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Paradise Lost - The Robin Hood Hills Murders

 
 
yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 05:03 pm
Arella Mae wrote:
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.


being a goth or even a wiccan is not a capital offense in this country, i hope (although some of the jury members might have thought it ought to be). i'm aware of cases where apparently false & coerced confessions result in the conviction of the suspect that confessed, but using a questionable confession to convict others who maintain their innocence is doubly disturbing. that's precisely how witch hunts get launched, by forcing the accused to name other participants.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 05:43 pm
That is a very good point Wandeljw. Whoever really did it, was no fool. Considering this was 15 years ago and there was so little physical evidence, it leads me to believe it is someone pretty intelligent. Either that or just downright lucky. I honestly can't see Mark Byers being that intelligent but who knows?

I am amazed that the police gave no credence to the fact there was virtually no blood at the scene. Even if they had splashed water on the bodies, as was surmised, there would still have been some blood.

I wonder just how much pride is playing in this? Are the prosecutors and police too proud to admit they might have made a mistake? So prideful they would let one boy die and two others linger in jail for the rest of their lives?

I am reading everything I can on this. I'm going to check the library for the Devil's Knot book and see if I can find the film Paradise Lost. I'd like to know more.

I am also going to see if I can find out if Melissa Byers autopsy results were ever released.

yitwail I couldn't agree with you more but so far, in my opinion, that is exactly what happened. It seems the jury convicted them on what "appears to be" instead of solid evidence.
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TTH
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Dec, 2007 10:03 pm
After reading the article provided by wandeljw & watching all the segments I still do not have any opinion on anyone's guilt or innocence. What is written & what is on video on youtube about this case are bits & pieces of a big picture so, I find it impossible to come to any type of conclusion.

btw which video # is it that shows that the confession of Jesse Misskelley was used in the court proceedings of the other 2 defendants? I didn't write that down in my notes. I wrote that Jesse was going to testify against the 2, then changed his mind and did not testify so, his confession cannot be used.

Video #16
I felt Damien was caught in his own lie on the stand about when he wrote those names. It that significant? I don't know.

Honestly the only video I found of some significance to the case is #25
It appears, and I want to stress IT APPEARS, that the defendant knew about the injuries before it was made available to the public which means he either took part, was there or someone told him about the crime.

Also, per my notes the 3 sentences were:

1) Jesse Misskelley- life plus two 20 year terms (per my notes the judge didn't say whether the 20 year terms were to be served consecutive or concurrent)

2) Jason Baldwin- life without parole

3) Damien Echols- death by lethal injection

I didn't look up the definition of "life" for the state of Arkansas. Just out of curiosity, I will try to find it.

If anything I stated is incorrect, per my notes, please feel free to correct me on it and post what video # you see it different.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Dec, 2007 11:28 am
I'd have to go back and look TTH but I don't recall if Jesse's confession was brought into Damien and Jason's trials. I recall the DA telling the families what evidence they did have and that they wanted Jessie's testimony but felt they could win without it.

I think the sentences were consecutive but I am not positive. I'm gonna go back and do a little refresher today.
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TTH
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Dec, 2007 11:21 pm
Arella Mae wrote:
I think the sentences were consecutive but I am not positive. I'm gonna go back and do a little refresher today.
The sentence is read in part #9 and I believe you are right the sentences are consecutive by what the judge said.

This is what I found regarding AR law about a life sentence and 1st degree murder.

"A sentence of "life in prison" or "straight life" is distinguishable from "life
imprisonment without parole"; the former sentence may be imposed for conviction
on a Class Y felony, such as rape, but the latter sentence may be imposed only
for conviction of capital murder. Logan v. Lockhart, 994 F.2d 1324 (8th Cir.
1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1057, 114 S. Ct. 722 (1994)."

"Murder in the first degree is a Class Y felony."

