Arkansas judge weighs in on West Memphis evidence case

MARION, AR (AP) - A judge has ruled that the physical evidence the mother of one of three Cub Scouts killed in northeast Arkansas requested to see isn't available to her under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

The judge's decision comes in a lawsuit Pam Hicks filed in the hopes of viewing evidence in the 1993 slaying of her son, 8-year-old Stevie Branch, and his friends, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers.

Hicks argued that police and prosecutors violated the Freedom of Information Act by not allowing her to examine items, including her son's bicycle and clothing.

The judge said in a ruling filed late Monday that the West Memphis Police Department has not violated the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Hicks's lawyer, Ken Swindle, says he respectfully disagrees with the judge's decision.

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CRITTENDEN COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – Parents of two of the boys killed in West Memphis almost 20 years ago appeared in a Crittenden County courtroom on Wednesday.

They are suing to see evidence that has been held since their sons' deaths, and not even back surgery could keep John Mark Byers from Crittenden County Circuit Court.

"The Clydesdale Budweiser horses couldn't have kept me away," Byers said outside the courtroom Wednesday. "My back doesn't mean anything compared to my child and his two friends. I'll never stop fighting for justice on a wheelchair or a stretcher."

Byers and Pam Hicks allege in a civil lawsuit that police and prosecutors violated the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) when they were denied a request to see evidence related to the murder investigation.

"I'm concerned about my son's stuff is why I want to see it," Hicks said. "For God's sake, I'm a United States citizen of America as well, and they're violating my constitutional right when they tell me that I can't see it but Tom, Dick and Harry, Mary, Jane and Sue already have. Why are they saying no to me?"

Ken Swindle of Rogers argued on the parents' behalf. He says, despite the prosecutor's office providing his clients with 13 boxes of records related to the case, they want to see all the evidence as well.

David Peeples, the West Memphis city attorney, argues that evidence is exempt from the Arkansas FOIA law. He added that police are required to keep this evidence secure if or when this case is ever reopened.

"Because the freedom of information law does not extend to provide the relief that they're asking," Peeples said during questioning, "we would ask that that claim be dismissed."

The parents have also leveled a complaint against prosecuting attorney Scott Ellington over the release of additional records.

Curt Huckaby, one of Ellington's deputy prosecuting attorneys, appeared on his boss' behalf Wednesday, saying his office could release at least three affidavits due to an ongoing investigation.

"As I've said before," Byers said, "on August 19, [2011], when the West Memphis Three walked out of prison, it ain't over."

Victor Hill, the Crittenden County Circuit Court judge, plans to rule on these complaints early next week, Tuesday at the latest.

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