ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT ORDERS JUDGE BURNETT TO TURN OVER NEW EVIDENCE IN DAMIEN ECHOLS’S APPEAL FOR NEW TRIAL
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Breaking News in WM3 case
Affidavit States Foreman Urged Jurors to Convict Echols Based Upon False Confession
Denies Attorney General McDaniel’s Efforts to Keep Evidence From Court
(Little Rock AR, June 29, 2009) – The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Craighead County Circuit Court and Judge David Burnett to “correct supplemented record on appeal,” requiring the lower court to include a sworn affidavit by a prominent Arkansas attorney that alleges extraordinary juror misconduct in Damien Echols’s original trial. Legal scholars believe the juror’s actions led to a wrongful conviction of Echols and Jason Baldwin. The Supreme Court’s action turned back efforts by District Attorney Dustin McDaniel to keep the exculpatory new evidence from the justices’ consideration. McDaniel had asked the Supreme Court to deny Echols’s request to include the affidavit, originally filed in May 2008.
Known as Baldwin exhibit 76, because it is concurrently under consideration in Jason Baldwin’s hearing for a new trial in Jonesboro, the sworn affidavit reveals shocking details of improper conversations that the jury foreman, Kent Arnold, conducted with the attorney while the original trial was in progress, clearly violating the law and the rights of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin to a fair and impartial trial. In those conversations, Arnold indicates that he had prejudged Echols’s guilt and was trying to convince other jurors to convict based upon news reports of the so-called confession of Jessie Misskelley, which was barred from admission at the Echols-Baldwin trial. In essence, the jury foreman introduced Misskelley’s “false confession” into jury deliberations.
Capi Peck, spokesperson for Arkansas Take Action, a Little Rock-based advocacy group seeking a new trial for Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskel1ey, said, “The Craighead County Circuit Court and the Attorney General’s office have done everything they possibly could to prevent this important new evidence from reaching the Supreme Court. A year has gone by and the circuit court has yet to include the affidavit in its record, and there is no reasonable reason why the Attorney General would try to keep this important new evidence from the higher court’s consideration.”
In addition to the juror misconduct, new evidence includes DNA and forensic findings that link others to the crime scene, and not Damien, Jason Baldwin or Jesse Misskelley.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has given Judge David Burnett 30 days to complete the record. It will likely take another 30 to 60 days before the Court is ready to review the new evidence.
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