The Devil's Knot undone?
August 18, 2011 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr - the West Memphis 3 - will admit to the killing of 3 boys in West Memphis, Arkansas tomorrow during a recently scheduled surprise hearing. In exchange Echols, currently on death row, and either Baldwin or Misskelley are expected be released with time served.
posted by PenDevil (346 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
So, they claim they're innocent and sit in jail, then admit they did it and now they are free!?
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:20 PM on August 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Let's get this straight - the news report reports that sources say they're going to admit - until tomorrow, we don't know anything.
posted by pupdog at 4:20 PM on August 18, 2011


Yeah, I'm really curious as to how this is playing out. I've gone on the record as thinking they were guilty, but I won't feel particularly vindicated by this unless they give detailed confessions that leave little doubt that they're not just admitting guilt in order to be released.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:23 PM on August 18, 2011


I think after the time they've spent in jail, they'd admit just about anything to get out.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:25 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


unless they give detailed confessions that leave little doubt that they're not just admitting guilt in order to be released.

This. It's been such a fucked up story that anything is possible now.
posted by fatbird at 4:25 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Came in here to say basically what fatbird said. If you'd said to me earlier than a minute ago that this case couldn't get any more fucked up, I wouldn't have believed it -- but again -- surprise!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:28 PM on August 18, 2011


unless they give detailed confessions that leave little doubt that they're not just admitting guilt in order to be released.

Misskelley plead guilty years ago and he's never been able to do this, so this seems unlikely. You never know though Echols and Baldwin were fairly creative people in the past, maybe they could meet your expectations.
posted by Locobot at 4:29 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm pretty convinced they're not guilty, but I'll be curious to hear what happens tomorrow. I would probably also admit to something I didn't do if it meant I could get off Death Row, so even an admission probably wouldn't convince me of their guilt. Even if it's detailed -- they could absolutely be told what to say.

Bizarre case, bizarre development if it's true.
posted by OolooKitty at 4:30 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


You never know though Echols and Baldwin were fairly creative people in the past, maybe they could meet your expectations.

You're probably right. But it's not my expectations that need to be met. Misskelly's second confession is one of the reasons I think they're guilty.

Even if it's detailed -- they could absolutely be told what to say.

So is there anything they could do to convince you of their guilt?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:32 PM on August 18, 2011


"Recent tests on DNA evidence, including material from the crime scene, was found to not be a match to the defendants."

So their confession will prove what exactly? And it's either Baldwin or Misskelley that will be released? huh?
posted by Locobot at 4:33 PM on August 18, 2011


Watching the various coverage of this case, i was floored they got convicted over what 'evidence' there was, but then remembered growing up in a small hick town. The case came down to 'they are satanists, therefore they did it!', and i'm not even joking. Toss in the creepy ass guy who gave the producers of the one documentary the knife, the logical explanation for the 'skinning' (animals eating the skin, pulling it off, dur) that made a ton more sense than 'satanists did it', etc. just makes me want to never go to the south.

Hopefully they don't admit to what they didn't do, but it's not like they have any hope, there has been no justice in this case at all, and in my opinion there is a real tragedy in that they never will know what happened.
posted by usagizero at 4:36 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


So is there anything they could do to convince you of their guilt?

After they spent 18 years in the Arkansas state pen., the scant evidence of their guilt, and the mountain of evidence in their favor, I'd say no, probably not.

Is there any evidence that could convince you of their innocence?
posted by Locobot at 4:40 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think they look a little guilty, but definitely not beyond a reasonable doubt.

I'm going to sit down with all my nieces and nephews sometime and talk about what to do if arrested though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:43 PM on August 18, 2011


IANAL, but "All three will admit guilt to the crime and two will be released with time served" seems like West Memphis is just trying to avoid a costly wrongful conviction lawsuit here.
posted by Locobot at 4:47 PM on August 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've always thought they were innocent.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:47 PM on August 18, 2011


Is there any evidence that could convince you of their innocence?

Loads of things. A credible confession from someone else, conclusive DNA evidence that clearly came from the killer and clearly excludes them (I quit following the case closely before the 2007 DNA evidence, so I can't tell you if it meets that criteria), concrete evidence of alibis that make it impossible for them to have committed the crimes, etc. I used to be really into the case, and I started from a position of them being innocent. I changed my mind at some point, but please note that I say I think that they're guilty. I could be proved wrong, and I'm not saying that I 100% would have voted to convict at the trial. I wasn't there and I can't say.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:49 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Word on the street here in Memphis is that they're going to plead nolo contendere and be released with time served. Apparently this indemnifies the state of Arkansas against the defendants suing. That's what I've heard, but I'm not a lawyer, so I can't say if it's an accurate description of the situation.
posted by vibrotronica at 4:50 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would be unethical for prosecutors to insist on indemnification (in the form of a sham admission of guilt) as a condition of release of a wrongfully convicted defendant. I do not believe that the West Memphis Three will admit to the killings, nor do I believe that the state prosecutors are stupid enough to insist on it.
posted by jayder at 4:53 PM on August 18, 2011


It would be unethical for prosecutors to insist on indemnification (in the form of a sham admission of guilt) as a condition of release of a wrongfully convicted defendant.

Sure, but then it could also be unethical for prosecutors to wrongfully convict a defendent in the first place.
posted by Gelatin at 5:03 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


*defendant, drat it all.
posted by Gelatin at 5:03 PM on August 18, 2011


Innocence or guilt is beside the point. DNA samples that conclusively match two unidentified males pretty much screams "new trial" at the very least, not that they ever should have been prosecuted. It's appalling that these guys have to make any gesture at all, but if they need to quack like ducks and do the Hokey Pokey to satisfy everyone, so be it.

Only two getting out, though? . . . I guess that would mean either Echols gets his death sentence commuted to life, or poor Misskelley gets the shaft because of his "confession."
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:10 PM on August 18, 2011


Wow. I was just at the WM3 site earlier today, wondering if there had been any developments since the court ruled that they would be given a new evidentiary hearing, and there was nothing. Now this? Bizarre. After all the time and money spent fighting this, fighting for a new trial, I certainly hope they don't admit to something they didn't do, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.
posted by Gator at 5:18 PM on August 18, 2011


Only two getting out, though? . . . I guess that would mean either Echols gets his death sentence commuted to life, or poor Misskelley gets the shaft because of his "confession."

Well the article indicates that Echols is definitely to be released, so it's probably going to be the second scenario you mention. Or perhaps there will be a coin toss.
posted by Locobot at 5:19 PM on August 18, 2011


They'll have to give detailed confessions, I suspect. The government will want to be assured that they are not going to be subjected to further litigation. If I was the prosecutor, I'd want a complete confession on the record so as to prevent them from filing either a civil suit or trying for later criminal law-based relief.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:24 PM on August 18, 2011


If I was the prosecutor, I'd want a complete confession on the record so as to prevent them from filing either a civil suit or trying for later criminal law-based relief.

Ironmouth -- But how would you square your agreement that they be released, with the confession they are reportedly giving? If they're confessing, why are they being released?
posted by jayder at 5:29 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


usagizero: ". just makes me want to never go to the south. "

Hey, you might want to cut it with the regionalism, and remember that ignorance is universal. Why not say you never want to be stuck in a situation at the mercy of the ignorant instead?
I get what you're saying, in the eighties— in the south especially— there was this "satanist" fearmongering going on in communities and in law enforcement. That was the particular foolishness of that time and place, like tea party rage in the US is now. But don't go hatin' the south!
posted by Red Loop at 5:31 PM on August 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


The WM3 left their respective prisons for the hearing in Jonesboro tomorrow, with all of their belongings.

I can see I'm going to get fuck-all done tomorrow because I'll be too busy refreshing news feeds to find out what the hell is going on with this. I've been following this case for years and still can't believe they got convicted on the basis that they look creepy so they must have done it. WTF. Can't really understand the people who still think they're guilty (or who thought they were innocent and now think they're guilty), given the complete lack of evidence against them.
posted by palomar at 5:35 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Word on the street here in Memphis is that they're going to plead nolo contendere and be released with time served. Apparently this indemnifies the state of Arkansas against the defendants suing.

I'd call that a draw. City's scared of a lawsuit, boys don't want to die. I don't think this resolves anything on the guilt/innocence of the boys, it just acknowledges the trial was a sham & gives the city a fig leaf to cover its misconduct. Who releases people for admitting guilt? People afraid of being sued. It's a quid pro quo.
posted by scalefree at 5:36 PM on August 18, 2011


The idea that only two will be released may have stemmed from a delay in Jason Baldwin's VINE location change ('out-to-court') being sent out. That's the word on the wm3 boards, anyway. Ditto on the nolo contendere rumour mentioned above.

This is so bizarre and unexpected. I may be eating this tomorrow, but I can't imagine their defense advising them to plead guilty or no contest only months away from the evidentiary hearings, where their case seems to be strong--possibly strong enough to produce a new trial and exoneration.

I've been following this case for years. Tomorrow is going to be big.
posted by 1UP at 5:39 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Legal question: If they plead no contest does this mean no one else can be prosecuted for these crimes?
posted by pointystick at 5:41 PM on August 18, 2011


Word on the street here in Memphis is that they're going to plead nolo contendere and be released with time served. Apparently this indemnifies the state of Arkansas against the defendants suing.


This makes a lot more sense. Nolo pleas--not guilty pleas.

But it is telling. They must have thought that they were going to lose the new hearing. More might have come up in the whole thing that we might not find out.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:42 PM on August 18, 2011


IANAL, but "All three will admit guilt to the crime and two will be released with time served" seems like West Memphis is just trying to avoid a costly wrongful conviction lawsuit here.

I know a journalist who has been told, confidentially and off the record by a source he did not identify to me (so, grain of salt), that all three will be released. But yeah, word is that their plea would guarantee that they can't sue or profit from telling their story.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:44 PM on August 18, 2011


Yeah, three nolo pleas in exchange for time served makes some sense, and plenty of not-guilty people plead no contest to avoid very bad things -- or in this case, even worse things. Well, it'll be an interesting day!
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:55 PM on August 18, 2011


I'm sure like everyone else here, I've seen the documentaries on this case. I was on the fence as to their guilt or innocence, until the step-father pulled all his teeth out when they found bite marks on one of the kids. That was so bizarre and creepy, that it instantly convinced me these kids were innocent and the step dad played some part in the murders.

I still think they are innocent. It would not surprise me one bit that they would admit to the killing if they going to be freed. These kids have already lost the best years of their lives to prison, so I'm sure they'll do whatever they can to salvage something of a life and move on. A tragedy on all sides really.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 5:57 PM on August 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


Is there any evidence that could convince you of their innocence?

