A small measure of justice
November 5, 2010 4:20 PM   Subscribe

The Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered new hearings for the three men convicted of the Robin Hood Hills Murders, known as the West Memphis 3.
posted by boo_radley (43 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
This happened yesterday. I'm really, really surprised there haven't been more klaxons blaring about this, because it's a Pretty Darn Big Deal.
posted by Gator at 4:26 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I saw this yesterday and did a little wikipedia reading since I hadn't paid attention to the details of the case before. Anyone have any good links to other write ups about the case, preferably ones by journalists and not from a website dedicated to their innocence? Like some long form journalism or something?
posted by boubelium at 4:29 PM on November 5, 2010


Thank God. I saw Paradise Lost just a few years ago and was shocked when I found out that they were still in prison. And that Damien is still on death row and could still be executed. Here's hoping that they finally get a break and someone in Arkansas with sense hears their case.
posted by donajo at 4:31 PM on November 5, 2010


Well, there's the old Crime Library (now TruTV) writeup. Don't think it's been updated recently, though.
posted by Gator at 4:32 PM on November 5, 2010


Fantastic news!

At this point, it's not enough that they be found not guilty and released.

I want every podunk backwoods piece of shit, from the cops thru the DA to the original judges that had anything to do with this to get ruined very publicly. I'd like to see them broken financially. Shamed in sight of everyone.
If time permits, I want to sow salt in their fields.

Afterwards we will get some Arby's.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:32 PM on November 5, 2010 [18 favorites]


This is really interesting news, thanks.

The Arkansas Supreme Court website posted the order here.
posted by facetious at 4:33 PM on November 5, 2010


Previously, and previouslier.
posted by padraigin at 4:33 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


boubelium, Devil's Knot is a book written about the trial. I don't know if it's online but it's probably at your local library and is a fairly quick read. And absolutely heartbreaking.
posted by donajo at 4:35 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wonderful news. It's about time these guys (if not the bajillions of other wrongly convicted people) caught a tiny break.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:35 PM on November 5, 2010


Anyone have any good links to other write ups about the case
The Commercial Appeal has a section for all the WM3 articles they've written going back to 1993.
Notable to me personally: Victim's father wants West Memphis 3 set free.
posted by boo_radley at 4:37 PM on November 5, 2010


Fascinating.

Side note: what is up with the multi-page layout on the second link, where there's line breaks *across* pages? How does that happen (and I don't ever think I've seen that before online).
posted by iamkimiam at 4:39 PM on November 5, 2010


This is interesting. Back when I took a serious interest in the case, I came to the conclusion that they were probably guilty, but I'm not certain about the reasonable doubt part.

Can someone explain to me exactly what a hearing will entail?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:42 PM on November 5, 2010


Bookhouse: "Can someone explain to me exactly what a hearing will entail?"

I will paraphrase: "Might DNA evidence lead an impartial jury to exonerate?"
posted by boo_radley at 4:45 PM on November 5, 2010


A news piece (SLYT) from a year ago featuring Damien's wife Lorri explaining some of the new developments.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:47 PM on November 5, 2010


Back when I took a serious interest in the case, I came to the conclusion that they were probably guilty, but I'm not certain about the reasonable doubt part.

Seriously? How did you reach that conclusion?
posted by donajo at 4:49 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Notable to me personally: Victim's father wants West Memphis 3 set free.

Stepfather, and he's the same guy who inexplicably had all his teeth pulled after the first trial...The whole thing is deeply creepy, even if you only believe half of what you read about it.
posted by Gator at 4:49 PM on November 5, 2010


I will paraphrase: "Might DNA evidence lead an impartial jury to exonerate?"

No, I mean, legally, how do they work? It's a hearing in front of a single judge? Who would then order a new trial (assuming the defense is successful), or just free them and leave it up to prosecutors to re-file if they wish?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:57 PM on November 5, 2010


Thanks for the links people and donajo I am on my way to the library to pick up the book!
posted by boubelium at 4:59 PM on November 5, 2010


Seriously? How did you reach that conclusion?