"For a Class Y felony, the sentence shall be not less than ten (10)
years and not more than forty (40) years, or life;"

Link http://www.arkansas.gov/

So, that defendant would be spending a min. of 50 years and a max. of 90 years in prison, the way I read it.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2007 03:11 pm
The new evidence in this case was summarized by The New York Times in October:

Quote:
Defense Offers New Evidence in a Murder Case That Shocked Arkansas
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TTH
 
  1  
Reply Fri 14 Dec, 2007 05:50 pm
Thanks wandeljw Smile
I can see I need to re-state what I wrote up above your post. The sentence would be a min. of 50 yrs and a max. of 80 (not 90) years.

I still feel the same way that I did before so, I can't make an informed decision as to the guilt or innocence of anyone. That always amazes me that people who didn't attend the trial and just read what a reporter wrote or said, can make a decision about someone's life or character.

I do think that the movie and newspaper in this case, like many, is showing us only bits & pieces of the whole story or picture. I kinda agree with Ms. Leveritt in that article except I would state it as "it all comes down to what is the evidence?"

Hopefully, the new evidence will shed some light at getting to the truth. Most people wouldn't want an innocent person convicted of a crime that they didn't do.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Sat 15 Dec, 2007 01:54 am
Thank you so much for the articles Wandeljw. They are really helpful.

TTH, I really see your point about not makng a determination but I'm not saying they DEFINITELY are innocent or guilty. I am saying there definitely doesn't seem to be enough evidence to convict them. That is, of course, we have all the facts concerning the evidence.

I'm going to get the book, Devil's Knot, and read it for myself. If everything has been true concerning the mistakes, etc., made, I do feel a new trial would be in order.

I find it a fascinating case and can't wait to read the book.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Sun 16 Dec, 2007 12:56 pm
Quote:
That West Memphis Case -- Again
(By John Brummett, SPRINGDALE MORNING NEWS, December 16, 2007)

Look for a flurry of activity in the next few days from people supporting Damien Echols and those two other men from West Memphis who got sent to prison 14 years ago in part for being very weird, very eerie teenagers.

Most likely, though, this will remain for now a criminal justice matter insulated from any exercise of media and politics. There probably will be a costly and time-consuming legal process before Echols and the others might get freed.

But I predict their release, maybe full exoneration, even if not for years.

It is always possible, I guess, that Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, clad in black and talking about witchcraft as they wandered around as misfit 18-year-olds, did in fact torture and kill those three little boys in West Memphis in 1993.

It's too uncertain, though.

The prosecution had no physical evidence and relied solely on sometimes imaginative circumstantial evidence. It extracted easy guilty verdicts from juries predisposed by fear and rage.

Now there are new DNA findings, produced by a sophisticated defense team funded by celebrities like Johnny Depp, who have rallied to Echols' cause. This evidence links none of the three men to the slain boys or the crime scene.

Maybe Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley did all that alleged sodomizing, ritualizing and blood-drinking without leaving a shred of physical evidence. The little boys' bodies were found in water; perhaps the DNA was washed away. Logically, though, I must side with the growing chorus deeming this to have been, at the least, an unsupported judgment driven by emotion stirred by the horror of the crime and the outcast oddness of Echols and the two others.

The police described this as the work of a satanic cult. But outcast kids -- adults, too -- can fancy themselves as witches without being Satanists.

Misskelley, with a low IQ, gave the police a confession laced with contradictions and errors.

He recanted hours later. But the police and prosecutors were on their way. Juries convicted all three, sentencing two to life in prison and giving Echols, the scariest-looking and scariest-acting, the death penalty.

These new findings by Echols' defense team make a case that those supposed ritualistic mutilations were actually the postmortem work of animals.

People will tell you that this was an uncommonly vexing case. Every new bit of police information would neither prove nor disprove the guilt of the three.

But convictions are supposed to rise beyond a reasonable doubt.

Anyway, things are starting to percolate anew.

From Death Row, Echols was to give a telephone interview Friday to Larry King. It was to be taped for airing Wednesday night on CNN.

That day, supporters who advocate exoneration and release for Echols and the others will rally at the state Capitol. They intend to make a presentation to Gov. Mike Beebe, or at least someone with his office. It will be of a massive banner made up of supportive postcards from around the world, stretching a city block. Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chick who is no stranger to controversy, is to be on hand.