Loads of things. A credible confession from someone else, conclusive DNA evidence that clearly came from the killer and clearly excludes them (I quit following the case closely before the 2007 DNA evidence, so I can't tell you if it meets that criteria), concrete evidence of alibis that make it impossible for them to have committed the crimes, etc.


Yeah, so, that DNA evidence from 2007 shows exactly what you would require to believe that they're innocent -- no DNA was present at the crime scene from the people who were convicted for this crime. DNA was present at the crime scene from Terry Hobbs (stepfather of victim Stevie Branch) and his friend David Jacoby, who had been with Hobbs on the day of the murders.
posted by palomar at 5:59 PM on August 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


The Arkansas Times is also reporting that all three will be released.

As to why they'd do the deal with the evidentiary hearing planned, it may mean that they're not crazy about how it might go down, and it may also mean that they spent 18 years doing hard time and now don't trust a judge to sit the right way on a toilet seat.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:01 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does anyone here know anything about Arkansas law or the procedural details of how this release is possible? Is this the original trial court calling this hearing? How can a many-years-old judgment be revisited and set aside?
posted by jayder at 6:14 PM on August 18, 2011


usagizero: ". just makes me want to never go to the south. "

I think that is a very good idea. Hopefully, you won't change your mind.
posted by Senator at 6:36 PM on August 18, 2011


I've been following this case for years. It has consumed an inordinate part of my life. I have one of the most visited sites in regards to the case. I have investigated a hundred better suspects (i.e. more tangible evidence against them) than the three who were in prison. That's mostly because the evidence against them was so abysmal. (Eight is a witch's number and the children were eight years old actually got cited by the Supreme Court of Arkansas. Eight is not a witch's number and no evidence was presented that they knew the age of the victims.)

In the past few hours I've heard conflicting reports. I do believe all three will be released tomorrow from what I've heard. We'll see what happens. There has never been anything close to a logical case presented against them.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:09 PM on August 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


no DNA was present at the crime scene from the people who were convicted for this crime. DNA was present at the crime scene from Terry Hobbs (stepfather of victim Stevie Branch) and his friend David Jacoby, who had been with Hobbs on the day of the murders.

Do you know why the defense didn't mention that the DNA had been matched precisely to other men when they made their motion in 2008? As near as I can tell (and if I'm wrong please tell me) they merely argued that the DNA excluded the WM3, not that it implicated someone else.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:34 PM on August 18, 2011


Bookhouse, I'm semi-happy to go out link-hunting for you, but is there a reason you can't Google this stuff yourself?
posted by palomar at 7:49 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been Googling all afternoon, and that's a question I can't answer. I've found a few newspaper articles that refer to the DNA being positively matched to the two men you mention, but none of the articles that are about the actual DNA motion or the judge's decision do so. Also, both Wikipedia and the current articles I've read on today's case fail to mention a positive match on the DNA.

You are under no obligation to link hunt for me at all. Just asked since you seemed plugged in.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:02 PM on August 18, 2011


I'm not really "plugged in" -- for a definitive source on WM3 info here at Metafilter you're probably best off pinging dances_with_sneetches, since they run this site.

The info I found about the DNA evidence is pretty freely available by searching with the phrase "terry hobbs dna". If you search for "west memphis three dna evidence" and dig through the results, you'll find this article, but if you search specifically for "terry hobbs dna" you'll find a lot more.
posted by palomar at 8:12 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder, Bookhouse, (and I don't mean to imply any obligation whatsoever) if you'd be willing to talk about your conclusion that the west memphis 3 are probably guilty? I'm not an expert on this case at all - and I certainly concede that the documentaries (which comprise all I know about the case - I imagine I'm not alone here) are advocacy pieces.... but they make a great case that these guys got railroaded. I'd love to know what the docs left out.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:12 PM on August 18, 2011


Also, the Wikipedia entry on Terry Hobbs mentions the DNA findings.
posted by palomar at 8:12 PM on August 18, 2011


Crap. Edit pony! I meant the Wikipedia article on the WM3. Here's a direct link to that portion of the article.
posted by palomar at 8:14 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


These guys were heavy metal martyrs... good to see they'll finally go free.
posted by vorfeed at 8:30 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Palomar. I'm going to keep reading. I'm trying to find the actual court documents to see why the judge called the results "inconclusive." (I'm totally open to the idea that he did it to cover his ass). But if the stepfather's DNA was on the scene, along with his friend's, then yes that is compelling evidence.

I wonder, Bookhouse, (and I don't mean to imply any obligation whatsoever) if you'd be willing to talk about your conclusion that the west memphis 3 are probably guilty?

Well, the thing is that I was pretty obsessed with the case sometime around 2003-2004, and after reading a lot of the actual court files, I came to see the documentary as fairly dishonest. For instance, see all the people who are certain that Stephen Byres did it, although obviously this DNA evidence must exclude him as well as the WM3. Seven years later, I'm not really up to re-articulating exactly what led me to the conclusion that they were probably guilty, other than that I felt that there was a lot of circumstantial evidence that pointed to them, and I felt that Damien had been portrayed as just a moody teen when the court documents his defense team submitted painted him as a deeply disturbed young man. I also found Jesse's second confession, done in the presence of his lawyer, to be fairly convincing.

But tonight seems like the wrong night for me to make any declarations one way or the other. Think I'll do some reading, try to catch up on the case and see what happens tomorrow.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:47 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Um, obviously I meant John Mark Byres. Toldja it had been a while.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:55 PM on August 18, 2011


Bookhouse, here's dances_with_sneetches's page on Jessie Misskelley. It might be helpful in picking apart the issues with all of his confessions.
posted by palomar at 9:05 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


And here's an article from May 2010 by Mara Leveritt (author of Devil's Knot) that sums up the basics of the case, including the various new bits of info (DNA evidence, animal bites, juror misconduct) that eventually led up to the decision to have a new evidentiary hearing (scheduled for Dec 5-21, 2011, status now unknown).
posted by palomar at 9:46 PM on August 18, 2011


Why would their lawyers ever ever agree to a deal like this. Fuck Arkansas. Do the right thing and let them out, regardless of whether they can / will sue.

Do the right thing.
posted by ged at 9:51 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


DNA samples cannot be positively matched to individuals. Individuals can be excluded as the source of DNA samples.

Hoping for justice tomorrow.
posted by docgonzo at 10:12 PM on August 18, 2011


I want to have a reason to cry tomorrow. Happily cry, I mean.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:30 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Full justice would be the state officially admitting that the WM3 were wrongfully convicted, compensating them millions for the nearly 2 decades they spent behind bars, and prosecuting both the real killer(s) and the people who are responsible for this miscarriage of justice in the first place... but it sounds like I'm just going to have to be happy with them finally being released. It will be good, but bittersweet.
posted by scody at 11:05 PM on August 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


Them alive and free, and the State not getting sued or admitting anything ever went wrong at all, was probably as much Justice as was ever going to be had in this case.

I'll put one in the win column if that's all that's offered.

As far as Jesse Miskelley's confession, always remember: a determined police interrogator can make an innocent man admit to murder. Especially if he's not the smartest student in the classroom.

Never EVER talk to the cops about anything w/out a lawyer present.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:44 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm glad to hear they're finally getting out. Everything else about this frustrates me too much to comment clearly.
posted by BurnChao at 1:00 AM on August 19, 2011



Bookhouse: From the Supreme Court Opinion.
The results of the testing established that neither Echols, Baldwin, nor Misskelley was the source of any of the biological material tested, which included a foreign allele from a penile swab of victim Steven Branch; a hair from the ligature used to bind victim Michael Moore; and a hair recovered from a tree stump, near where the bodies were recovered. In addition, the DNA material from the hair found in the ligature used to bind Moore was found to be consistent with Terry Hobbs, Branch’s stepfather. The hair found on the tree stump was consistent with the DNA of David Jacoby, a friend of Terry Hobbs....While there is a significant dispute in this case as to the legal effect 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.
...
In contravention of this straightforward language, the State argues that Echols’s test results were inconclusive under section 208(b) because they were “inconclusive as to his claim of actual innocence.” However, nothing in section 208(b) requires the test results to be conclusive as to the petitioner’s claim of actual innocence. Furthermore, it is unclear to this court how DNA test results alone could ever produce legally-conclusive evidence of innocence under the State’s interpretation of the statute. The State argues that “without DNA testing results that could be dispositive of the identity of the killers here, the appellant cannot raise a reasonable probability that he was not one of them.”

Despite this statement, the State fails to provide any example of when DNA evidence could
be dispositive of the identity of the killers and states in a footnote to its brief that it “believes
that the forum the statute provides may well never yield relief due to confidence that the
Arkansas criminal-justice system does not convict the innocent.” We decline the invitation
to interpret the statutes in this way because it would render them meaningless. See, e.g., State
v. Owens, 370 Ark. 421, 426, 260 S.W.3d 288, 292 (2007) (this court will not interpret a
statute to yield an absurd result).
The Circuit Court had found with the State but was ruled to have done so erroneously: misinterpreting statutes by concluding that other evidence to be considered referred only to evidence of guilt for example. The ruling has a lot to say about the Circuit Courts (and States) failure to interpret the meaning of statutes expressed in straight forward language including the gem cited above (which refers directly to the ruling that the DNA test were inconclusive, (because they were incapable of ruling out that Echols wasn't there anyway, despite the test results and couldn't conclusively prove who the killer was if it was not him).
posted by tallus at 1:19 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


the State...states in a footnote to its brief that it “believes that the forum the statute provides may well never yield relief due to confidence that the Arkansas criminal-justice system does not convict the innocent.”

what
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:35 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


This strikes me as a bitter ending to a tragic case. They won't be able to profit off the details of the case nor will the state compensate them in any way for screwing up their lives so badly. Where will they go? How will they live? It wouldn't surprise me at all if at least one of them commits suicide. I can only hope that there is some sort of support for them, psychologically as well as financially.

It would be so much better if this was fiction. Then we could have revenge. We could have 3 new superheros. We could have closer. As it is, all I feel is anger, disgust, and deep, deep sadness.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:33 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


At 6:43 a.m. a small crowd had already gathered around the courthouse. The private hearing is to be held at 10:00 followed by a public hearing at 11:00 a.m.

Jackie Byers, wife of the stepfather of one of the victims, tells the Commercial Appeal that she's happy about the plea deal, though she's sorry it will include some sort of admission by the three to something they didn't do.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:47 AM on August 19, 2011


Hey, Arkansas VINE service just sent out notices for Damien, Jason, and Jessie, saying they have been released from custody. It's really happening.
posted by 1UP at 5:52 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Stevie Branch's father isn't a booster: "I know that if Echols walks out, I know he'll have one major question on his mind," he said. "And I've got the answer for that question. Nowhere on earth."

