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Paradise Lost - The Robin Hood Hills Murders

 
 
Reply Fri 7 Dec, 2007 02:59 pm
I hope this is the right forum for this. I am watching the most fascinating documentary on The Robin Hood Hills Murders, which can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1J4xk4dFbv0

There are over thirty segments to this story; however, the HBO special concerning it begins on Part 23. If you are interested in this I do urge you to watch them from Part 1, as you will get a better feel for all the parties involved.

The gist of this case is that three West Memphis, Arkansas teenagers were convicted of capital murder in the sexual mutilation murders of three eight year old boys in 1999 based on the confession of one of them.

The controversary surrounding this case involves mainly the theory they were satanic ritual killings.

I, myself, am at a total loss as to whether these three young men are truly guilty. There was a lot of lost evidence and many unanswered questions. Due to technology of today it has been proven none of those convicted DNA was found at the scene, but DNA from one of the murdered boys stepfather was allegedly found at the scene.

I am very curious as to what others think about this case. Here is a site with a fairly good overview of "The West Memphis Three":

[quote]Overview:

In 1993, three eight-year old boys were viciously murdered in Robin Hood Hills, West Memphis, AR. Three teenagers were accused of the crime. After a bungled police investigation and a trial that appealed to the juror's fears and bigotry, the teens were convicted.

DNA evidence has conclusively proved that all three are innocent. However, the DNA of a step father of one of the boy's was allegedly detected at the crime scene.

As of 2007-NOV, they remain in jail, apparently innocent, while the perpetrator(s) go free.[/quote]

http://www.religioustolerance.org/ra_robin.htm (for more of the story)
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TTH
 
  1  
Reply Fri 7 Dec, 2007 04:24 pm
Arella Mae
I don't have time now but, I bookmarked your post so I will read it eventually. Without seeing what the youtube story says it is hard to form an opinion based on articles or interviews. I would actually have to be in the court room or look at the transcript to form an opinion.

Normally the prosecutor doesn't prosecute unless there is strong evidence that he/she will get a conviction. Also, if the police did their job, they hold back a piece of information only the killer or a witness to the crime could know.

sad story btw Crying or Very sad
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Arella Mae
 
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Reply Fri 7 Dec, 2007 05:53 pm
I know what you mean about not being in the courtroom and all and maybe that is why I just can't decide on this myself. Parts 1 through 22 do show quite a bit of the trial but what is it they didn't show?

The thing about evidence though is laid out in the video. The prosecuting attorney and his team lay out all (at least they say it is all) their evidence for the families of the victims after Jesse Misskelly was convicted. They explained to the families what evidence they had without Misskelly's testimony and what they felt the odds of winning the case without his testimony were in their opinion. The prosecutors were wanting Misskelly to testify against the other two for a reduced sentence. If that was all the evidence they really had, I am not sure I would have come up with a guilty verdict.

It is definitely a sad story. The pain the families went through with the deaths and the aftermath is heartbreaking. Perhaps with today's science, they can really put this case to rest.
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Arella Mae
 
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Reply Sat 8 Dec, 2007 04:08 pm
I have to admit the more of this documentary I watch and the more I read the more confused I am!

I am completely perplexed by the actions of Mark Byers, the father of one of the slain boys, and the now widower of one of the boys' mother. Her death was ruled as undetermined but when he was disucssing it with the polygraph examiner, he called it a murder.

I am anxious as to what you think TTH. It is a fascinating though heartbreaking case.
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TTH
 
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Reply Sat 8 Dec, 2007 04:28 pm
I have watched to part #5. So, far that isn't telling me much other than the emotions involved. I will keep watching though. It is a heart breaking case. It is hard to imagine that there are people who would do such a thing.
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Arella Mae
 
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Reply Sat 8 Dec, 2007 04:31 pm
It takes awhile to really get to the meat of the case TTH. I am on part 32 and there are at least 6 more parts to go. The further they get into it the more that is revealed about the whole thing.

It's so hard to imagine anyone being evil enough to do what happened to those children. I don't often consider people as actually evil, but in this case I will definitely make an exception.

Will be waiting to talk with ya but please do it at your convenience!
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TTH
 
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Reply Sat 8 Dec, 2007 04:41 pm
There is a lot to read and listen to. I plan to get through at least 5 parts per day. I will keep you updated.
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yitwail
 
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Reply Sat 8 Dec, 2007 07:32 pm
A M, TTH: i'm unfamiliar with this case for now, but i came across this book on Amazon:

Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three (Paperback)
by Mara Leveritt

maybe it's worth looking into, to get another perspective.
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TTH
 
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Reply Sat 8 Dec, 2007 07:51 pm
So, far I have listened to parts 1-13. No opinion yet other than who ever did it is sick and should be behind bars or executed.
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Arella Mae
 
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Reply Sat 8 Dec, 2007 09:55 pm
I just finished watching the last part (38). I am not going to comment on it until ya catch up. The Devil's Knot book and Paradise Lost film done by HBO was mentioned in this documentary.

