prosecutor. After reading into evidence the number of black T-shirts Damien owned and recounting Damien’s taste in music, movies, and literature, and so forth, Fogleman said to the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen, each item, in and of itself, doesn’t mean somebody would be motivated to murder—not in and of itself. But you look at it together, and . . . you begin to see inside Damien Echols. You see inside that person, and you look inside there, and there’s not a soul there.”

Once Fogleman had linked Damien to the occult through his taste in art, he proceeded to link the crime to the occult and, by implication, to Damien. He called to the stand Dale Griffis, a so-called “Doctor” of Occult Studies—a man who admitted on cross-examination that he had received his Ph.D. from a mail-order university without having taken any classes. This “expert” testified that wearing black, listening to heavy metal music, and reading Stephen King novels were common indications that someone was involved in Satanism. He also said that the very fact that there were three victims was evidence that their murder was part of a satanic ritual. “One of the most powerful numbers in the practice of Satanic belief,” he said, “is six-six-six, and some believe the base root of six is three.” While there’s no evidence that Damien ever invoked the number 666, there is evidence that the police did: the original docket number assigned to Damien’s case ended in 555 but one of the detectives changed it to 666.

After the so-called “expert” on the occult testified about the satanic nature of the murders, Fogleman returned to the subject of Damien’s literary taste, saying that the fact that he liked to read Stephen King and Anne Rice revealed his “belief system” and “state of mind.” But he didn’t find evidence of Damien’s guilt only in his literary taste; he also found it in poems Damien had written in his private journal, poems that he proceeded to read to the judge, jury, and all else present. Among the poems was this untitled one:

I want to be in the middle,
in neither the black nor the white,
in neither the wrong nor the right,
to stand right on the line,
to be able to go to either side with a moment’s notice.
I’ve always been in the black, in the wrong.
I tried to get into the white,
but I almost destroyed it
because the black tried to follow me.
This time I won’t let it.
I will be in the middle.

Though the poem was written well before Damien was arrested, it nonetheless reads like an ironic commentary on the investigators, prosecutors, and jury and the wrongs they committed in their self-righteous pursuit of justice—the “blackness” that followed them into their “white.” But Fogleman didn’t see it this way, of course. After reading the poem, he turned to the jury and said, “That right there tells you Damien Echols. He don’t want to be in the white. He doesn’t want to be good. He wants to be both where he can go to the good side or the bad side, however it suits his purpose. If he wants to do bad, let’s go to the satanic side. . . .That poem right there tells you about Damien Echols.”

When I first heard Fogleman’s words—in Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger’s award-winning 1996 HBO documentary about the case—I thought of an earlier fan of capital punishment who saw a close connection between poetry and evil: Cardinal Richelieu, the notoriously ruthless seventeenth-century prime minister of France. He once said, “Give me six lines of verse by any honorable man and I shall find in them ample reason that he be hanged.” If there has ever been a more chilling attack on poetry, I don’t know what it is. Notice that the good cardinal wasn’t talking about a criminal, but about an honorable man. In Richelieu’s opinion, poetry is by its very nature so immoral that even an honorable man couldn’t write more than six lines of it without succumbing to blasphemy, sedition, or any of a number of other reasons for execution. Evidently, the jurors who convicted Damien likewise found ample reason in his poem that he be executed.

When I asked Damien during a June, 2005, visit how he felt when the deputy prosecutor used his poetry and journal entries as evidence against him, he said that at that time he was far more upset about having his private thoughts and feelings made public than he was about being convicted and sentenced to death. At first his answer surprised me, but then I remembered he was still a teenager at the time, and, as several studies of teens have taught us, at that age we fear nothing more than embarrassment, not even death. Also, as Damien explained, he hadn’t been too worried about going to prison or being executed, because he believed that everything would be straightened out soon, that it just wasn’t possible for an innocent person to be convicted of a crime without any evidence. So his death sentence didn’t really bother him all that much. But having his private thoughts and feelings revealed to the world—that upset him enormously. He was so upset, in fact, that for three years he didn’t write another word—and this was someone who had filled several notebooks with poems by the time he was arrested. During those three years, he woke every day so full of rage at being unjustly imprisoned—and at being routinely beaten by guards and raped, during his first year on death row, by an inmate the guards allowed into his cell—that he felt he had to do something or he’d either kill himself or go mad.