Also, if Johnny Depp kicks in a few bucks to help the guys get on their feet, I'll actually voluntarily go to see the next fucking pirate movie. At a theater. Full of children [shudder].
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:03 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


The private hearing is to be held at 10:00 followed by a public hearing at 11:00 a.m.

That was in a document/statement from the court, so I'm betting it's local (Central) time, which would mean the first hearing is starting now.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:06 AM on August 19, 2011


Is there a live feed somewhere of the courthouse, for the public hearing?
posted by Gator at 6:06 AM on August 19, 2011


Is there still a need for a hearing? All three of them are listed as Out of Custody by the Craighead County Jail. Unless this is some kind of clerical error, they've already been granted general release.
posted by Eumachia L F at 6:14 AM on August 19, 2011


HBO and Berlinger/Sinofsky are apparently making a Paradise Lost 3.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:16 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, there'll have to be a press conference, I would think. I highly doubt that they're just going to slink home with nobody saying anything to the media.
posted by Gator at 6:19 AM on August 19, 2011


My wife is from West Memphis. Knowing the way things work in that town, that police department will never admit any sort of wrongdoing. It's just the way things are there. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the deal worked out is purely a CYA move by the West Memphis PD and the prosecutors.

I hope today's hearings end with three overturned convictions, but that seems unlikely.
posted by epilnivek at 6:27 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stevie Branch's father isn't a booster: "I know that if Echols walks out, I know he'll have one major question on his mind," he said. "And I've got the answer for that question. Nowhere on earth."

What the hell? Isn't threatening to kill someone illegal?

One thing I have never understood about a lot of victims' families is how the need to blame someone seems to be greater than the need to blame the correct person. That type of blind bloodlust is what first turned me against the death penalty as a teenager. I'd like to believe that if I were ever in this type of horrific situation, I would at least be able to look at the facts objectively.
posted by something something at 6:32 AM on August 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


One thing I have never understood about a lot of victims' families is how the need to blame someone seems to be greater than the need to blame the correct person.

A lot of that comes from investigators and prosecutors repeatedly telling them they have the perpetrator in custody. "Don't worry, we've got the guys who did this" over and over again until the victim's families have bought into the prosecution's theory completely. That sort of thing is why I find the use of victim impact statements and similar testimony in court to be problematic; while police and prosecutors at least have a theoretical duty to find the truth, victims and their families are too emotionally invested to objectively look at what they have been told with much skepticism.
posted by TedW at 6:38 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


something something, I agree. There is a somewhat local case where apparently many people feel (as I do) that the person incarcerated for the crime is as likely as not, innocent. A friend of the victm was quoted in the paper as saying "someone" has to pay for this. I found that to be an interesting phrase because whether said conciously or not saying "someone" must pay seems very wrong. The guilty party should pay, not just "someone".
posted by pointystick at 6:48 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I understand that they will have to make pleas. But how can this be interpreted as anything other than an admission of error on the part of the prosecution? As was stated upthread, if they did it, and confessed, they would not be let go. Not for what was done to those boys. In time everything will come out. It will be interesting to know what the impetus for this was.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:04 AM on August 19, 2011


Sorry, I could not follow this up yesterday. What was the significance of the stepfather's and his friend's DNA being at the crime scene and why is this not sufficient to declare them the murderers? First of all, the stepfather's DNA at the crime scene is a judgment made from a hair found on the binding of one of the other victims (not his stepson). That seems more damning.

But for both the stepfather and his friend the matches are from mitochondrial DNA. This type of DNA makes up hair shafts. Findings with this sort of DNA are usually chance matches in about the 1 in 500 range, rather than the 1 in 10 billion range of chromosomal DNA. Making the evidence weaker is the fact that the matches in each case wasn't perfect. There was one nucleotide difference from a perfect match.

This can happen for several reasons. One possibility is that it has been found that there is one nucleotide difference "heteroplasmy" that happens naturally within samples from the same person - about 10% of the time. Another possibility is that when you sequence enough length or old samples (or have sloppy technique) you can have PCR errors appearing to make that one mismatch. Speaking against this second possibility is that the site of the mismatch was a common one that distinguishes between unrelated people.

Another possibility is that Terry Hobbs and his friend are not the source of the mitochondrial DNA. With this mismatch that probability that either is the source drops from 1 in 500 to around 1 in 100 (or less) - I've not seen exact figures for this.

What I think is telling is that there were three hairs characterized from the crime scene each with one mismatch to the other.

Terry Hobbs hair is 1 mismatch from Hair A (on the binding of a victim). Hair A one mismatch from Hair B (also at the crime scene). Hair B is mismatch from Hair C (at the crime scene). Hair C is 1 mismatch from the hair of Terry Hobbs friend.

Two possible lessons from the previous paragraph. Single changes are common, or Hair A, B and C (from the crime scene) are from the same source, with Hair B being the true sequence and A and C being the single mismatches away from that sequence. (In which case I would suspect PCR error/old sample over heteroplasmy). If Hair B is the true sequence, then Terry Hobbs and his friend are two mismatches from the hairs at the crime scene and the statistical matching weakens so as to become meaningless.

All that said, the hair DNA is good for exclusion - it did not belong to the West Memphis 3.

And to throw a bit more confusion into this, there is a lot of other evidence against Terry Hobbs.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:12 AM on August 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


1UP is right. From Arkansas VINE page:
Offender Name: DAMIEN WAYNE ECHOLS
Offender ID: 208369
Date of Birth: 12/11/1974
Age: 36
Race: White
Gender: Male

Custody Status: Out of Custody
Date: 08/19/2011
Reason: General release
Other two show the same. Holy shit.
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:17 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holy crap, I never knew that both Hobbs and Byers had their teeth pulled. What a freakish case.

There's live video outside the courthouse now (not too impressed with the woman they've got on hand, but better than no coverage at all, I guess).
posted by Gator at 7:19 AM on August 19, 2011


Holy shit. Is this really happening?

Holy shit. This is such great news to wake up to, you guys. Seriously.
posted by palomar at 7:20 AM on August 19, 2011


Live man walking.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:20 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


18 years, damn. Very glad that at least a small bit of justice is being served.

I think they need to go after those creepy stepfathers.
posted by chaz at 7:21 AM on August 19, 2011


One likely impetus for the freeing of the WM3 is jury misconduct. It was huge and blatant. In particular the foreman of the jury in the Echols/Baldwin trial openly discussed "evidence" that was not presented in court and was specifically excluded from court. That evidence was cited on juror's lists as reasons for conviction.
The foreman of the jury further spoke freely with his brother's lawyer about getting a conviction in the case before the case was even tried.
There is more blatant misconduct - my cite has never had a page dedicated to this aspect of the case, in part, because revelations regarding the degree of misconduct have been ongoing.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:22 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I genuinely hope that if they return to West Memphis nobody physically harms them.
posted by epilnivek at 7:22 AM on August 19, 2011


Bookhouse, I don't mean to pile on, but I really don't see how you can read things like what d_w_s posted and still believe that the WM3 were guilty. Again, that's not a pile-on, just curiosity. Surely you have your reasons. I just don't know what they are.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:22 AM on August 19, 2011


One likely impetus for the freeing of the WM3 is jury misconduct.

18 years after the trial? What I mean is what the impetus of doing it now, today.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:23 AM on August 19, 2011


There was more DNA just discovered a few weeks ago, AHaWO, that also excludes the WM3.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:24 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


They're interviewing Joe Berlinger on the live feed right now.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:25 AM on August 19, 2011


Link to live feed?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:25 AM on August 19, 2011


Ah, nevermind. Upthread.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:26 AM on August 19, 2011


epilnivek, I'd be extremely surprised if they ever went back to West Memphis.
posted by palomar at 7:27 AM on August 19, 2011


epilnivek, I'd be extremely surprised if they ever went back to West Memphis.

Well, I would too, except all three of them still have family that lives there. My wife used to work in a pharmacy and saw Jesse's father all the time. I just know a lot of people in that town still have a great deal of animosity towards the WM3 and have never believed that their guilt was in question, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.
posted by epilnivek at 7:29 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


They briefly interviewed Jesse's father on the live feed a few minutes ago. Asked what it's been like for him all these years, he said it was like a "living funeral." Poor old guy.
posted by Gator at 7:32 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


CNN also has a live feed.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:34 AM on August 19, 2011


I keep feeling surprised at how few people there are milling around, compared to, say, the Casey Anthony trial. And then I remember that it all happened eighteen years ago, when we didn't even have the Web (for all intents and purposes, nothing like the kind of Web we have now). If this case happened today, things would be so different. Not to say that justice would be served, but still, very different.
posted by Gator at 7:37 AM on August 19, 2011


In answer to the "why right now?" here's the info on the newly discovered DNA. I think there was also a new analysis report on the older DNA samples (hairs, etc.) within the last few weeks that reinforced the exclusion of the WM3.

And the jury misconduct briefs were filed in April/May (?).
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:42 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


wm3.org is tweeting from inside the courthouse but says the judge won't allow tweets (during the hearing?, which hasn't started yet).
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:46 AM on August 19, 2011


Damien's mother being interviewed.
posted by Gator at 7:49 AM on August 19, 2011


One of the most remarkable thing about this case is that it has been to a large degree a crowd-sourced investigation, probably to the greatest degree in history. Because the WM3 were found guilty the investigation files had to be released. Because the police followed many, many leads, there are thousands of documents in which those interested can pore over to understand this case.

This has allowed others, many including myself, to develop new evidence and find holes in the evidence that was there.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:49 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really don't see how you can read things like what d_w_s posted and still believe that the WM3 were guilty.

Again, none of the DNA evidence was out there when I formed my opinion. The stuff he posted above is very persuasive and answers a lot of my questions.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:50 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Echols is 36 years old.
All those poor children.
posted by Scram at 7:52 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Date of Birth: 12/11/1974
Age: 36
Race: White
Gender: Male


Because I haven't been able to get it out of my head over the last 16 hours or so to the point of sleeplessness, I'll bring this up because I'm fairly sure MeFi is the most empathetic ear I'd get on the subject. (not that I'm expecting any response and yes I should GMOB) I always knew we were the same age, but yesterday realized Damien Echols and I were born on (just about) the same day, and while his background is more different than mine than same, much about him -- not just in age but in being a small town outcast and, as I couldn't sleep, reading his teenage writings and psych evaluations that were put into evidence and the things that adults, even the ones who seemed on his side, were saying about him at that age -- all have a familiar ring to it. Of course, this is like the 'horoscope effect' and once you start identifying with something, you start seeing more and more of yourself in it, especially in this instance, where I don't necessarily closely identify with the kid I was half a life time ago. But even though I am very much not that kid anymore and was never as troubled as Echols seemed, you could probably have selectively edited my life to paint a fairly dark picture if you had the right evidence, asked the right people, and were motivated to do that.

