by Max Brantley
No DNA from the convicted West Memphis Three was found in evidence in the murder case. But now we know that DNA from the stepfather of one of three slain children WAS found at the scene. His knives and whereabouts have made news previously. Add to this today Mara Leveritt's report of his previous arrest on a sexual assault charge.
The folks in Northeast Arkansas, from the prosecutor-turned-judge and the prosecutor-wannabe-judge to the now attorney general -- not to mention the West Memphis police and the fake experts who whipped up a Satanic furor in 1994 -- seem most reluctant to consider the growing evidence that, at a minimum, Damien Echols should not die.
Mara singles out Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's "knee-jerk" idea of justice in an opinion piece here.
The attorney general -- as he so often tells us when he's asked to go after criminals -- is not a prosecutor. He's the people's lawyer. Let's see which people those are. Homey prosecutors and judges only? Or criminal defendants where reasonable doubt has long existed on the validity of their guilty verdicts. Even in Texas, some state officials have developed consciences.
UPDATE: Betsey Wright, a death penalty abolitionist, has thoughts on both the West Memphis Three case and the state of Arkansas's unseemly rush -- in the persons of Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General McDaniel -- to continue executions as federal courts ponder the constitutionality of the lethal injection process, though not specifically in an Arkansas case. Most other states, without being forced, have decided to await the courts. In Arkansas, the executioner awaits no man nor court. Read on to the jump for Betsey's "day of joy and sorrow."
BY BETSEY WRIGHT
For me, this has been a day of simultaneous joy and horror.
I am thrilled that a path to real justice has finally opened for the three men from West Memphis whose young adulthoods were stolen from them by the judicial system of Arkansas. I keep thinking of the millions of dollars the government of Arkansas owes them for this armed robbery.
I can’t wait for that debate!
And also today, the government’s rituals of legalized murder have swallowed me up.
In preparation for killing Don Davis on November 8, on behalf of the citizens of Arkansas, the Department of Correction held its ritualistic meeting with Don this morning. This is the second time he has been subjected to one of these ghoulish gatherings at which he is faced by a half-dozen officials of the ADC who explain to him how he will be killed and how they think he will die, check his veins for suitability to the prescribed/suspect method of killing, and confirm with him the disposition of his body and belongings.
I have worked on the required commitment to claim his body with an explanation of what my plans are for it, and I am pulling together the required financial commitment to a funeral home to pick up his body from the Crime Lab and then cremate it.
Less than an hour before his execution at 6 pm tonight, the US Supreme Court issued a stay for a Mississippi inmate. There are only two remaining scheduled executions this year in the U.S.
One is Don’s.
When Gov. Beebe set Nov. 8 as the date to end the life of Don Davis, he acknowledged the January review of lethal injection by the US Supreme Court, but proceeded with a full commitment of Arkansas legal manpower and money to insure Don would be killed regardless.
I have listened to anti-death penalty acquaintances and friends say that Don’s execution date is ‘not real’ and will be stopped by the courts.
IT IS VERY REAL , and there is no guarantee in any court, and until the stay in Mississippi, I was terrified. Now I am just scared. There are more than two judges between the US Supreme Court and the 8 th Circuit who want to prove there is no moratorium in place.
I think it is, at best, unseemly of Gov. Beebe to proceed with all plans to execute Don on the 8 th, done with less advance notice than is standard procedure.
I think it is also unseemly that, to my knowledge, there has been no organized effort by any anti-death penalty group to tell the Governor that this effort is outrageous.
Perhaps Judge Wright will issue another stay for Don, as she did last year, a decision, which was overturned by the 8 th Circuit recently.
Perhaps Gov. Beebe will halt preparations for the execution if a stay is issued, while he and AG McDaniel continue with the appeals of a stay.
Perhaps Don will also have to wait until the last minute to know whether he will live a little longer, hopefully to see his beloved Cowboys in the Superbowl.
Perhaps Don will decide it isn’t worth going through this again.
But Gov. Beebe will not know that any citizens are outraged by his actions .
To use the metaphor of one of Don’s attorneys: if the method of execution is boiling in oil, and the US Supreme Court suddenly decides to decide whether boiling in oil is cruel and unusual punishment, it is bad form to continue to boil people in oil either because they waited too late to object or because the court has only now agreed to decide the issue.
Gov. Beebe and AG McDaniel are indeed acting in ‘bad form.’
Lethal injection, when botched by the non-medical professionals, is torture, and the people of this country were horrified that we were torturing suspected terrorists. I don’t believe most want torturous deaths inflicted upon those sentenced to death.
But they should speak up, especially when a national question mark has been issued by the courts.