Short Nerd Chief

New developments for the West Memphis 3

Posted by Fred on October 30, 2007

pl_cover.jpgBefore the Jena 6, there was the West Memphis 3.  Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley and Damien W. Echols were convicted in Arkansas in 1994 of the brutal murder and mutilation of three eight-year-old boys. Prosecutors portrayed the defendants as black-shirted Satanists who enjoyed heavy-metal music and ritual sacrifice. Defenders say the three were railroaded by overzealous prosecutors and townspeople afraid of their taste in clothes, taste in music (the cover of Metallica’s Master of Puppets was introduced as an exhibit at trial) and general outsiderness. It does seem clear that the “confessions” were suspect at best, particularly that of Misskelley. The case spawned two excellent documentaries, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations.

Watching the documentaries, I certainly came away thinking that (a) Echols was severely troubled and ill-served by the school system and local social service infrastructure and (b) the three may have been guilty of something, but the murder case was a pile of stinking monkey feces fueled by the same sort of Heavy Metal Hysteria that blamed Don’t Fear the Reaper for suicide in the 1980s or Marilyn Manson in the 1990s. It seemed inevitable that new evidence would come to light or the system would reconsider, but if anything local opinion became even more firmly entrenched over the next 13 years. Now comes word of a defense filing calling the original case into serious question:

In 1994, three teenagers in the small city of West Memphis, Ark., were convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys in what prosecutors portrayed as a satanic sacrifice involving sexual abuse and genital mutilation. So shocking were the crimes that when the teenagers were led from the courthouse after their arrest, they were met by 200 local residents yelling, “Burn in hell.”

But according to long-awaited new evidence filed by the defense in federal court on Monday, there was no DNA from the three defendants found at the scene, the mutilation was actually the work of animals and at least one person other than the defendants may have been present at the crime scene….There was no physical evidence linking the teenagers, now known as the West Memphis 3, to the crime.

One hopes the barely luminescent glow off in the distance is the light at the end of the tunnel for these boys, but it seems unlikely that anyone but the court can save them now. Luckily, Echols sits on death row still, so if they are to be freed it’s not too late.

ico_shoutbox.gifvia Hit & Run

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One Response to “New developments for the West Memphis 3”

  1. rosetta said

    Did a writer named Dale Griffis contribute to the circus atmosphere around this case? He claimed to be a forensic training authority and used to travel the country, thriving on the mob scene that could exist in emotionally traumatic cases.

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