So I think about who I was in 1993, and who I am now, and think about not getting that chance, and you can see why I probably couldn't sleep (and spent most of that time reading dances_with_sneetches site) and have to remind myself that today's events are very, very good news and not just the slightly less tragic end chapter it feels like. I'm so glad that this conviction has been overturned, but on the other hand, while I don't necessarily think that the best years of my life are behind me, I don't NOT think that. And what upsets me even more is how these lives are only 3 ruined by only 1 specific flavor of law and order insanity (Satanic scare panic) and though it feels far away, I can't help but think about how that was tied, in some instances, to gay panic and pedophilia charges in the not too distant pass, and it feels even more like 'there but for the grace of God (and a family) go I" -- not to mention the less-insane-but-still-rarely-rooted-in-reality 'war on drugs' and I can't not be overwhelmed (as this wall of text shows) by how many lives have been ruined in the name of justice.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:00 AM on August 19, 2011 [21 favorites]


WOW. Live feed. Byers just said that the killer was Terry Hobbs. Amazing.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:03 AM on August 19, 2011


Holy crap.
posted by Gator at 8:04 AM on August 19, 2011


Byers still gives me the willies.
posted by palomar at 8:04 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Watching John Mark Byers right now is Un. Real. He just called out Terry Hobbs in no uncertain terms. It's also very surreal hearing WM3 supporters cheer him. I've been watching this case since 1994 and this is a twist I never expected.
posted by Eumachia L F at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Byers still gives me the willies.

Yeah, no matter what he says, he says it with conviction, doesn't he?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why was Hobbs never considered a suspect? That link upthread makes a pretty convincing case that he should have at least been seriously looked at.
posted by something something at 8:06 AM on August 19, 2011


Um, because this was a completely incompetent investigation, trial and conviction?
posted by Scram at 8:08 AM on August 19, 2011


Well, I know, but it still seems over-the-top illogical to ignore someone who is obviously questionable.
posted by something something at 8:09 AM on August 19, 2011


Yeah, no matter what he says, he says it with conviction, doesn't he?

He really does. I rewatched bits of both Paradise Lost documentaries last night and it really struck me how Byers's rambling rants in Paradise Lost 2 sound exactly like his current "they're innocent!!!" rants, with just a few words changed here and there.

It's nice, I guess, that he's willing to admit now that he was a fool to believe in their guilt, et cetera, but... eeek. I would not want to be stuck in an elevator with that dude.
posted by palomar at 8:09 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooh, now he's talking trash about Steven Branch. He's on a serious tear today, y'all.
posted by palomar at 8:10 AM on August 19, 2011


I never thought I'd agree with Byers about anything, but he's just called out both Terry Hobbs and Steve Branch.
posted by catlet at 8:10 AM on August 19, 2011


To be fair to Byers, he changed his tune about 4 years ago. This didn't happen overnight.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:11 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, you're right -- regardless of his mild creepy factor or his ranting style, he has been very open and honest about his regret that he bought into the prosecution's bullshit and his regret over how he acted a fool in those documentaries. And he lost his child AND his wife during this whole mess. I can't imagine he's had anything resembling an easy life in the past two decades.

It's just trippy as hell to listen to him now, having just watched his more, uh, explosive performances in Paradise Lost 2 last night.
posted by palomar at 8:16 AM on August 19, 2011


Among the many basic things missing in the investigation was interviewing each of the victims parents, getting statements from those who found the bodies, getting statements from those who worked at the business 50 yards away from where the bodies were found, searching the houses of the victims (and others).
But they did interview children six years old and up who said they heard who did it - and those who heard rumors of devil worship. The excerpt below is from a 12 year old. The misspellings because it was in her writing.

"My friend Natalie told me that he [Damien Echols] went to her Church one night and it was a lord super and he droped the brade and he would not drinke the o jushe. [Nix statement, June 15, 1993]"
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:18 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


who is the guy being interviewed on cnn right now?
posted by sio42 at 8:20 AM on August 19, 2011


well, he's not anymore. he had a dark tshirt and a moustache.
posted by sio42 at 8:21 AM on August 19, 2011


That's Steve Branch, father of one of the victims.
posted by amarynth at 8:21 AM on August 19, 2011


Jesus. Steven Hobbs on the CNN feed just now, talking about how one of the 3 has said he plans to celebrate Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts if he's released and how that proves he's a lying Devil worshipping liar...

Kinda makes sense to me that one might want to celebrate their freedom by paying homage to other unfairly imprisoned or executed souls.
posted by palomar at 8:22 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


ah. he was saying something about one of the defendants saying that the first thing he (the defendant) wanted to do when he was free was go to Salem, Mass and celebrate Halloween.

wuh?
posted by sio42 at 8:23 AM on August 19, 2011


Like many of you, I got lost in dances_with_sneetches's site yesterday, and found myself reading about Stevie Branch's home life. Poor kid - sexual, emotional, and physical abuse at the hands of his stepfather, Terry Hobbs. And now Steve Branch is on TV saying that babykillers are walking free and he can't promise he won't take matters into his own hands, while Hobbs is heavily implicated by DNA (and knife skills - he worked in his family's slaughterhouse as a child). I want to know why he's not standing with Mark Byers asking about the new evidence.

Stevie, you had the deck stacked against you. I'm sorry you still don't have justice.
posted by catlet at 8:25 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


the reporter on CBS needs to learn when her mic is still live. she seems really disrespectful/utterly disinterested in what's going on.
posted by nadawi at 8:34 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think she finally figured that out. Exact quote a few minutes ago: "They're taking our raw satellite feed on CBS, so all our people, beware."
posted by Scram at 8:41 AM on August 19, 2011


is there a cbs online feed? i'm on their site but can't find one. i don't have cable tv.
the cnn feed is quiet right now.
posted by sio42 at 8:45 AM on August 19, 2011


The CBS feed is linked upthread, but they keep cutting it, presumably because nothing's happening. It's showing a stock market thing at the moment, but if you leave it up it'll cut back to the feed at some point, when the reporter has something to say or if something actually happens.
posted by Gator at 8:48 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Setting up for a statement.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:53 AM on August 19, 2011


Reporters on Twitter are saying they're getting ready to open the doors for the "public" hearing, where they won't be allowed to Tweet or text.

Meanwhile, live feed shows a news conference being set up. Hoo boy.
posted by Gator at 8:53 AM on August 19, 2011




Crap, I'm on the employee shuttle and won't have access to the feeds for at least another twenty minutes. Please keep posting updates in-thread if you can!
posted by palomar at 8:55 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The news conference is on a completely different story elsewhere. Sheesh.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:00 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Argh, yeah, was just about to say that.
posted by Gator at 9:00 AM on August 19, 2011


yeah, i was so confused at first.
posted by nadawi at 9:01 AM on August 19, 2011


Natalie Maines is at the courthouse tweeting.
posted by kimdog at 9:01 AM on August 19, 2011


Gator, do you have links to those reporter tweets?
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:02 AM on August 19, 2011


The CBS feed changed to http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=1n&tag=watchnow
posted by ndfine at 9:02 AM on August 19, 2011


Is it bad that I was thinking "that officer sounds awfully articulate to be on the force in West Memphis." Hope he finds the missing woman.
posted by Scram at 9:03 AM on August 19, 2011


Here's one.
posted by Gator at 9:05 AM on August 19, 2011


Thanks! Ha, this is what constitutes a "media circus" in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I think about half that would be a "media firestorm" in my town.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:07 AM on August 19, 2011


And another. Although people are also saying that the gag order has been lifted.
posted by Gator at 9:07 AM on August 19, 2011


Yeah, and they're all heading into the hearing, so Twitter Silence will clamp down soon.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:08 AM on August 19, 2011


that reporter from KATV said they just announced you won't be let in wearing shorts or tanktops.

seriously? it's August. who ISN'T wearing shorts?
posted by sio42 at 9:08 AM on August 19, 2011


here's another tweeter.
she said "Mark Byers first to be searched and allowed in."
posted by sio42 at 9:10 AM on August 19, 2011


seriously? it's August. who ISN'T wearing shorts?

People going to court, generally speaking. Personally I find it silly, but it's a tradition unlikely to die anytime soon.
posted by jedicus at 9:13 AM on August 19, 2011


this tweeter says that no wm3 supporters got in the courtroom.

wm3org
posted by sio42 at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2011


So the boys (40 yr old boys. Hah) still have to plead guilty? That seems like complete crap. "Yeah everyone agrees you are innocent but you have to plead guilty so you can't sue us" Why would anyone agree to that? I wonder if it was an all or nothing deal-- all three had to plead guilty before they could be freed.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:15 AM on August 19, 2011


And now that CBS feed has shifted to Michele Bachmann.
posted by ndfine at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


cbs switched to michelle bachmann. ick.
posted by nadawi at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2011


Secret Life of Gravy - if you had lived the last 18 years in prison knowing you were innocent, would you really trust the court to do the right thing if you got another trial?
posted by nadawi at 9:18 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


here's what looks like a press conference being set up
Action News Five WMCTV
posted by sio42 at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2011


Gah, Silverlight. No thanks. But the CBS feed seems to be back now.
posted by Gator at 9:21 AM on August 19, 2011


It plays without Silverlight for me.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:21 AM on August 19, 2011


CBS is back
posted by ndfine at 9:22 AM on August 19, 2011


They allowed cameras in the courtroom but no live feeds, so there will be footage once it's over.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:23 AM on August 19, 2011


why allow a camera but not a live feed during the hearing?
posted by nadawi at 9:23 AM on August 19, 2011


The judge isn't allowing media to tweet or text message either.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:26 AM on August 19, 2011


The guy in front of the camera with the OU cap is getting an EARFUL from the broad next to him.
posted by Senator at 9:26 AM on August 19, 2011


one reporter just said "eddie vedder is in the courtroom"
posted by nadawi at 9:26 AM on August 19, 2011


why the prohibition on the live feed and tweeting etc?

people are going to find out eventually. are they afraid of riots or something?
posted by sio42 at 9:27 AM on August 19, 2011


That's just Arkansas exacting a last little bit of ridiculous control over this situation, y'all.
posted by palomar at 9:27 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


CBS reporter about to interview some girls with Free West Memphis 3 tshirts.
posted by sio42 at 9:32 AM on August 19, 2011


the authorities are making people move away from the doors.
the one reporter was saying that everyone is getting along, no scuffles among those who think they are guilty and those who don't.
posted by sio42 at 9:37 AM on August 19, 2011


That CBS reporter is a dumb twinkie. But there were also some murmurings that "they might come out the back, do we have anybody back there?" I would think if they were coming out the front doors, some sort of barricade would've been set up by now.
posted by Gator at 9:41 AM on August 19, 2011


Reporter Tweet: Its over. Echols plead guilty, baldwin too
posted by Gator at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2011


Pled guilty to what charge?
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:47 AM on August 19, 2011


Another reporter says they all pled guilty.
posted by Gator at 9:50 AM on August 19, 2011


there are two women wearing shirts that say "guilty til proven innocent". classy ladies.
posted by sio42 at 9:51 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The local news is saying it may have been an Alford plea, "the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence. Under the Alford plea, the defendant admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:52 AM on August 19, 2011


oh god. they plead guilty.
posted by sio42 at 9:52 AM on August 19, 2011


SIGH. I'm trying to watch the press conference and my officemates, who have been silent up until now, are being super loud. THANKS LADIES.
posted by palomar at 9:52 AM on August 19, 2011


there are two women wearing shirts that say "guilty til proven innocent". classy ladies.

