STATEMENT ON WM3 DECISION
Following a ruling Wednesday that no new evidence would be heard in the case of the West Memphis Three, supporters of the three men maintain vehement opposition to what they call the "mockery" being made of the Arkansas legal system in this case.
"Judge [David] Burnett¢s order yesterday denying Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin a new trial was more than just another injustice in the long and tragic history of this case; it blatantly disregarded the statute that our Legislature enacted in 2001 to ensure that citizens are not executed or imprisoned when new scientific evidence demonstrates that they are innocent," said Lorri Davis, wife of Damien Echols.
According to Arkansas Take Action, a non-profit organization formed to seek justice for three men convicted of the triple homicide of three young boys in 1993, the 2001 statute requires a judge to weigh all evidence regarding guilt or innocence. The statute expressly orders that a judge will consider new items of evidence not presented at the original trial to determine whether a defendant would now be acquitted by a jury of peers. If Burnett had allowed it, the court would have heard a multitude of evidence, including the following:
1. that none of the collected DNA matched any of the defendants, but DNA evidence points to another suspect, Terry Hobbs (stepfather of one of the victims);
2. that witnesses placed Echols at his residence on the phone several miles away;
3. that the wounds the prosecution claimed were inflicted in a satanic ritual by a survival knife found near Baldwin¢s house were shown by forensic pathologists to be the result of post-mortem animal predation;
4. that the state¢s Satanic expert was a fraud, having obtained his Ph.D. through a now-defunct mail-order college, and later having written a book claiming that two girls were abducted by aliens but recalled nothing of the encounter until he, Dale Griffis, was able to extract the information through hypnosis; and,
5. that a key prosecution witness, Anthony Hollingsworth, who testified to seeing Echols near the crime scene, had explicit motive to lie to prosecutors. Not only was he on probation for sexually assaulting his sister at the time of his testimony, but recent child rape charges against him were dismissed by one of the prosecutors in the case.
In addition to all this, ATA co-chair Capi Peck said, "the notion that Echols¢ and Baldwin¢s guilt was determined by facts presented from the witness stand at trial is preposterous in light of what has been revealed as jury misconduct." A sworn affidavit from a Little Rock attorney, hired on an unrelated matter in 1994 by original Echols-Baldwin trial jury foreman Kent Arnold, outlines the misconduct in explicit detail.
According to the affidavit, still under seal, Arnold admitted that he had:
1. misled the court about his opinions in order to secure his selection as a jury member;
2. prejudged the defendants¢ guilt;
3. used a statement from Jessie Misskelley from a separate trial in the case to sway the jury to return a guilty verdict. (This despite the fact that he told the Little Rock lawyer the prosecution had not proved its case and that the Misskelley statement was all they would have to go on).
Misskelley's statement was inadmissible in the Echols-Baldwin trial, as Misskelley had recanted and refused to testify against the other two men. The jury's consideration of it, from what had been gleaned from news sources, and the prosecution's "slip" in referring to it during arguments was a clear violation of the defendants' sixth amendment rights
"By refusing to hear the evidence not presented at the first trial, Judge Burnett has evaded, but cannot suppress, a simple truth," Davis said. "Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin would surely be acquitted of these charges if they were tried today."