The matter has been sent back to Crittenden County Circuit Court on pleadings either for vacated verdicts or new trials.

But the state law on new post-conviction DNA evidence allows vacated verdicts only if that evidence provides prima facie proof of innocence. In this case, what we've seen so far only makes it seems even more unlikely -- or at least unproved -- that the imprisoned men did these crimes. It doesn't prove conclusively or absolutely that they couldn't have.

Beebe is too much the cautious man to free these three until and unless the argument becomes even more compelling. But Beebe also is the kind of man who would do the right thing eventually. I cannot imagine that he would let Echols get put to death. Commuting the death sentence would seem to be the least, the very least, the state ought to do. Then we could argue about whether he and the others ought to be in jail at all.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Sun 16 Dec, 2007 04:38 pm
I have been having a lot of questions running through my mind since first finding out about this case. This article brought one up that I hadn't thought about before. If these kids didn't do this and if Mark Byers didn't do this, WHO the heck did? It's a scary thought to think some murderer or murderers might be running around that community and no one knows it. Of course, there is always the possibility that it was a stranger just passing through town.

I do agree though that there are too many questions unanswered and at the very least Damien Echols should not be executed until they are answered. I haven't found anything on when his execution date is set for if it has been set.

I am very anxious to hear him speak to Larry King on this. Maybe we will hear something we haven't heard. The more I hear about this case the more interesting and perplexing it becomes.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Dec, 2007 02:43 pm
According to a local FOX television station, Mark Byers now also believes that the three convicted are actually innocent:

Quote:
Mark Byers: West Memphis 3 May Be Innocent
(By April Norris, WHBQ FOX13, 26 Nov 2007)

The West Memphis Three murder case shocked the country 14 years ago, but new evidence has caused many to question if the real murderers are in jail. Now a father of one of the little boys killed is joining the movement to free the West Memphis Three.

Because of new evidence, Mark Byers said he believes Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie Branch, one of the murdered little boys, should be considered the prime suspect. Byers said he's backing the West Memphis Three's defense team and thinks there needs to be a new trial.

It's been 14 years since Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore were found murdered in West Memphis.

Earlier this month, attorneys for the three men convicted of the crime submitted new evidence and asked for a new hearing to prove their innocence.

The court has yet to make a decision.

For years, Mark Byers, Christopher's father, thought Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were the killers. However, on Monday, he told Good Morning Memphis anchor Valerie Calhoun he doesn't think that anymore.

"I basically hated them with every fiber in my body," he said. "I just knew they were guilty…until about seven months ago when I got started thinking for myself. For years I always believed what the state of Arkansas told me."

Byers changed his mind when Damien Echols' attorneys said hairs belonging to Hobbs were found in a knot at the crime scene.

"To me, Police 101 says clear the parents first before you go any farther and that wasn't done," said Byers. "One parent wasn't done or talked to until 14 years later."

For a long time, Byers was a target of suspicion and said he went through intense scrutiny from police.

Hobbs' attorney said his client maintains his innocence.

"The perception is, that this is somehow an accusation against Mr. Hobbs and we don't perceive that as such," said Ross Sampson, Hobb's attorney.

But, Byers said he's going to keep pushing the Arkansas' Attorney General's Office for a new trial.

"I'm going to do everything in my power…they've been fooled and they need to stand up and take a look at this," he said.

State prosecutors stand by the convictions. No date has been set for new hearing.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Tue 18 Dec, 2007 09:56 pm
Well Holy Moly! I sure didn't see that one coming. I just hope he's sincere about this and not trying to get back in the "spotlight". I know, that sounds pretty judgmental, doesn't it? He just does not come across as a very sincere person to me so I have my doubts. But, very interesting turn of events I must say.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Dec, 2007 02:56 pm
Quote:
Supporters Gather to Rally for 'West Memphis Three'
(By JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press, December 19, 2007)

An effort to free three men convicted as teenagers in the sexually charged slayings of three 8-year-old boys has moved from Internet forums and the mouths of rock stars to the front steps of the Arkansas state Capitol.