Uh, it's a commentary on the process of the previous trials.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:52 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm hearing they're entering an Alford plea, which is basically "I am innocent, but it's in my best interest to plead no contest."
posted by vibrotronica at 9:52 AM on August 19, 2011


News conference on the CNN feed now.
posted by Gator at 9:53 AM on August 19, 2011


"guilty til proven innocent"

i wondered if that was a pro-WM3 shirt - that they were seen as guilty before the trial and that it was wrong.
posted by nadawi at 9:53 AM on August 19, 2011


oh - i didn't the shirts were sarcastic.
posted by sio42 at 9:53 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


i mean, "as sarcastic".
posted by sio42 at 9:54 AM on August 19, 2011


They're saying at the conference that they just want to avoid more years of litigation. They know they would have gotten a new trial, but they admit they couldn't put on a good case after all this time. But they insist that the original verdicts were correct.
posted by Gator at 9:55 AM on August 19, 2011


Jesus, they're still under suspended sentences for 10 years.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:55 AM on August 19, 2011


oh god. they're not even free and clear. they're on parole for 10 years.
posted by nadawi at 9:55 AM on August 19, 2011


"And I pray that they have been rehabilitated." So awful.
posted by amarynth at 9:55 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


This sounds like some crazy bullshit, but the prosecutor is strictly trying to save face in front of those who will accuse him of setting free a pack of child murderers.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:56 AM on August 19, 2011


Well, that might be a charitable interpretation. It is some crazy bullshit.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:56 AM on August 19, 2011


I love the way he said, "They just pled guilty!" like, "See, I toldja so!" when he had just admitted that they knew they'd be granted a new trial and they knew they wouldn't be able to put on a good case if it came to that.
posted by Gator at 9:58 AM on August 19, 2011


Absolutely no closure whatsoever on this whole debacle. Everything about this case makes me sick.
posted by punkrockrat at 9:58 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, the prosecutor is trying to keep the state from getting hit with a humongous lawsuit.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:59 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why does he keep on saying that they pled guilty if it was an Alford plea?
posted by amarynth at 9:59 AM on August 19, 2011


God, I wonder if the terms of suspended sentences prohibit them from leaving the state.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:00 AM on August 19, 2011


i'm going to have to read more on this Alford thing. it just seems bizarre.

it doesn't seem like they got more evidence that would convict them, but rather from what i've been able to read here and on wm3.org it seems that the DNA evidence shows that they were NOT involved.
posted by sio42 at 10:00 AM on August 19, 2011


what if they find they actual perpetrator of this crime? can they still prosecute them? or does this Alford thing prevent that in some weird way?
posted by sio42 at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2011


"18x3 is a bunch"

you smug fucking prick.
posted by nadawi at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


And now the prosecutor is openly admitting that he is doing it to save the state from litigation.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I WILL TELL YOU....
posted by Senator at 10:02 AM on August 19, 2011


Well, the DNA creates reasonable doubt, but it doesn't exonerate them. Look at how many holes there were in the original case, and yet they were convicted. I don't blame them one bit for doing whatever it took to get the hell out of prison.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:02 AM on August 19, 2011


He admitted it right up front a few minutes ago. And he's saying that yeah, technically they could file new charges if new evidence against someone else came up, but these three just pled guilty! So as far as he's concerned the case is closed!
posted by Gator at 10:02 AM on August 19, 2011


he just said that according to him, which is according to the state, the case is closed.
posted by nadawi at 10:02 AM on August 19, 2011


And now he's openly admitting they probably would have been acquitted in a new trial!
posted by Gator at 10:03 AM on August 19, 2011


he just said that he thinks they could have been acquitted in the new trial.
posted by sio42 at 10:03 AM on August 19, 2011


"If Jesse Misskelley had'a tak--- I mean, if he had been offered a deal before, he coulda been out now." Hmmm.
posted by Gator at 10:04 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Mathematically, it's appropriate."
posted by ndfine at 10:05 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


REALLY want to hear from the defendants' lawyers why they thought this was the best course of action for their clients.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:05 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Rehabilitated"?!?!?

You cocksucker
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:07 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


wow. this is all very disappointing. i can't begin to imagine how i'd feel if you gave me a sure shot at freedom now or a chance for it in a couple months, but i was honestly hoping for exoneration.

regardless: welcome to life without bars, gentlemen!
posted by msconduct at 10:07 AM on August 19, 2011


I supsect he's trying to hammer home the idea that they really are guilty because otherwise they would have just gone to trial, right?
posted by Eumachia L F at 10:08 AM on August 19, 2011


i'm just wondering how binding the "can't sue thing" is.
given all the other crap that seems to be wrong with the evidence and investigation, do they really end up with no recourse whatsoever?

i guess they are probably just happy to be out and hope to live quiet lives.

would this thing prevent from speaking for free, for groups like Innocence Project or Witness to Innocence?
posted by sio42 at 10:09 AM on August 19, 2011


Yeah, I guess it was like, "Look, it's obvious now that you'll be acquitted if you take this to a new trial. Why rot in jail all these years while you wait for that to happen? Just sign here where it says 'No Hard Feelings' and we'll call it even."
posted by Gator at 10:11 AM on August 19, 2011


So fucking angry at that smug, sanctimonious prick of a prosecutor. Take your "rehabilitation" and cram it sideways, pal.
posted by palomar at 10:12 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


doubt if it would prevent that, sio42, but also think the guilty pleas may dilute any effectiveness they'd have doing so.
posted by msconduct at 10:12 AM on August 19, 2011


The choice the defendants have is something like this: entering an ambiguous plea now for a 100% chance of getting out right now after 18 years in prison, or staying in prison for a few more months or perhaps a year for a 75% chance of complete acquittal. I think I would do the same thing they chose to do.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:14 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here they are!
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:17 AM on August 19, 2011


they're on the news conference!
posted by sio42 at 10:17 AM on August 19, 2011




God, Jason just said he took the deal solely to save Damien's life. Tears.
posted by something something at 10:25 AM on August 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


Wow, Jason's comment about saving Damien. Damn.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:25 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


oh god. what jason said has me tearing up. he only took the plea in order to prevent them from killing Damien.
posted by sio42 at 10:26 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


good for jason baldwin! 'this is NOT justice!' etc.
posted by msconduct at 10:26 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


yeah, totally teared up.
posted by nadawi at 10:27 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Will they have to register as sex offenders? Having an Alford plea on their records?

They weren't convicted of raping the children, although Misskelley claimed they were sodomized - and the prosecution claimed they were sodomized. The medical examiner basically said they weren't sodomized, but left open the possibility that they were forced to perform oral sex.

While I guess that the notion that they weren't convicted of a sex crime would say no, a triple child homicide is worse. (Yes, I believe the WM3 are innocent, but these considerations still boggle my mind.)

And WM3. Get the hell out of Arkansas. From my experience with this case there are some sick individuals who have it in for you.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:28 AM on August 19, 2011


And now I'm crying. Jason's statement about wanting to save Damien has torn me up.

If there is a hero here, the one who has shown the most courage through all of this, I think it's Jessie. He always refused to testify against the other two. He never took the deal. My heart aches for all of them, but probably most for him. Reading the transcript of his original "confession" is chilling and makes for a sobering lesson about how the US justice system really works.
posted by Eumachia L F at 10:30 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Jesus. These poor men.
posted by palomar at 10:32 AM on August 19, 2011


their family members looks so happy, so so incredibly happy.
like they can't believe they can actually touch them.

everything about this is making me cry - with damien just publicly thanking jason and all.
posted by sio42 at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


oh thank god "no travel restrictions"
posted by nadawi at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


No travel restrictions, thank God.
posted by Gator at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thank GOD, no travel restrictions.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Surreal moment: I just thought, "ooh, who's that hot guy standing over there?" Oh. It's Eddie Vedder.
posted by something something at 10:36 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


there was a whole lot of integrity behind that table ...
posted by msconduct at 10:36 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the play by play (not sarcasm) for those of us who can't get the video links to work behind firewalls.

Alford pleas are a unique experience, but if people don't think there are hundreds of people who daily do this every day (take deals even though they can't possibly be convicted because they are broken down by the system), I'd like to borrow your worldview.

I hope those that have supported getting them out will step up in helping them get out of town. I know I'd donate to the cause.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:37 AM on August 19, 2011


they seemed emphatic when they said "no travel restrictions." i'm guessing none of them have plans to stay around.
posted by nadawi at 10:38 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey, now they're showing footage from the hearing that they couldn't show live.
posted by Gator at 10:42 AM on August 19, 2011


let's hope they don't stay there.

were these guys even allowed to talk to each other in prison at all? if you're in solitary can you still get mail?

i hope that in a short matter of time, their own investigations that damien referred to turn up the real killer(s). just as an extra FU to the prosecutor.

oh man, they're about to get mobbed when they exit the court room. i hope someone gives them so ativan. i can't even imagine.
posted by sio42 at 10:43 AM on August 19, 2011


(If you're interested in helping out other people like the West Memphis 3, please consider donating to the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Innocence Project.)
posted by incessant at 10:43 AM on August 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


Sigh. Today's a good day to remember that periodic vow never to read comments on news articles.
posted by catlet at 10:45 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I saw on Twitter that Branch caused a big outburst during the hearing and had to be removed, wonder if we'll get to see it in the footage we're seeing now.
posted by Gator at 10:46 AM on August 19, 2011


catlet Do not scroll down to the comments. UGH.
posted by pointystick at 10:46 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


i'm supposing that the initial reports that 2 of the 3 would be freed is because jason baldwin was opposed to taking the deal & damien & jesse would have been released? (apologies if this has been covered upthread but my attention span isn't long enough right now to read through all the comments.)
posted by msconduct at 10:48 AM on August 19, 2011


My god, those local newscasters are talking about what a weirdo they think Damien Echols is and was, and calling him out for dressing "Hollywood."
posted by Scram at 10:49 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they really need to move out of that area.
posted by something something at 10:49 AM on August 19, 2011


yes - that's what a reporter said as well. jason just wanted to keep fighting but i guess it was an all or nothing deal for all 3 of them.
posted by sio42 at 10:49 AM on August 19, 2011