Until ya catch up, my lips are sealed. Fascinating case though.
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TTH
 
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Reply Mon 10 Dec, 2007 07:47 am
Arella Mae
Just an update on where I am. I have sat and watched through parts 1-32. I even took 2 pages of notes. Since I am anal (in a way) I wrote down the names of the accused, victims, detectives, inspector etc. That helps me to follow along and remember who is who.

My plan is to finish watching the rest today sometime. I will let you know when I finish.
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Arella Mae
 
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Reply Mon 10 Dec, 2007 09:54 am
Wonderful! I think this will be a fascinating discussion! Thanx so much for your thoughtfulness in keeping me aprised!
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TTH
 
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Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 11:02 am
I did finish watching all 38 clips. What is it that you want to discuss?
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Arella Mae
 
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Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 01:10 pm
Quite a few things actually:

1. Do you think where the bodies were found was the actual crime scene?

2. Do you believe any of the West Memphis Three?

3. What are your opinions of Mark Byers and his behavior?

4. Do you think the bite marks should have been thrown out as evidence?

We can start with those. I have to tell you, I was shocked Mark Byers passed a lie detector test. But, he was on Xanax, Sinnequan, Zoloft, Haldol and Depakote. All of those combined could possibly calm him enough to fool a lie detector?

And what of Melissa Byers' death? His "scene" at her grave just didn't ring true to me. What do you think?
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TTH
 
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Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 02:51 pm
Let me start by saying I know almost nothing about the science of forensics, criminal profiling or drug interactions.

1) I don't know..
2) I don't believe or disbelieve them.
3) My opinion regarding Mr. Byer's is I have no opinion. People react different when it comes to death.
4) I don't know that those marks are bite marks. That was not established. I didn't write this down so going off memory there were 2 "experts". One said the marks were bite marks, the other said they were not bite marks.

Polygraph tests are known to be unreliable. In many states, the test results are not admissible as evidence in a court of law.

My notes show that Mr. Byers was on these medications:
xanax, zoloft, sinequan, haldon & depakote
The only drug I know about is zoloft. That is a drug used in the treatment of depression and other anxiety disorders. I have never heard of the other drugs and I don't know what they are taken for. As far as combining the drugs, I don't know anything about that. That is an area of expertise a pharmacist would have and why someone should only use 1 pharmacist imo.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 03:10 pm
Arella Mae and TTH,

This is a very interesting case. Legal motions are still underway to appeal the convictions. Here is a recent news article:

Quote:
U.S. to Echols: Appeal to state
(BY LINDA SATTER, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, November 29, 2007)

An appeal on behalf of one of three men convicted in the 1993 slaying of three boys in West Memphis should first be heard in state courts, a federal judge has decided. U. S. District Court Judge Bill Wilson Jr. said lawyers representing death-row inmate Damien Echols need to present new DNA tests and other evidence to state judges first. Dennis P. Riordan, a San Francisco lawyer representing Echols, filed a 188-page brief seeking to free one of the three men known by sympathizers as the "West Memphis Three."

In a letter-order dated Nov. 21, Wilson told defense attorney Deborah Sallings that the defense team must first exhaust all state remedies before the latest federal filing on behalf of Echols can go forward.

Wilson said he will halt all proceedings on the federal habeus petition, filed Oct. 29, until then. The October petition said a private laboratory in Virginia tested evidence collected from the clothing and fingernails of the 8-year-old victims. A report from the lab included in the filing shows much of the evidence failed to yield reportable results. However, on evidence able to be tested, the lab found no traces of the three convicted of the slayings.

The filing also included claims by forensic experts saying the mutilation of the bodies and castration of one of the boys came after their deaths. In the filing, the experts say the cuts came from animals, rather than the blade of a knife.

"Isn't it well-settled that the state courts should have an opportunity to address a petitioner's claims of constitutional error before those claims are presented to a federal court ?" Wilson wrote.

He instructed Sallings, who is the local counsel affiliated with Echols' San Franciscobased defense team, to file an amended petition in federal court no later than 60 days after the case is disposed of in state court.

"In addition, I request that you file monthly status reports to inform the (federal ) Court of the status of state court proceedings," he said, ordering the first status report to be filed by Jan. 3.