What he did was begin to write poetry again—and essays and fiction and memoirs and journal entries—and he now says that writing, along with reading and painting and his beautiful and intelligent wife Lorri Davis, who directs his legal defense fund, has kept him alive and sane. During his incarceration, he has read literally thousands of books, everything from pulp fiction to philosophy, and he has handwritten five books of memoirs, essays, and poetry, and is currently writing two others, a novel and another collection of poems. Almost Home, the first volume of his memoirs, was published in 2005, and his poems have appeared in such highly respected literary journals as Hunger Mountain, Water~Stone, The Louisville Review, Porcupine, and Rattle. One of his poems, “Army Reserve,” was set to music and recorded by Pearl Jam on that group’s self-titled 2006 CD, and Damien’s lyrics will also be featured on Illusions, a forthcoming CD by Michale Graves, formerly of The Misfits, who has set fifteen of Damien’s poems to music. Damien’s artwork will also grace the CD’s cover, just as it has graced gallery walls in San Francisco and other cities.

There are days when Damien is too depressed to write, days when he does nothing but sit and stare blankly at the cinderblock walls of his cell. Other days he paints, or creates collages, or builds wooden boxes, chess boards, and other objects as gifts for his many friends and supporters. On the days he does write, Damien will sometimes work feverishly for 10-12 hours. He writes so much, he says, because he’s facing the ultimate deadline, his execution.

Getting into prison was easy for Damien. Getting out is quite another matter. For the past fourteen-plus years, Damien has been going through the torturously long and astonishingly expensive state and federal appeals processes. The only way he will ever be free is if enough people get involved in the effort to overturn his conviction. Damien’s writing and reading helped put him into prison, and I’d like to see writers and readers band together to help him get out. If you’d like to find out more about his case, I urge you to go to the West Memphis Three website (www.wm3.org), read Mara Leveritt’s carefully researched Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three (from which many of the facts and quotations in this essay are taken), and view the two prize-winning HBO documentaries about the case, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, both available on DVD. But most of all I urge you to contribute, as generously as you can afford, to the Damien Echols Defense Fund, P.O. Box 1216, Little Rock, AR 72203. There has never been a more crucial need for financial support. As Lorri Davis explains in a letter currently on the West Memphis Three website,

Over the last two years, compelling new evidence has been discovered by DNA tests, forensic pathologists and investigators. The lawyers are working to assemble what will be a dynamic appeal; one that will change forever the way this case has been perceived, and will prove—once and for all—the innocence of the three convicted. The filing will include new evidence that is backed up with factual, hard science; a miraculous development in this error-ridden case. ...We’re now asking for your help to put all of this effort to work in the courts. We need the resources that will enable our experts, lawyers and investigators to work full time over the next couple of months, so the appeal can be filed as quickly as possible. ...Time is running out, and we need your help.

Lorri’s words bear repeating: time is running out. Without our help in raising the money needed for the Legal Defense Team to prove Damien’s innocence, his Ultimate Deadline will come much too soon and rob us not only of a good, innocent man but a man who has the raw talent and vision to become a significant writer and artist. With our help, we can free the West Memphis Three and give Damien a long peaceful life of writing and painting in a place far from the cinderblock cells and concertina wire of Varner, a place where his body, soul, and imagination will be free to create, and a place where his Ultimate Deadline will be a natural one, not one wrongly imposed by Arkansas’s deeply flawed criminal justice system.

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Postby Obscuregawdess » Sun May 18, 2008 12:48 pm

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