Why should anybody read your comments and respond to them if you can't be bothered to read theirs?
posted by Gator at 10:49 AM on August 19, 2011


I'm glad to know that (and stop me if I have this wrong) apparently there is no legal bar to charge someone else with the crime even if that isn't likely the state would.
posted by pointystick at 10:50 AM on August 19, 2011


in re the "hollywood" thing... well, damien does sort of have a Depp thing going on. but i found it attractive and nice and that he hasn't lost his personality.
posted by sio42 at 10:51 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is worse than Fox News.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:56 AM on August 19, 2011


gator: if that was directed to me: i found out about this about 2 hours ago, right before my kitty's vet appointment. i am quite excited--and confused--about this turn of events. most often, i do *not* comment at. all. if i haven't read the thread. go ahead, check & see how long i've been here & how many comments i've made. i'll wait. today, though, my enthusiasm for the subject outweighed my common sense. you are more than welcome to skip any comment i ever make.
posted by msconduct at 10:57 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's really staggering, the level of personal commentary coming from this "reporter" - strange.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:57 AM on August 19, 2011


what station are you watching (Arsenio)?
posted by sio42 at 10:58 AM on August 19, 2011


Am I the only one watching the footage of the hearing on CNN? I just watched them all plead guilty while insisting on their innocence, based on the advice of counsel and in the belief that it's in their best interest.
posted by Gator at 10:59 AM on August 19, 2011


i'm watching the prerecorded trial on CNN. it's heartbreaking.
posted by nadawi at 11:00 AM on August 19, 2011


dances_with_sneetches - Arkansas sex offender registry law doesn't apply to the WM3. They were charged with/convicted of murder, which isn't a sex offense under Arkansas or federal law. Testimony during the trial is irrelevant to registry requirements since they were never charged.

(Besides, I am as certain as I am about anything that, had there been a registry-eligible sex offense charge, the plea deal wouldn't be happening.)
posted by catlet at 11:01 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For all the talk of the croud being supportive of the WM3, the footage of them leaving the courtroom does make me think that many, if not most, of the locals who showed up were doing so for a glimpse of the WM3's celebrity supporters, rather than to cheer their freedom. The shouts of "Eddie!! Eddie!!! Eddie!!!" when Vedder left the courtroom were way louder than the cheers for the 3 of them leaving.

Really glad to see that they are out and that this may be closer to being put right!

A question for the legal types - is there any way of clearing these guys names after this type of plea? It seems unlikely, after that press conference, that the local police are going to pursue a case against anyone else (so the victims will never really get justice.) - In the absence of that, can the WM3 in some way seek to have their records cleared of the guilty verdict, or are they stuck with it forever, regardless of any evidence that has or will come to light?
posted by Wylla at 11:01 AM on August 19, 2011


i'm watching the CNN footage too. it's kinda crazy. i wouldn't be able to stand for this, literally. i think i'd be shaking too badly.
posted by sio42 at 11:02 AM on August 19, 2011


"Have you been threatened or coerced into entering this plea, Mr Echols?"

"YES, YOU PUT ME IN JAIL FOR 18 YEARS AND WON'T LET ME OUT UNLESS I SIGN THIS!"
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:02 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm watching the local Memphis channel - link to streaming. She keeps talking about how "the child murderers" are going free, and how "Hollywood" Damien looked today, and how people are "cheering - yes, cheering!" as the defendants left the courthouse and how weird Damien acted during the first trial, and on and on.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:02 AM on August 19, 2011


I am so glad they're free, regardless of conditions - nothing can be worse than living 18 years waiting to be killed for something you didn't do. I worry for Misskelley - he seemed absolutely distraught during the press conference. Hopefully he is being released into a structure that can support and help him through this. No doubt he blames himself.

And of course, those little boys are still murdered. Whoever killed them is still out there. Nothing will ever change that, and chances are that those who did this to them will never be caught. But at least the kids that were so wrongly accused and convicted have a chance at living the rest of their adult lives as best they can. That's all the good that can come from this situation now.
posted by saturnine at 11:03 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Outburst!
posted by Gator at 11:04 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


who was that? i couldn't tell.
posted by sio42 at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2011


I'd also like to chime in and thank you guys for the play-by-play.
posted by Floydd at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Watching the CNN feed of the plea/sentencing, it's a little shocking to hear that the sentence is not only the 10 years of probation but also the 18+ years already served. Can someone more informed chime in: is the state insisting on these pleas to protect the state from something like wrongful conviction or misconduct charges?
posted by nobody at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2011


he hasn't lost his personality

Hence why so many people in that town will always hate him. He was different and he was proud of it, which is always an affront to people like that.

[tangent] One of my former extended-family-in-law members was a high school teacher in a small town in Tennessee. Sweet lady, awfully nice, very happy to have me married to her dear nephew, yadda yadda. We were talking one day at some family gathering, and somehow the subject came up of the creepy Satan-worshiping/future serial killer teenage boy at her school that she and the other teachers were trying to find a way to expel (despite the fact that he hadn't actually broken any expulsion-worthy rules, of course).

"How do you know he worships Satan and is going to be a serial killer?" I asked.

She gave me a duh face. "He wears blue nail polish and refuses to go to school spirit rallies."

My ex and I, who had just seen the first WM3 documentary that year, exchanged glances.

"I wore blue nail polish and refused to go to school spirit rallies in high school," I said. "And I turned out OK."

She looked at me in... disbelief? Contempt? Shame? I don't know. But she finally regained her composure and smiled thinly. "Well, bless your heart," she said, walking away. [/tangent]

posted by scody at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2011 [21 favorites]


It was Steve Branch. He was the one pitching a fit in the media beforehand about these guys being set free. He was agin' it.
posted by Gator at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2011


Steve Branch, sio42.
posted by catlet at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2011


(Arsenio), I'm in Memphis and we had to watch the CNN feed to keep from angrying up the blood. Local TV is shit.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:08 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weird, I would have thought that by now the locals would have turned around on hating these kids.
But yokels are yokels I suppose.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:10 AM on August 19, 2011


Not only that, but yokels breed yokels.
posted by toastedbeagle at 11:13 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This judge is pretty awesome. He clearly believes them to be innocent.
posted by something something at 11:14 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


thanks clearing up the outburst perp.

scody - that's just nuts. i was reading on the wm3.org (dances_with_sneetches site, i think) about how there was juvy officer at the scene of the crime who speculated that it must have been damien. and how this same officer kept questioning damien anytime anything happened, just to try to find something to pin on him. it does seem like the "adults" had it in for him without him ever doing anything except be himself. as if high school isn't bad enough with kids gunning for you, the teachers do it too.
posted by sio42 at 11:14 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Weird, I would have thought that by now the locals would have turned around on hating these kids.
But yokels are yokels I suppose.


Yeah, even being so close to a large metropolitan area, West Memphis is in all aspects a small Southern town.
posted by epilnivek at 11:15 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The judge seems like a pretty humane fellow. No wonder the prosecution was worried about December.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:15 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Love how Judge Laser kept them in session so that all of that would be in the court record.
posted by catlet at 11:19 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


NOTE that Im not disparaging the south or saying the south is full of yokels but yokels ARE a real thing and do in fact exist. And West Memphis is apparently full of em.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:19 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"i don't normally talk this much about a case, but i have a captive audience here." honest chuckle out of me.
posted by nadawi at 11:20 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just love that the judge's name is Judge Laser. It makes me smile.

I think I'll be making extra donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Innocence Project this quarter.
posted by palomar at 11:21 AM on August 19, 2011


West Memphis is where I-40 and I-55 come together. It's basically a giant truck stop. Damien was a smart kid who rebelled against the local flavor of fundamentalism by becoming a Wiccan. Also, his name was Damien. They'd seen The Omen. They knew that he had to be a satanist, and when those kids were killed, they knew he had to have done it. After all, no Good Christian would do such a thing!
posted by vibrotronica at 11:21 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


What's the best streaming video feed right now? I'm watching the local station, is there something better?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:26 AM on August 19, 2011


cnn's showing obama. cbs is just a screen card or whatever it's called.
posted by sio42 at 11:29 AM on August 19, 2011


NOTE that Im not disparaging the south or saying the south is full of yokels but yokels ARE a real thing and do in fact exist. And West Memphis is apparently full of em.

Oh yes, if you substitute a nasal mid-Michigan accent for the drawl, West Memphis could easily be my little slice of Great Lakes heaven. Mark Byers, Steve Branch? Many of my neighbors are those guys.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:38 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are yokels everywhere. This isn't a Southern thing or even a small-town thing. I met some real nutballs living in Los Angeles. They are everywhere, and to assume that these kids would have been treated differently if they weren't in Arkansas is probably not a safe bet.
posted by something something at 11:42 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is anything happening on the local news? Still can't see because I refuse to install Silverlight.
posted by Gator at 11:43 AM on August 19, 2011


Also, his name was Damien. They'd seen The Omen. They knew that he had to be a satanist, and when those kids were killed, they knew he had to have done it. After all, no Good Christian would do such a thing!

Not only is his name Damien, it's a name he chose for himself.* If that's not evidence of pure evil and malevolence, then I don't know what is.

I'm so, so, so happy that they're free, but damn. There is no justice here.

*cite: my hazy memory of Paradise Lost. I could be mistaken.
posted by donajo at 11:43 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


the local news turned into someone just scrolling thru footage looking for something, no reporting. i'm surprised they left the live stream up.
posted by sio42 at 11:44 AM on August 19, 2011


Damien chose his name after Father Damien, a Catholic saint who treated lepers and then succumbed to leprosy. Damien went through about a two year Catholic period in his early teens.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:48 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


They are everywhere, and to assume that these kids would have been treated differently if they weren't in Arkansas is probably not a safe bet.

Yes and no, I think. There have certainly been rushes to judgment and wrongful convictions in every state, in small towns and large cities alike.

But I think the intentional focus on someone like Damien Echols, who was being singled out (as mentioned upthread) by a juvy officer simply because he looked and acted differently than the local norms, is something that's far more likely to happen in certain types of small towns (whether in the South, the Midwest, etc.) than it is in, say, big college towns or cities.

If the cops in Los Angeles, say, wanted to pin some murders on some local teenagers who wore a lot of black and dabbled in Wiccan, for example, there'd literally be thousands of kids to choose from. In a place like West Memphis, there was only one.
posted by scody at 11:48 AM on August 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


donajo -- it's true. His name first name at birth was Michael. Which I can't imagine ever wanting to change as a teenager in the early 90s because you felt like it was too common.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:49 AM on August 19, 2011


oops...dropped my hambuger tag
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:49 AM on August 19, 2011


Damien chose his name after Father Damien, a Catholic saint who treated lepers and then succumbed to leprosy. Damien went through about a two year Catholic period in his early teens.