Memail me if you're interested.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:59 PM on November 5, 2010


I'm interested too. Why not share your thoughts here? Can't speak for anyone else, but I promise not to be a jerk even if I disagree with you about it.
posted by Gator at 5:01 PM on November 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm also interested.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:02 PM on November 5, 2010


yeah share your thoughts Bookhouse.
posted by Max Power at 5:10 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lucy has assured us that really, really, really she won't pull that football away this time! Come on guys, don't be masochists. I'm not gonna link to my comment from more than three years ago replying to the THEYLL BE FREE SOON!!!!!1!!!@11!!1! stuff.
posted by Justinian at 5:26 PM on November 5, 2010


OK, but it's been literally five years since I read anything about the case, so both my memory is shaky and there's been five years for new developments of which I am totally ignorant.

I came to the conclusions by reading a lot of the court documents and transcripts, not through watching Paradise Lost. I actually used to be a bit of a nerd about the subject. (When my knowledge of the case came just from the documentary, I thought they were guilty). I found the documents filed on Damien's mental condition to persuasively argue that his mental issues were very serious. I found Jessie's second confession, the one made in the presence of his lawyer, to be convincing. (I really encourage people to read these two documents.) I found the circumstantial evidence, the blood on the necklaces and the knife and all that, to be enough bricks to build a case when coupled with the multiple confessions and statements from other teens.

I wholly agree that there's not a damning piece of physical evidence, but I've spent a lot of time reading about crime and punishment, enough to know that many, if not most, murder cases lack physical evidence and rely on things like confessions.

Also, I found that Paradise Lost was not a really honest documentary in a lot of ways. I apologize for not being specific, as I know that's sort of a turd to drop without backup, but like I said it's been awhile. I know I had problems with how they described Jessie's interrogation, finding that they overstated the amount of time he spent in questioning before he made a damning statement.

Reading what I've written above, I'm sure it doesn't seem very convincing. And I want to stress that I'm not a lawyer and I have no idea if the burden of proof was legally met in the trial. And I really want to stress that I know most people on MetaFilter have a different opinion, and I'm sure that at this point in time many of you could run circles around me on this topic. But I encourage everyone who is interested in the trial to read the primary documents and not just rely on Paradise Lost for your information. Even if you come to a different conclusion than I did.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:28 PM on November 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Something similar happened in Zion Il.

The father, an apparently unstable individual who had just been released from a Texas prisonn for chasing someone with a chainsaw "confessed" to murdering his daughter and spent 5 years in jail awaiting trial until DNA evidence cleared him.
posted by Max Power at 5:41 PM on November 5, 2010


When my knowledge of the case came just from the documentary, I thought they were guilty

I don't see how this is possible. I haven't seen the docu since it came out but I do recall experts claiming the knife-work was of a professional level and well beyond anything a 15 year old kid could do, the accused were blood free, and that the same night of the crime there was a man, covered in blood, inside of a Burger King or some such thing not far from the scene of the crime. The restaurant called the cops, who thought nothing of it and didn't bother to respond to the call and the man wandered back into the woods.

Did your further research reveal any of the above to be false?
posted by dobbs at 5:59 PM on November 5, 2010


iamkimiam: install Readability if you're running Firefox. Awesome.

This is fascinating, yes. And Bookhouse, thanks for that comment. I hope folks respond in good faith, taking into account all your caveats.

I wasn't much aware of this case when it happened, and never saw the documentary. Looks like I've got some catching up to do!
posted by rtha at 6:13 PM on November 5, 2010


I'm not absolutely convinced they are innocent and I don't think we'll ever know what happened that day given how many strange happenings went on. But the evidence I am aware of against them really doesn't clear my 'beyond a reasonable doubt' threshold. Obviously for the jurors of the original trial it did. It will remain to be seen if a retrial will change things.
posted by Green With You at 6:16 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for replying, Bookhouse.

I have never seen the movie(s) or read the book myself, so all my info about the case has come from the WM3 site or other online sources, and I admit I haven't re-read them in depth lately, but it's my (admittedly vague) understanding that (most of?) those documents about Damien's mental instability were brought up during the penalty phase of the trial, after he'd been convicted, in the hopes of providing mitigating circumstances (boy did that backfire). It's also my understanding that Misskelley's confessions weren't actually admitted at trial, which was noted in yesterday's Supreme Court decision. And I also recall the "bloody stranger at the restaurant" information mentioned by dobbs.

