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Paradise Lost - The Robin Hood Hills Murders

 
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 12:32 pm
A respected London newspaper has provided an interesting perspective on this case:

Quote:
Satanist case may close death row
(John Harlow, The Sunday Times, December 30, 2007)

NEARLY 15 years ago, the brutal murder of three Arkansas Cub Scouts in an alleged satanic rite sickened a nation and strengthened the hand of death penalty champions across the United States.

Now the same ghastly crime may be the final nail in the coffin of capital punishment in an America that is manifesting a crisis of conscience over the morality of executions.

Over the next few weeks the grim saga of the so-called West Memphis Three, teenagers who were convicted of slaughtering three small boys for kicks, is expected to reach a conclusion as a new suspect is tested and fresh DNA evidence is presented in the highest court in Arkansas.

Legal experts predict that the alleged ringleader, Damien Echols, who in other more "efficient" states such as Texas would have been executed years ago, could be freed from death row by spring.

Opponents of capital punishment are poised to adopt Echols, who has grown from an angry youth into a charismatic Buddhist preacher, as a poster child for a national moratorium on "state-sponsored killing".

It is already happening: since September last year dozens of executions have been postponed in the face of a legal challenge as to whether the supposedly pain-free lethal injection amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment". The US Supreme Court will hear evidence next month.

Even before the de facto moratorium, the number of state executions had fallen to its lowest level for a decade. The federal government, which used to hang or electrocute dozens of people each year, has not executed anyone since Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber responsible for 168 deaths, who was dispatched with a lethal injection in 2001.

Four years ago George Ryan startled fellow law-and-order Republicans when, on his retirement as governor of Illinois, he commuted all state death sentences to life sentences. Ryan said DNA testing had shaken his faith by suggesting that as many as 70 of the 1,099 Americans executed since capital punishment was revived in 1976 may have been innocent.

Ryan started a trend. Earlier this month New Jersey became the first state for 42 years to abolish the death penalty and neighbouring Maryland is set to follow suit. Texas, a culture all of its own, carries out 60% of all executions in the United States.

A clutch of opinion polls suggest that while most Americans still favour the death penalty, many are expressing reservations about its inherent unfairness. That doubt is at the heart of the case of the West Memphis Three, which keeps throwing up fresh surprises and attracting the attention of Hollywood stars and pop musicians.

The case dates back to a warm summer night in May 1993 when the bodies of three eight-year-old boys - James Moore, Steven Branch and Christopher Byers - were found in a creek near their home.

The quiet city of West Memphis went crazy with grief, with mobs pulling suspicious strangers from cars. Locals started carrying Bibles to declare themselves "normal".

At the murder scene police asked Jerry Driver, a born-again Christian probation officer, if he had any suspects. He named Echols, a bipolar 18-year-old who, Driver believed, was a satanist because he wore a black leather coat in all weathers and listened to "devil music" such as Pink Floyd and Metallica.

With public pressure growing, police questioned Echols's friend Jessie Misskelley, a retarded 17-year-old. During 14 hours of interrogation, unprotected by parent or lawyer, the boy confessed that he, Echols and a third friend, Jason Baldwin, had met the children in the woods by accident and then stabbed and raped them for satanic purposes.

Lacking DNA evidence, weapons or a deeper motive, this statement was the cornerstone of the prosecution - even as it emerged during the trial that police had coached Misskelley with lurid details and the victims had not been stabbed but beaten and had not been sexually assaulted.

The mutilations, which had inspired local newspaper stories of devil worship, were caused by snapping turtles.

The jury, gripped by the "devil curses" found in Echols's diaries, which had been lifted from the works of the author Stephen King, took an hour to find all three guilty. Echols was sentenced to death and his two friends to life imprisonment.

At first the distraught parents were relieved, but then the case started falling to pieces - Driver was unmasked as a fraudster and a key witness admitted that she had invented everything in a deal with police for a cash reward.

The West Memphis Three case has since become a cause celebre. Two films have been made about it, Tom Waits, the rock star, and other music figures contributed to a fundraising album and Winona Ryder, the Hollywood actress, joined the campaign to free them.

Just before Christmas, Natalie Maines, outspoken leader of the Dixie Chicks, the country band, addressed a 500-strong protest meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, demanding a fresh trial.

This now seems to be on the horizon. Six weeks ago Echols's lawyer revealed that new and independent DNA tests of the murder scene not only cleared the trio but also pointed to a friend of the parents of one of the victims, who had a brutal history. The man is now being "interviewed" by West Memphis police and new hearings are "under consideration".

Two sets of bereaved parents recently declared that they feel betrayed by police and lawyers and want an inquest.