I'm sorry, that was clearly some horseshit he came up with to defend himself. That was the saddest thing about that documentary, that a jury could be swayed like that, despite the total lack of evidence.

Anyway, as far as the Southern thing goes, I grew up in New England in a ramshackle house equidistant to four trailer parks. I can tell you that deep-running ignorance, intolerance, and plain old stupidity are not the exclusive preserve of the south.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:59 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Lumpenprole, it was not something he came up with later. His juvie officer spoke with Damien's former priest and confirmed this. And this juvie officer (Jerry Driver) was not Damien's friend. He was a witness for the prosecution and was quite antagonistic against Damien in most matters.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:04 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a young male relative who chose Damien as his Confirmation name. He swore up and down that he chose it because of the saint, but I knew the kid well enough to know that he was blowing smoke up everybody's butt. He picked it because of the "evil" connotations the name has, and acted all doe-eyed and innocent if anybody looked askance. Which is to say I also doubt that Echols chose his name for such an innocent reason, but the point should remain that it doesn't matter to this case whether he did or not.
posted by Gator at 12:17 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


his name could have been Lucifer and it wouldn't matter. (i've always though Lucifer sounded neat, mellifluous i guess. too bad it's got connotations like Damien...)
posted by sio42 at 12:25 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a sinking feeling this isn't going to be the last we hear from Steve Branch.
posted by rhizome at 1:02 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Misskelly's second confession is one of the reasons I think they're guilty.

Not to gang up on you, Bookhouse, but I know from personal experience that was one of the weakest aspects of the case. (1) I was a sociology grad student at Berkeley when Dr. Richard Ofshe was there. Ofshe was the defense's expert on false confessions and the author of several seminal journal and law review articles about false confessions. He found numerous discrepancies between Misskelley's confession and the empirical facts of how the victims were killed. If Ofshe says that Misskelley's confession is bogus, I believe him. (2) I have an autistic younger brother who has tested at a low IQ similar to Jesse Misskelley. I know from personal experience that you could get my brother to say just about anything if you tried hard enough.
posted by jonp72 at 1:07 PM on August 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


I realize this probably has little relevance anymore, but I always wondered what happened with the bloody guy in the Bojangles.
posted by Challahtronix at 1:26 PM on August 19, 2011


So what was the deal with the AK VINE report much earlier today that listed them as out of custody on general release? Was it a mistake? Someone getting the paper work done early because they knew what was going to happen? I'm assuming this has all been sorted out for much the week already. I mean, seriously, when did they call Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines to book flights to Arkansas?
posted by Eumachia L F at 1:33 PM on August 19, 2011


By the way, I think this case also shows what a sleazebag Mike Huckabee is. When I lobbied his office in the 1990s for the release of the West Memphis 3, I was fed a line of B.S. about how the governor had no power to make pardons and couldn't do anything without the approval of the state board of pardons and parole. Of course, I later learned that Mike Huckabee released the serial rapist, Wayne Dumond, because Dumond raped a distant cousin of Bill Clinton and because he became a cause celebre among some evangelical Christians after making an insincere jailhouse conversion. Mike Huckabee, go take your red state morality and shove it up your ass. The way you and people in your state have handled this case, the electoral votes from Arkansas should be invalidated in the next election just on general principle.
posted by jonp72 at 1:38 PM on August 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


What constitutes Misskelley's second confession is a bit of a controversy. Depends on how you count. However, the circumstances around Misskelley's confessions are recounted on these pages (1) (2), plus some debunking of them.

I've looked at Bojangles but it should be seen in the context of that day/night. As one of the officers working that evening stated cryptically, "There was some serious shit going down that night." The number of gunshots, gunshot wounds are other incidences are remarkable.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:41 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damien's statement here. "I am not alone as there are tens of thousand of men and woman in this country who have been wrongfully convicted, forced into a false confession, sentenced to death or a lifetime in prison. I am hopeful that one day they too will be able stand with their friends and family to declare their innocence. This whole experience has taught me much about life, human nature, American justice, survival and transcendence. I will hopefully take those lessons with me as I embark on the next chapter in my journey."
posted by scody at 1:42 PM on August 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


Eumachia L F, Damien said in the press conference that he hadn't slept in four days since he found out about this deal, so they had a fair amount of warning to let their supporters know.
posted by something something at 2:13 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


psst. arkansas is AR. alaska is AK. for completion sake, alabama is AL and arizona is AZ.
posted by nadawi at 2:15 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not only is his name Damien, it's a name he chose for himself.* If that's not evidence of pure evil and malevolence, then I don't know what is.

Oh, give me a break. If he'd named himself Lucifer McMurder DeSade it still would have had no bearing on the question of whether or not he committed this crime. Adopting an "evil" and "malevolent" name is perfectly legal, as is interest in heavy metal, horror movies, Wicca... and, yes, Satanism.

The fact that the powers that be can actually put "evil" people in prison for decades based on nothing but personal dislike for their taste makes me livid. That is malevolent. That destroys lives. Picking a name out of a movie, wearing black t-shirts, worshipping "evil" gods, and/or drawing a bunch of pentagrams on your Trapper Keeper does not.
posted by vorfeed at 2:23 PM on August 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


(thanks nadawi, I thought it didn't look right, but I went ahead and posted anyway - sometimes I am an asshat)
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:28 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guys, I think donajo was joking.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:28 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


vorfeed, I think donajo was being sarcastic with that comment.
posted by scody at 2:28 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although Lucifer McMurder DeSade is a great name... possibly a character in a Mr. Show sketch.
posted by scody at 2:30 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Help me remember, I can recall watching the original doc when it came out thinking these kids were being railroaded, but feeling very uneasy about a knife one of them threw in their pond behind their house that was recovered. I thought that was very telling at the time, but I haven't heard anyone mention it, so I need to look that up to see if I am correct.
posted by Senator at 2:33 PM on August 19, 2011


Or an upright bass player in a psychobilly band.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:34 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


vorfeed, I think donajo was being sarcastic with that comment.

Whoops! If so, you can count my comment as an agreement.
posted by vorfeed at 2:36 PM on August 19, 2011


Senator, there was a knife found in a lake behind Jason Baldwin's home, but there was no evidence that one of the accused threw it in there.
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:48 PM on August 19, 2011


vorfeed, I was being sarcastic. Right on.
posted by donajo at 2:50 PM on August 19, 2011


Senator, there was a knife found in a lake behind Jason Baldwin's home, but there was no evidence that one of the accused threw it in there.

Morever, post-trial examination of the evidence suggests that a knife wasn't used in the murders in the first place; the lacerations on the boys' bodies were almost certainly caused by animal bites. I believe Miskelley mentioned a knife in his confession only after the cops asked him about a knife.
posted by scody at 2:50 PM on August 19, 2011


Thanks.
posted by Senator at 2:52 PM on August 19, 2011


Hey so, um, does Jessie have a prison tattoo on the top of his head?!?
posted by punkrockrat at 2:56 PM on August 19, 2011


punkrockrat: It's a clock face and I believe he was going to have the time of his release tattooed on it.
posted by PenDevil at 2:58 PM on August 19, 2011


Senator, there was a knife found in a lake behind Jason Baldwin's home, but there was no evidence that one of the accused threw it in there.

I learned from Richard Ofshe that the lake was actually notorious in West Memphis for being used as a garbage dump by the locals. They could have found everything including the kitchen sink in there.
posted by jonp72 at 3:53 PM on August 19, 2011


They found three stray knives in the area around the crime scene. None of these were linked to the crime or considered more than incidental.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:12 PM on August 19, 2011


Not only is his name Damien, it's a name he chose for himself.* If that's not evidence of pure evil and malevolence, then I don't know what is.

Nobody here knows anything about any of these people or the case from first hand knowledge. I don't think you can say any of that.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:19 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, upthread we already established that that was sarcasm.
posted by palomar at 5:31 PM on August 19, 2011


As for why Damien chose the name Damien, here's a jailhouse interview with him in 1994 (by Mara Leveritt) where he talks about his interest in Catholicism, his name change, and how the Omen films "disgusted" him.
posted by palomar at 5:52 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Damien was the equivalent of "your father's idea of the antichrist" by the time 1993 rolled around. Which is precisely why it registered with older individuals.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:29 PM on August 19, 2011


If you punish a man for dreaming his dreams don't expect him to forget or forgive you
The West Memphis 3 will in time both outpace and outlive you.

Hail Satan!
Tonight, Hail Satan tonight!
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:29 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


HBO and Berlinger/Sinofsky are apparently making a Paradise Lost 3. yt

West Memphis 3 outcome 'bittersweet,' filmmaker says: "Documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's campaign to help win the freedom of the so-called West Memphis 3 ended in triumph Friday, as the trio of Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelly Jr. were set free after 18 years behind bars. Now the directors are facing a new challenge: recutting their new film 'Paradise Lost: Purgatory,' in time for the fall festival circuit."
posted by homunculus at 8:00 PM on August 19, 2011


If nothing else, the filmmakers have just had an epic twist-ending handed to them.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:05 PM on August 19, 2011




Photo of Damien on his first evening of freedom.

That much open air must take a lot of getting used to after 18 years. Dang it, where's my hankie?
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:34 AM on August 20, 2011


Trying to place the location. Is that Bosco's?
posted by middleclasstool at 7:38 AM on August 20, 2011


It's somewhere near Front St and Monroe Ave - not sure what building.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:54 AM on August 20, 2011


That pic of Damien was taken on the roof of the Madison Hotel, the swankiest joint in Downtown Memphis. All three of them stayed there last night with Eddie Vedder and company. the street outside has been mobbed with media, and the staff has the place on lockdown.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:13 AM on August 20, 2011


As far as Jesse Miskelley's confession, always remember: a determined police interrogator can make an innocent man admit to murder. Especially if he's not the smartest student in the classroom.

False confessions: People have a strange and worrying tendency to admit to things they have not, in fact, done
posted by homunculus at 10:37 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Now that they're out of prison, I wonder if the best things for their supporters to do now is forget they exist and to let them try and recover a sense of a normal life that has been denied them for the past 18 years.
posted by PenDevil at 10:48 AM on August 20, 2011


Re:scody's post

Holy Sh*t! I was the guy leading the spirit rallies in high school! Doing that does build a certain sense of self-righteousness. Was trying to remember the name the name of the junior girl everyone called a witch. I believe she ended up going to MIT. The weird thing was though I was a guy without a group....being a farm boy I didn't fit in with anybody. Looking back, it would have been the nail-polished, black wearing tribe I would have aligned with.