Supporters of Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley -- known to sympathizers as the "West Memphis Three" -- rallied Wednesday in support of the men they fear prosecutors and a small-town police force railroaded into prison because of the teens' interest in heavy metal music and the occult. About 100 supporters gathered at the Capitol and unfurled a banner of postcards asking for the men to be freed.

*******************************************

The celebrity interest helps the case's notoriety, as well as the three's legal defense. In all, the fund received more than $1 million over the last decade from celebrities and Internet donations, enough to fund lawyers, new DNA testing and a second federal appeal on behalf of Echols, said supporter Capi Peck.

The new appeal, filed in October, includes DNA tests conducted by a private laboratory in Virginia that handled bone fragments found in rubble at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. A report from the lab included in the filing shows much of the evidence failed to yield reportable results. However, on evidence that could be tested, the lab found no traces of the three convicted for the slaying, according to the recent court filings.

The filing also included claims by forensic experts saying the mutilation of the boys' bodies came from animals after their death.

A federal judge ordered state courts to examine the new claims first. The state attorney general's office has asked for more time to look over the tests and other materials.

Supporters for the men herald the recent appeal as a step toward holding a new trial. However, it is one of many appeals filed on behalf of Echols since his conviction. Echols himself initially declined to appeal his death sentence, later saying he made the decision without talking to his attorneys.

Echols' other appeals claimed his mental state stopped him from properly assisting in his 1994 joint trial with Baldwin. Echols also claims his lawyers at the time made an unfair deal with the producers of the HBO documentary, responsible for much of the attention the case received in later years.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a 1997 appeal by Echols, after the Arkansas Supreme Court roundly rejected a joint appeal filed by his and Baldwin's lawyers. That opinion cited "substantial evidence" of the two's guilt, upholding the lower court's decision to show evidence like a funeral register Echols owned, as well as a journal that contained "morbid images and references to dead children."

A psychologist who examined Echols noted the teen had "an all powerful Godlike image of himself" and once tried to "claw the eyes out" of another student before dropping out of high school.

"I kind of enjoy it because now even after I die, people are going to remember me forever. They're going to talk about me for years," a 19-year-old Echols told documentary filmmakers. "People in West Memphis will tell their kids stories. It will be like, sort of like I'm the West Memphis boogeyman. Little kids will be looking under their beds before they go to bed."

The arrests were largely based on Misskelley's confession. Defense lawyers claimed detectives coerced two taped statements out of the then-17 year old, who they described as having the mental grasp of a child. Supporters of the three point to inconsistencies -- how Misskelley offered the wrong times for the slayings and the wrong colors for the shoelaces that bound the second-graders.

Arkansas Supreme Court justices refused to throw out the statements in Misskelley's appeal, noting that he was advised of his rights three times during a four-hour interview with officers. The court also said Misskelley had been advised in other juvenile proceedings between 1988 and 1993 and "was no stranger to the criminal justice system."
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Thu 20 Dec, 2007 12:46 pm
Excerpt from Larry King Interview with Damien Echols (televised 12-19-2007):

Quote:
KING: From the Varner Unit of Supermax State Prison Facility in Grady, Arkansas, we are joined by Damien Echols, who is on death row. He recently had a birthday, by the way. He's 33 years old.

Now, how long have you been on death row?

DAMIEN ECHOLS, CONVICTED OF MURDER: About 14 years. All in all, I've been locked up almost 15 years.

KING: Now there's so-called -- let's get into it -- new evidence in your case. It's encouraged a lot of your defenders -- and there are many -- to feel optimistic.

Give us the story.

What's new?

ECHOLS: There are several things. But I think the main one is probably the DNA testing that know they said it revealed no evidence of me or the other two guys who were convicted of the crime at the crime scene. There was also evidence that said that what the prosecution had alleged were knife wounds, things of that nature were actually more along the lines of post-mortem injuries inflicted by snapping turtles and other things that would have been in the woods.

KING: Why this late, Damien?

ECHOLS: Well, a lot of the testing that they had to use now to reveal this wasn't available. They couldn't do it at the time that I was arrested. You've got to keep in mind, that was almost 15 years ago. And forensic technology has come a long way in 15 years.