"We can only thank God that Damien Echols has survived death row," said John Mark Byers, stepfather of Chris Byers. "Otherwise, not only would we have lost the chance of finding the truth but we, too, would have blood on our hands. And that would have been unbearable."
0 Replies
 
Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 01:13 pm
This case becomes increasingly more fascinating with each new tidbit. I totally must have missed it if it was stated at any other time that Damien Echols was bipolar! If, indeed, this is the case, then his inappropriate behavior at times can certainly be understood.

I am hoping the book The Devil's Knot gets here soon! I am also hoping it will provide a lot more insight.

I believe all things happen for a reason and at the risk of sounding, don't know the right word, the deaths of these children and the ensuing uproar concerning the West Memphis Three does seem to have had an effect on the death penalty, which I find encouraging.

I am not against the death penalty in total. I do; however, believe there can be absolutely no doubt whatsoever the convicted is guilty. I am very glad that Damien Echols has not been executed. I fear if he had been, then this case may never find a true resolution.
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yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 02:43 pm
wandeljw wrote:
A respected London newspaper has provided an interesting perspective on this case:

Quote:

"We can only thank God that Damien Echols has survived death row," said John Mark Byers, stepfather of Chris Byers. "Otherwise, not only would we have lost the chance of finding the truth but we, too, would have blood on our hands. And that would have been unbearable."


Byers & the other parents can also thank the "Paradise Lost" filmmakers, the organizers of wm3.org & many others they once vilified, for focusing attention on the case & motivating civic-minded lawyers to work on appeals.
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TTH
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 08:10 pm
wandeljw wrote:
A respected London newspaper has provided an interesting perspective on this case:
Thanks for providing this article wandeljw Very Happy
Quote:
Opponents of capital punishment are poised to adopt Echols, who has grown from an angry youth into a charismatic Buddhist preacher, as a poster child for a national moratorium on "state-sponsored killing".
A lot of inmates on death row seem to turn to religion.

Quote:
It is already happening: since September last year dozens of executions have been postponed in the face of a legal challenge as to whether the supposedly pain-free lethal injection amounts to "cruel and unusual punishment". The US Supreme Court will hear evidence next month.
pain free lethal injection = cruel & unusual punishment? Unreal imo

Quote:
The West Memphis Three case has since become a cause celebre. Two films have been made about it, Tom Waits, the rock star, and other music figures contributed to a fundraising album and Winona Ryder, the Hollywood actress, joined the campaign to free them.
I love it when celebrities use their status to try and have an impact on something they probably don't know much about.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 08:19 pm
Hi TTH! Good to see you.

I wonder how many jailhouse conversions are for real? I guess that's something we won't ever know.

I really appreciate Wandjw posting the articles. I've read just about all the sites on this subject and I honestly do have to say I don't think they are guilty from what I have read so far.

I agree with you on the lethal injection! How could that be cruel and unusual punishment? Why? Because they are strapped down? From what I understand, they can request to be sedated and that pretty much knocks them out and they can then go rather peacefully. Too bad victims weren't afforded the same compassion.
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TTH
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 08:37 pm
Hi Arella Mae Very Happy
It is very thoughtful for wandeljw to post the articles.

I would be surprised if the Supreme Court found that death by lethal injection is cruel & unusual.

One of my problems in regards to the media (tv & written articles) is that my experience with them has been negative. I have personal experience in which they have reported lies involving my family. What information they didn't know or had access to, they just used lies to finish the story. So, I for the most part, am leary about believing what I read or hear from an outside party.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 08:42 pm
I certainly can't blame you for that TTH.

Back in the 80's I believe, do you remember the case about the childcare providers? They even did a movie on it. I believe the name was Martin. Will look it up.

My point is, sorry for rambling, they were accused of sexually abusing children in their daycare and the press ran with it! They were found not guilty in the end but their lives had pretty much been ruined.

Will see if I can find something on that.

Found it. Their names were McMartin.

http://www.crimelibrary.com/criminal_mind/psychology/mcmartin_daycare/1.html
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TTH
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 09:06 pm
Yes, I do remember that. Sad when someone is accused of something they did not do and then that accusation alone can ruin a person's life.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jan, 2008 02:40 pm
Quote:
Damien Echols Plans for Spring Hearing
(By Jon Gambrell, Associated Press, January 04, 2008)

Lawyers for one of the three teens convicted in the brutal 1993 killings of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis plan to bring their new appeal to a state judge by the middle of next month, a new court filing shows.

Lawyers for Damien Echols say they reached an agreement with prosecutors to hold the hearing. The decision comes after U.S. District Court Judge William R. Wilson Jr. asked Echols to present parts of his new, wide-ranging appeal to state courts before seeking relief from federal courts.

The filing by Echols' lawyers, dated Thursday, says much of the DNA testing ordered by the Craighead County Circuit Court in 2005 has been completed. Echols' new appeal claims evidence tested from the crime scene showed no traces of the him or the two other men convicted in slayings, though much of the evidence failed to yield reportable results. The appeal also includes testimony from forensic experts saying the genital mutilation of one of the boys likely came from an animal after their deaths.