And satan-worshipping accusations aren't not limited to small-town Christians. Satanic ritual child abuse in the early 90's got a lot of support and propagation from hard-core feminists
posted by goalyeehah at 11:10 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]




This interview with Steven Braga, one of Damien's lawyers, seems to underscore the impression several people had upthread that the new judge in the case seems to have been the final key to getting them freed:
"I think there were three turning points that helped make this resolution possible, three new things," he said. "A lot of new evidence, DNA evidence ... new witnesses, different things coming to fore. A new hearing, the Arkansas Supreme Court gave these young men a new hearing last November in a ruling that was unprecedented and that hearing was coming up in December so there was some pressure there.

"Perhaps most importantly, a new judge. The trial judge [David Burnett] who had been on the case for 17 years was elected to the State Senate. [!!!] A new judge, David Laser, was appointed, and that brought a fresh perspective to the whole case."
As others have said, the deal itself indicates clearly that the prosecutors no longer liked their chances of getting another set of convictions a second time around. Since the DNA evidence and other factors have been around for awhile, it seems a good bet to me that what changed so suddenly (given that Braga says the deal has only been in the works for a couple of weeks and that the defense teams themselves were shocked by it) was that something was recently made clear that Judge Laser was not going to be so biased to the prosecution as Judge Burnett had repeatedly been -- and it was the judge's bias that the prosecution had to rely on, given that their actual case had pretty much collapsed.

I'll be very curious to see what more comes to light in the coming weeks and months regarding how the deal happened.
posted by scody at 4:08 PM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


er, that should be "Judge Laser was not going to be so biased to for the prosecution..."
posted by scody at 4:10 PM on August 20, 2011


It seemed obvious that this Burnett guy eyes that wouldn't see and ears that would not hear from the start. His whole demeanor gave off a closed minded vibe. I remember in the first doc when Damien was made to read lyrics he wrote in a notebook, (good God) from a Metallica song, and adds, "that's about how corrupt the court systems are" and the picture flashes over to Burnett who has this, "Keep talking F-er" look on his face.
posted by Senator at 5:04 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


These guys have been on my mind a lot lately. I hope that they have the support to move forward with their lives and heal from this. 18 years in a cage is not something you let go of lightly. Especially when it's for something you didn't do. There's now one more person on the list of people who've been released from death row. If that's not one of the biggest indictments of the death penalty, I don't know what is.

The other thing that's been on my mind is the huge difference that the community of support made for them, including all the money raised for all of the legal costs and DNA testing and investigators. There are so many people incarcerated right now for things that they didn't do, things that there is evidence showing they didn't do, and we don't have a justice system that makes it possible for justice do be done *without* an army of celebrities and private investigators and kids on the internet. I am very, very glad that the West Memphis 3 got the kind of attention and support that they did. I understand very well that a lot of us see ourselves in them, whether we listened to Metallica or played Dungeons and Dragons or wore blue nail polish or dressed a little funny or just felt really, really different in high school. These were the people I hung out with in high school. My sister and her friends.

I yet I also wish that there was some fraction of this kind of celebrity visibility and internet campaigns and bumper stickers and so on for the other kids who get stuck in the criminal justice system just for being the wrong kids in the wrong place, usually with the added problem of having the wrong skin color. Or using the wrong kind of drugs. And more than anything I wish that we had a justice system that looked out for all of them from the beginning, so that you didn't need the Dixie Chicks to get a new hearing.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:26 PM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


If Damien Echols has read all of the 1697 books well-wishers have sent over the years he's not as sheltered as one might think...


THE DAMIEN ECHOLS AMAZON WISHLIST... active since 2002
posted by Hammond Rye at 8:58 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I yet I also wish that there was some fraction of this kind of celebrity visibility and internet campaigns and bumper stickers and so on for the other kids who get stuck in the criminal justice system just for being the wrong kids in the wrong place, usually with the added problem of having the wrong skin color.

Indeed, gingerbeer. I've no doubt that somewhere, there's a duo or trio of wrongfully convicted black young adults saying to themselves: "Bloody favoritism!"

Bummer, really.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:30 AM on August 23, 2011




Per the Arkansas blog at the Arkansas Times, there's a Q and A session scheduled for this evening at the Arkansas Statehouse to discuss the case and verdict.

Participants to include Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington, author/reporter Mara Leveritt (author of Devil's Knot and many of the Ark Times articles about the case over the past two decades), Capi Peck (founder of Arkansas Take Action), and the Little Rock attorneys for Damien, Jason, and Jessie.

I sure hope it's videotaped and uploaded. I want very much to hear what Scott Ellington has to say for himself.
posted by palomar at 2:26 PM on August 25, 2011


I'm just so glad that finally let these boys go, no matter what the conditions. I know they are men now, but I will probably always think of them as those boys I saw in court--Jason who just looked so lost and scared, Damien trying too hard to be cool, giving the haters more reason to think he did it, while admitting to his lawyer that sometimes he just starts daydreaming in court, obviously not understanding the gravity of the situation; Jessie rocking back and forth in the witness stand as they play a recording of his 'confession,' head buried in his hands the whole time because he took counsel's advice to 'just keep his head down' literally.

I've seen Paradise Lost and Paradise Lost 2 just recently, and nothing in the documentaries or in the links from this thread seem to suggest it, but could Terry Hobbs and John Mark Beyers have murdered those poor kids together? Both of them abusive stepdads with drug problems and convictions, their kids knew each other, they both had all their teeth pulled out once the bite mark came to light, both kept changing their stories about where they were and what they did, one disappearing completely for a long time after the crimes and the other almost daring the cameras to film his every move, obviously enjoying the spotlight. It just seems so bizarre, and too coincidental that they are both compulsive liars and abusive fathers whose kids were killed.

But then, I suppose it could all just be some weird coincidence. Heaven knows the whole town of West Memphis just seems like this huge, severely dysfunctional family, full of nasty secrets.

What's even sadder is that one of the three boys who were killed, Michael Moore, seems like the only kid in the town who had a healthy childhood, right up until the time of his murder. He's the only one of the boys killed whose biological parents were happily married, not on drugs, never in trouble with the law, didn't accuse each other of being involved, and didn't beat their son.
posted by misha at 9:21 PM on August 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Who killed the West Memphis children? I wish it were more substantive.
posted by misha at 9:25 PM on August 25, 2011




The panel discussion from last night is available online here.
posted by scody at 5:25 PM on August 26, 2011




This is an excellent, in-depth interview with Dan Stidham, who was Jessie Misskelly's counsel from 1993 to 2008 (when he became a district judge). Stidham gives a great rundown of the lack of evidence in the case, Jessie's false confession ("I could get him today to admit to killing JFK in Dallas in 20 minutes or less and he wasn’t even born yet in 1963. He and I could sit down and solve every “unsolved” murder in the country if people were still willing to believe in false confessions. Those who use Misskelley’s false confession as evidence of guilt for the WM3 simply do not understand the dynamics or the psychology of interrogations and false confessions."), his thoughts on the Alford plea, and a look at some changes in the legal system since 1993 (and what changes still need to happen) that are relevant to the original investigation and original trial.

Also, he has this to say about prosecutor Scott Ellington, which is an interesting perspective:
I also think that despite the allegations of “politics” being invoked by some people in the case, issues I cannot address personally, Prosecutor Scott Ellington has shown considerable courage in agreeing to the “Alford” plea. He deserves great credit for this decision, demonstrated an ability to make tough decisions, and has taken considerable heat over this which I believe is quite unfair. He simply doesn’t deserve it. After all, this case is a case he inherited just last year and he made none of the original decisions that were made in the case back in 1993 and 1994.

Mr. Ellington announced on Thursday that despite the fact that he considers the case “closed” he would consider any new evidence brought to him and would prosecute the real killers if adequate proof was presented to him. Again, quite a courageous move on his part.
posted by scody at 10:41 AM on August 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


And I agree with his assessment on this, scody (thanks for that interview link, by the way, it is really informative):
I will say that I was proud of the courage the Arkansas Supreme Court displayed for remanding the case back to the trial Court because former Judge, now State Senator, David Burnett earlier had refused to even consider the new and overwhelming evidence in the case in earlier hearings.
I'm not from Arkansas, and can't vote him out, but if there is any kind of Ethics committee, David Burnett should have to face charges of ethical violations.

Also, what has to happen for him to be reported to the Arkansas State Judiciary for Professional Miconduct? Because he let prosecutors refer to Jesse Misskelley's bogus confession, which was illegal, refused pleas for the defense to introduce evidence about the lack of "Satanic Ritual Homicides", refused requests for a mistrial after he spoke directly to the jury during their deliberations, and refused requests for appeals based on new evidence all down the line.
posted by misha at 3:26 PM on August 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Another article -- this one an absolutely astonishing behind-the-scenes look at the lengths the defense was able to go to (thanks to the financial support of Peter Jackson and others) in order to uncover new evidence and demolish the case against the WM3 once and for all, including "rent[ing] the former homes of two of the victims' parents, hiring a forensic scientist to pull up carpets and take apart walls in a search to link them to the murders. It brought in a backhoe to dig up the back yard at one of the homes."
posted by scody at 8:18 PM on August 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Amazing, scody. I'm guessing your name stands for "Supreme Court of Doing-it Yourself"!
posted by ShutterBun at 4:08 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, anyone heard of Billy Sinclair? I hadn't heard of him before last week, but apparently he's a former death row inmate turned FBI informant turned jailhouse lawyer turned free man and paralegal/published author/anti death penalty advocate.

He's been posting a series of essays about the West Memphis Three case on his website -- the people who steadfastly believe that the three are guilty seem to really eat this guy up with a spoon because he "hasn't drunk the kool-aid" as one virulently anti-WM3 forum says. Unfortunately, he seems to rely on the circumstantial evidence as the basis for his belief in their guilt -- when pressed on it he confirms that he's basically relying on his "gut feelings" about the evidence, and a jailhouse cconfession from a man who can't keep his story straight from week to week apparently rings quite true to him. Yiiiiiikes.
posted by palomar at 8:07 AM on August 30, 2011


Media coverage of wrongful convictions shows distinct pattern: the endlessly repeating cycle of crime, sensational reporting, mass hysteria, and wrongful conviction -- in the WM3 case, and many many others.
posted by palomar at 9:10 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


On Sept. 10, 48 Hours will be rerunning their episode on the case from 2010, presumably with an update.
posted by scody at 10:16 PM on September 1, 2011


The 48 Hours episode will have an update -- they've filmed a post-release interview with Damien Echols. Commercial for the episode (with snippets of free Damien, looking a bit healthier) available here.
posted by palomar at 10:42 PM on September 6, 2011


For anyone still checking, the 48 Hours episode has been rescheduled for September 17th.
posted by 1UP at 6:40 AM on September 10, 2011


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