Has it been a year already? I suspect it doesn't feel nearly that long for Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley, who spent almost half of their lives behind bars. But the anniversary of their release (Aug. 19) is just about upon us, and their supporters have sent out a reminder that that a $200,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction remains on the table, and a tip-line, 501-256-1775, continues to accept information.
Lonnie Soury, a spokesman for the WM3, told me today that the tip-line had yielded information — "no homeruns, but that's typical in an investigation like this" — that had been passed along to Prosecutor Scott Ellington. Soury said the group is committed to finding the killers.
In the release, Echols said his upcoming memoir, "Life After Death," and the documentary "West of Memphis" (out in September and December, respectively), "serve the purpose of continuing to put pressure on the state of Arkansas in hopes that they will eventually do the right thing and reopen the case.”
Baldwin said he's had a momentous year.
"This has been an incredible year. Thanks to the generosity of more people than I could possibly name, I earned my first paycheck, found my first apartment and learned to drive, all the same goals I had as a 16-year-old kid that have been deferred for so long.
"Recently, I have had the opportunity to travel both across the country and internationally advocating for a number of incredibly important causes, such as abolishing the death penalty and eliminating juvenile life without parole. I am also enrolled in undergraduate studies in pursuit of a law degree so that I can continue to help reform the justice system and ensure that wrongful convictions become a thing of the past."
Read the full release, including a statement from Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, on the jump.
(Little Rock, Arkansas — August 19, 2012) One year after Damien Echols was released from a death sentence and Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley were freed from life in prison, the investigation into the murder of three children on May 5, 1993 continues, as do efforts to exonerate the three men. Though wrongfully convicted and freed in a unique plea deal, they have begun to rebuild their lives, with Damien about to release a book, Jason attending college and Jesse working in Arkansas.
On his life since his release from Arkansas’s death row, Damien Echols said, “It's been one year, and I'm still adjusting to life on the outside world. I have been working on my book, Life after Death, which is coming out in September. I have also been working on our documentary, West of Memphis, which is coming out in December. All of these things serve the purpose of continuing to put pressure on the state of Arkansas in hopes that they will eventually do the right thing and reopen the case.”
Jason Baldwin said, "This has been an incredible year. Thanks to the generosity of more people than I could possibly name, I earned my first paycheck, found my first apartment and learned to drive, all the same goals I had as a 16-year-old kid that have been deferred for so long.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to travel both across the country and internationally advocating for a number of incredibly important causes, such as abolishing the death penalty and eliminating juvenile life without parole. I am also enrolled in undergraduate studies in pursuit of a law degree so that I can continue to help reform the justice system and ensure that wrongful convictions become a thing of the past.
Holly and I are also honored to be executive producing Devil's Knot, which has proved to be an incredibly cathartic experience for so many people, particularly Pam Hicks. We believe it is so important that this story be told from every point of view, both on an historic and personal level.
“Though taking the Alford Plea was a tremendously difficult choice for me, the kindness of our supporters and the opportunities I've been afforded make the decision a lot easier. Even so, my attorneys are still working fervently to find the real killer or killers, not only to clear our names but to deliver justice for Stevie, Michael and Christopher, whom none of us will ever forget."
According to Lorri Davis, Echols’s wife and the person who spearheaded the effort to free the three men, “It's been overwhelming - in good and hard ways. Everyone who has been hurt from this tragedy deserves justice. Damien, Jason and Jessie deserve to be exonerated, and the victim's families deserve to know the truth of who murdered their children. Everyone suffers when greed and lies run amok in our legal system. Our entire society is sickened by it. We won't stop in our quest to prove the innocence of Damien, Jason and Jessie because it's a broken part of our lives, and the State needs to fix it.”
Sir Peter Jackson and his partner and producer Fran Walsh stated, “Year one... nothing has changed and everything has changed. We got to watch Damien dip his fruit into tomato ketchup, because he wanted to; we got to watch him make Lorri laugh and then wrap his arms around her, because he could; we got to watch others read his work and realize he is a hugely talented writer. We got to witness the new chapter in a life that thousands of people around the world prayed for, fought for and believed in - and it has been, and will always be, worth every single second of hope we ever held on to.
“We feel incredible joy that Damien, Jason and Jessie are now free and sorrow for the loss of the innocent lives of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. It is disgusting that some Arkansas politicians continue to put their self-serving political interests ahead of justice for the victims and their families in this case. There can be no happy anniversaries when three men continue to suffer the many effects of being wrongfully convicted and the real killer of these children is allowed to walk free."
The legal defense teams and supporters continue to seek new evidence of the innocence of the three. All credible information uncovered by the ongoing investigation will be turned over to District Prosecutor Scott Ellington as per his commitment to review new evidence. Ellington has already reviewed sworn statements from three men who allege that Terry Hobbs’ nephew, Michael Hobbs Jr., told them “my uncle Terry murdered those three little boys.” According to one witness, “One day Michael picked us up in his truck. He was very quiet and upset. Michael then said to us, ‘You are not going to believe what my dad told me today. My Uncle Terry murdered the three little boys.’ According to Michael, his dad called this ‘The Hobbs Family Secret’ and he asked us to keep it a secret and not tell anyone.”
We continue to maintain confidential tip line -501.256.1775 and are offering a $200,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the murders of Stevie Branch, Chris Byers and Michael Moore.