West Memphis Three: A closer look at the trials and new evidence. - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro, AR - Will Carter Reports

West Memphis Three: A closer look at the trials and new evidence.

"There's still no evidence linking these kids to that crime. The evidence points elsewhere," said Dan Stidham, Jesse Misskelley's long-time attorney.

The news he speaks of has been swirling worldwide since Monday when attorneys of the West Memphis Three filed a federal appeal stating that DNA evidence proves the innocence of the three boys convicted of murder in 1994.

"I don't see how anyone, how any competent person, could look at the evidence and come away without thinking there is something horribly, horribly wrong," said Stidham.

New evidence presented this week links gashes and scratches found on the three eight year old victims bodies to animal predation - meaning the boys fell victim to predatory animals after they were already dead.

"That brings a very, very important dimension to the case because it completely destroys the prosecution's theory, which of course is that this is a satanic-ritualistic homicide," said Stidham.

And the guilt of the West Memphis Three is fading fast in the public eye and now that of victims families.

"I believed with all my heart you killed my son, and I'm sorry for that."

That statement was made Thursday night by John Mark Byers in an interview with World News Tonight.

"I was a little bit stunned because I never thought that I would hear him say those words. He's been so adamant about his statements over the course of the last 14 years," said Stidham.

And that statement by the father of a victim is just one more reason the convictions of the West Memphis Three could eventually be overturned.

"I think that's very important, because if they can recognize that surely an appellate court can recognize that, and surely the Attorney General and the prosecuting attorney can recognize that. We can fix this. It's not too late to do the right thing," said Stidham.


So, with that said, we now take a closer look at the trials that lead to the convictions of the West Memphis Three back in 1994.

"These kids were throw away kids. They came from very poor families. They didn't have a chance," said Stidham.

The lack of money for Jesse Misskelly, Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols could have been the very thing that convicted them of murder 14 years ago.

"The reason they were convicted is because of the satanic panic that occurred and existed here back in 1993. These were very horrible crimes. It was a national kind of crime that everyone was watching," said Stidham.

And with worldwide attention on the case, the pressure was on for police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and most importantly the jurors.

"The result was verdicts based on fear and panic and not on anything reliable or scientific," said Stidham.

Now some 14 years later, DNA evidence could eventually overturn convictions of the West Memphis Three, but that is something that would prove mistakes were made and the killer or killers are still on the loose.

And in 1993 it was the desperation of finding the killers that led straight to the West Memphis Three.

"Those three kids stuck out like a sore thumb in West Memphis in 1993. They were the perfect patsies. All the stars and all of the moons lined up, and what happened happened," said Stidham.

But not without a lot of help from the confession of Jesse Misskelley.

His long time attorney says this was a big mistake.

"Misskelley's confession was not admissible, yet they all said they knew about it and they considered it in their deliberation. That is a gross violation of all concepts of our ideals of justice and due process. I've always been stunned that Mr. Echols and Mr. Baldwin were convicted," said Stidham.

But what's done is done, and until the three are exhonorated - there is no price tag that can describe freedom from a wrongful conviction.

"Someone is on death row. If he is executed we cannot go back and undo that. Nobody can write a check to someone big enough to give them 14 and a half years of their life back. I don't think it matters. I think what matters is that we get it right. We still have a chance for justice," said Stidham.

We talked with prosecutor Brent Davis who wouldn't comment other than to say that he still believes the West Memphis Three are guilty of the crimes they were convicted on in 1994.

Stay with Region 8 News as we continue to follow these new developments in the 14 year old case.


Story ideas or comments?  Email Will at wcarter@kait8.com.

 

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