KING: We'll be getting into the case and the structure of the case. But the legal process, if the DNA excludes you, why are you in prison?

ECHOLS: Well, a lot of people think that if you have some sort of definitive proof of innocence, something like a DNA test, that you're automatically released. And that's not actually true. A lot of times in cases like this it's more about politics than it is about justice. You know, a lot of people have built their careers off of this case. You know, you had police officers who were given promotions. You had the prosecutor, who ran for and was elected judge. The judge -- or the circuit court judge is now saying that he plans on retiring and running for Senate.

All of this pretty much happening on the merit of this case. And these people do not want to admit that they made a mistake.
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yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2007 04:26 am
Arella Mae wrote:

I'm going to get the book, Devil's Knot, and read it for myself. If everything has been true concerning the mistakes, etc., made, I do feel a new trial would be in order.

I find it a fascinating case and can't wait to read the book.


i've read most of it. it's lengthy & detailed, especially if you read the 50 plus pages of endnotes. i'm at a bit of a disadvantage, not having watched either HBO film, but the book probably covers a lot of behind the scenes material that's not in the films. for example, it was a county juvenile officer by the name of Jerry Driver, who knew about Damien Echols' psychiatric hospitalizations, that first fingered Echols as a suspect. this same Driver later plead no contest to a theft charge on nearly $30,000 in missing department funds.

then there was a woman named Vicki Hutcheson, who was fired from a truck stop over a $200 overrun on a customer credit card, who volunteered to be a police informant to establish that Echols belonged to a cult, and Hutcheson's son Aaron later claimed to have witnessed the killings. but the book strongly suggests that Hutcheson was motivated by a $35,000 reward offered to tipsters. she also claimed to have been driven by Echols to a sort of witches sabbath, despite the fact Echols couldn't drive, to the best of any one's knowledge.
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yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2007 04:46 am
wandel, much as i would like to see evidence that exculpates the west memphis three, i have a hard time accepting the theory that some of the wounds on the victims were inflicted by animals. since there was no blood anywhere and the search began the day after the boys went missing, this would have had to happen in the water at night, after the killer or killers dumped the bodies. it seems improbable to me that a snapping turtle would attack one boy in the groin only, and leave the other victims untouched. why would a scavenger be so picky?
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2007 08:01 am
yitwail,

The lack of blood can be explained by the fact that the mutilations occurred after death. The injuries were supposedly not caused by a knife but by snapping turtles and other animals. This indicates there were no "satanic ritual" mutilations as claimed by those who accused Echols.
0 Replies
 
Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2007 12:35 pm
I have the book on hold at the library and I'm very anxious to read it.

You bring up a good point yitwail about the bodies being in the water and the animal bites. I suppose there is no way now that they can definitively tell whether they are snapping turtle bites or not?

The more I read about this case the more I lean to the belief they just aren't guilty of this.

I am still in shock about Mark Byers now supporting the West Memphis Three.
0 Replies
 
yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Dec, 2007 02:00 pm
A M, Byers apparently has an untreated brain tumor. he's probably also a habitual drug user, otherwise why would narcotics officers use him as an informant? so nothing he does would surprise me, except accept responsibility for crimes...there might have been a case against him for murdering his wife Melissa, but there wasn't much of an investigation, probably because cause of death was never determined, let alone whether it was sucide, homicide, or accidental. her body had lots of puncture wounds, some bandaged & others unbandaged, and the official explanation is that "all those wounds were probably done at the hospital" while they tried to revive her. that "probably", i'm afraid, indicates that no one asked the hospital staff if they were responsible for all the apparent injections.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 Dec, 2007 12:53 pm
I guess I'm impatient because it's taking the library too long to get the book. So, I bought a copy on ebay and should have it sometime next week.

I wonder if Mark Byers has the type of brain tumor that can cause extreme aggressive behavior? I'm going to do a bit of research and see if I can find out anything on that.

Wandeljw thanx for posting the articles!
0 Replies
 
 

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