I just went looking through my bookmarks because I was sure I had another site with info on the case saved, and I did, this unofficial site that contains a lot of trial transcripts, photographs, and other documents. There's some interesting reading there, and it's rather easier to navigate than the WM3 site.
posted by Gator at 6:27 PM on November 5, 2010


I've written very extensively on this case. My website gets about 2 million hits per year. While it has a lot of discussion of the crime, it does not go into the recent court cases, filings or decisions. For a summary of the case, I recommend these pages.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:29 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh thank god, I'm so relieved to heard it -- though I'm surprised this hasn't been bigger news, as well.
posted by scody at 7:29 PM on November 5, 2010


guh, 'relieve to hear it.'
posted by scody at 7:30 PM on November 5, 2010


It's about fucking time.
posted by nola at 8:18 PM on November 5, 2010


Previously, and previouslier.

I also made a post on the subject less than a year ago.

I'm ecstatic for this news. I hope this is the beginning of the end (in a good way) for this whole matter. These boys, who are now men, deserve to be free.
posted by mannequito at 9:23 PM on November 5, 2010



It's about fucking time.

Hell yeah, it is.

[Crosses fingers and donates $50.00 to the defense fund. ]
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:27 PM on November 5, 2010


Lucy has assured us that really, really, really she won't pull that football away this time! Come on guys, don't be masochists. I'm not gonna link to my comment from more than three years ago replying to the THEYLL BE FREE SOON!!!!!1!!!@11!!1! stuff.

At this point, I don't have much hope left for justice in this case. Does anyone know what the consequences are for Damien if the hearings don't lead to new trials? Is this his last chance for appeal?
posted by donajo at 9:38 PM on November 5, 2010


I saw both Paradise Lost and the follow-up Paradise Lost 2. I'll be the first to admit that I am easily swayed by documentaries, but it seemed pretty clear that the investigation left too many unanswered questions and was less than optimal considering at least one boy's life was on the line.

I wonder how much life in prison has warped these three men. Even if they were freed tomorrow their lives have been ruined; no amount of money, acclaim, or vengeance can compensate them.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2010


I was just skimming through Google News and saw that most articles about this new development are referring to the victims as Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts. The boys weren't killed in uniforms if they were scouts, and I don't remember them being referred to as scouts before. Does that seem kind of... dogwhistle-y to anyone else?
posted by palomar at 9:31 AM on November 6, 2010


Palomar - one was killed in his uniform, all three were cub scouts.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:05 AM on November 6, 2010


When my knowledge of the case came just from the documentary, I thought they were guilty

I don't see how this is possible.


Dobbs, you are right, I misspoke above. I meant the opposite: when I watched Paradise Lost I thought they were innocent. My bad.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:29 AM on November 6, 2010


From the Washington Post article on the Arkansas Supreme Court's decision:
The Supreme Court rebuked Circuit Court Judge David Burnett for not holding a hearing on the DNA evidence before rejecting Echols' request for a new trial in 2008. Burnett had ruled that the crime-scene DNA evidence - which shows no trace of Echols or the two other men convicted of the murders - was legally inconclusive and not enough to prove innocence.

"While there is a significant dispute in this case as to the legal effects of the DNA test results, it is undisputed that the results conclusively excluded Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley as the source of the DNA evidence tested," the court wrote Thursday.

...

It was not clear when the new hearings would occur, and the court ordered that a new judge be reassigned to the case because Burnett was elected this year to the state Senate. The district in which the cases will be heard has 11 judges - and two are the original prosecutors in the Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley murder trials.
Wow.

Would it even be legal for a prosecutor in the earlier case to serve as judge for the hearing or new trial?
posted by kristi at 7:23 PM on November 6, 2010


Did they still from the rich and give to the poor?
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 7:48 PM on November 6, 2010


Would it even be legal for a prosecutor in the earlier case to serve as judge for the hearing or new trial?

They'd probably be wise to recuse themselves.

Does anyone know what the consequences are for Damien if the hearings don't lead to new trials? Is this his last chance for appeal?

At the State level, yes, Damien's appeals are exhausted. He still has the Federal appeals process at his disposal, though, and the conventional wisdom is that Echols' conviction will last about 5 minutes in Federal court---especially considering that his DNA is not at the scene, but two other peoples' DNA is.

And that Damien is still on death row and could still be executed.

In my opinion, it's been several years since Echols was in any real danger of being executed.
posted by spirit72 at 6:03 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


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