Echols' lawyers say they plan to file the appeal with the circuit court by Feb. 15, giving prosecutors time to examine the evidence before a hearing in late spring.

Echols, now 33, was sentenced to death over the slayings of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. Co-defendant Jason Baldwin received a life sentence without parole, while Jessie Misskelley received a life-plus-40-year sentence for the killings.

The three victims disappeared while riding bicycles in their quiet, tree-lined neighborhood May 5, 1993. The bodies of the three Cub Scouts were found the next day in a watery ditch near their homes.

Police arrested the three after a confession by Misskelley in which he described how he watched Baldwin and Echols sexually assault and beat two of the boys as he ran down another trying to escape. Prosecutors describe the killings as coming from the teens' participation in a satanic cult.

The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the convictions, but a later documentary about the case sparked interest across the Internet, as well as among celebrities. Last month, about 150 supporters of the "West Memphis Three," including Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, rallied on the steps of the state Capitol.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jan, 2008 03:10 pm
Keep those articles coming Wandeljw. I greatly appreciate them.

But a few questions come to mind:

1. I understand they have found no DNA evidence concerning the West Memphis three; but is there DNA evidence of someone else?

2. What kind of DNA evidence would have survived being in the water?

3. Just how long is DNA evidence viable? Does it deteroriate over the years? I'm not an expert on it so I really don't know.

I highly doubt if there is no DNA evidence putting someone else at the scene of the crime that this is going to have much of an effect.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jan, 2008 03:21 pm
Arella Mae,

DNA evidence matching Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie Branch, was found in the shoe laces that were used to tie up Michael Moore. (The 3 young victims were Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore.)
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TTH
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jan, 2008 03:29 pm
Just reading along.....
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jan, 2008 05:31 pm
Do you know exactly what type of DNA evidence it was? Is it possible that the stepfather handled the shoes or helped the boy tie them and that's how the evidence got there?

I am really curious as to how the length of time passing is going to effect any of this evidence, if it does effect it at all. What I mean by that is how can they tell how that evidence got there after all this time? Not sure that makes sense but hope you know what I mean.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jan, 2008 08:24 pm
I do not know the details, but the DNA evidence related to one of the other boys (not his own stepchild.)
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jan, 2008 08:32 pm
Ok now that is a horse of a different color. It may be a bit harder to explain how his DNA got on another child's laces. This case just gets more intriguing all the time.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2008 10:32 am
yayayay! I got the book in the mail about five minutes ago. I am going to be spending the day reading it. Good day for it. It's pretty dreary here today. Looks like rain again.
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TTH
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2008 10:41 am
I will be waiting to see what you say once you read the book. Sorry about the rain since it is blue sky and sunny here.
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wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2008 12:29 pm
Quote:
Arkansas AG slams 'misleading' campaign by West Memphis 3 supporters
(Associated Press, 2008-01-16)

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Wednesday he hasn't seen any evidence exonerating the three teens convicted in the brutal 1993 killings of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis.

McDaniel accused the supporters of the so-called "West Memphis Three" for running a QUOTE "misleading" campaign.

McDaniel says he doesn't believe there is any new DNA evidence that prove the innocence of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, who were convicted in the slayings.

McDaniel says that if he had seen new evidence exonerating the men, he would be the first one to approach the governor to do something about it.

Echols' lawyers say they plan to bring a new appeal to a state judge by the middle of next month. The decision comes after U.S. District Court Judge William R. Wilson Jr. asked Echols to present parts of his new wide-ranging appeal to state courts before seeking relief from federal courts.

Echols, who is now 33, was sentenced to death for the slayings of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. Baldwin received a life sentence without parole, while Misskelley received a life-plus-40-year sentence for the killings.
0 Replies
 
Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2008 02:11 pm
Thanx for the update wandeljw. I was reading the book and hubby starting asking me questions about this case. So he and I are watching the video. Glad I am watching it again because it has brought many questions to mind. I only got through half of the first chapter when we started watching the video.

I am highlighting items of interest such as:

A black man was reported to have been in the restroom of a restaurant and he had blood on him and blood smears were found. But, it seems that was the extent of the investigation into it.

Hubby came up with an interesting theory. He believes it is possible a truck driver (boys were found near a truck stop) killed the boys in the back of an 18 wheeler and dumped them, which would account for the lack of any blood evidence on the ground. I think it's a pretty plausible theory.

I will get back to the book as soon as we finish going through the videos. I am trying to find out if Jesse Miskelly's confession transcript is anywhere on the net. Haven't found it so far.
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Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2008 02:39 pm
Quote:


http://www.arktimes.com/Articles/ArticleViewer.aspx?ArticleID=f1b058c2-82ac-455c-b193-83cfce18215d
0 Replies
 
 

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