Attempts Wednesday to reach Echols' attorneys were unsuccessful.

Echols, now 32, was sentenced to death for the slayings of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. Co- defendants Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley received life sentences.

The three victims disappeared while riding bicycles in their neighborhood May 5, 1993. Their bodies were found the next day in a watery ditch near their homes.

The state Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Baldwin's and Echols' convictions in 1996, citing what it called substantial evidence of guilt.

Justin Allen, chief deputy attorney general for Arkansas, said Wednesday that although the defense has exhausted all "traditional" state-court remedies, they have not exhausted an additional remedy created in the 2001 legislative session.

The additional remedy pertains to scientific testing, usually of DNA evidence, when either the testing method or the evidence itself wasn't available at the time a case was tried. It requires defense attorneys to ask the judge who presided over the trial to allow additional testing and, once results are in, to modify or vacate the conviction or order a new trial.

Allen noted that the process, already under way in state court, is a lengthy one. Wilson had already stayed the federal petition until the state-court process was complete, Allen said, noting that the federal judge's Nov. 21 order is the second time he has held the federal case in abeyance until all state remedies are exhausted.

"Nothing has ever happened in the federal case because it's been stayed," pending the outcome of the testing and reconsideration in state court, Allen said. He said the only new part of Wilson's most recent order is that he now wants to be kept abreast of what is happening on the state level, through the monthly status reports.

Allen noted that state prosecutor Brent Davis "hasn't objected to the testing," and if all the testing is complete, the defense attorneys must first ask the trial court to grant some relief. They can only seek relief in federal court once the trial judge has turned them down.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 03:46 pm
Thanx for the article Wandeljw. The only problem is, as I understand from what I have heard and read so far, there is no real DNA evidence to test. There was some blood on the knife that Mark Byers gave to the HBO film team but they tested it only to determine if it was human blood, which it was; however, all the evidence was exhausted in that test.

I had not heard that the mutilations were done post mortem. If they were, that would definitely account for the lack of blood loss at the scene.

I was deeply disturbed by the affect of the three convicted teens and by Mark Byers, the adoptive father of the victim that suffered the greatest bodily injury. Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin seemed extremely inappropriate in affect to me considering the situation they were in. Damien stating "capital murder" would be his child's first words and his statement about the "West Memphis Boogeyman" were so out there it isn't funny. He also said that being part of the Paradise Lost film would be "fun". But when you compare their affect to that of their parents (what little I saw of them) it was a bit more understandable.

Jessie Misskelly not testifying against the other two really puzzled me. His life sentence could have been reduced, although it wasn't said if he would ever have a chance at parole or not. His IQ did not seem to be much of a concern to anyone when accepting his "confession."

Mark Byers' behavior totally appalled me! Him going back to the spot where the bodies were found and acting out burying the West Memphis Three and setting their graves on fire was totally psychotic in my opinion. But again, I have to question to his sincerity. He had film cameras on him at that time also. Was he acting or was it sincere? His visit to his wife, Melissa's grave, was totally false in my opinion. Nothing he did or said rang true with me throughout the whole documentary. He constantly made the story about "him"; how he was effected, what it did to him, etc., with little mention of his wife or the other families of the murdered boys.

I honestly do feel that there are too many unanswered questions in this case and that it should be reopened. But, it all comes down to having legal reason to do so.

I have discussed this with a friend of mine who is currently in school for criminal investigation. His take on the whole thing is he believes the crime scene actually occurred somewhere else, the motive was robbery (how he gets that I have no clue), and that the boys probably came upon the robbery in progress and were killed to shut them upand he believes the West Memphis Three know more about the crime then they are telling.
yitwail
 
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Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 04:32 pm
AM, i've requested Devil's Knot from the library, so when i'm through with it, i'll add my 2 Cents for the moment, i'm extremely uncomfortable that a teenager was sentenced to death on the basis of a confession by someone else that lacked any corroborative evidence. perhaps i'm jumping the gun, but the confession is essentially the only evidence of guilt, am i right?
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Arella Mae
 
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Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 04:50 pm
Essentially yes. They did have (I believe) three pieces of fiber evidence, which were not 100% conclusive.

This really seems to be a case of someone started the "satantic ritual murder" theory and the whole town ran with it. Damien Echols did say he was involved in Wicca and then later that he was Catholic (I believe). He dressed in black (goth) a lot. It seems to me this was more a case of mass hysteria and let's pin it on someone just to stop the fear.
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wandeljw
 
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Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 04:54 pm
Another implication from findings that the mutilations were done after death is that someone tried to make the murders look like they were done by ritualists.
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