West Memphis 3 Continued
January 20, 2012 1:15 PM   Subscribe

New witnesses surface on the infamous West Memphis 3 case based on Peter Jackson's upcoming documentary which will premiere as one piece at the 2012 Sundance. Here's the trailer.

"This is critical new information," Stephen Braga, an attorney for Echols, said. "With the secret now out, let’s hope that someone in the Hobbs family has the heart, the soul and the courage to come forward to tell the truth directly."

Most recently discussed on MF here.
posted by straight_razor (40 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Who is Hobbs again? Did he ever appear on film in the Robin Hood movie?
posted by KokuRyu at 1:21 PM on January 20, 2012

Weird, so this is a different doc than the Paradise Lost series (which I thought just had a part 3 come out)? Weird. I'm interested to find out what Jackson's interest in the case is.
posted by alex_skazat at 1:26 PM on January 20, 2012

For me, what just blows my mind, is that multiple people have the answer to a gruesome puzzle that ruined the lives of many and it takes a documentary(s) or movie to convince them to say something.
posted by straight_razor at 1:31 PM on January 20, 2012

Probably the same as Henry Rollins' interest.
posted by koeselitz at 1:31 PM on January 20, 2012

A friend of mine who grew up near the area and knew far more about the case than I did was always appalled at the fact that Terry Hobbs pulled out all of his teeth once dental imprints were found. She remains convinced that all evidence pointed to him.

Reading the Reuters case, it seems like much of the new information is hearsay. That's not really going to get far. The fact that eyewitnesses placed Hobbs with the kids may be different, but eyewitness testimony is fraught enough as it is, let alone 19 years after-the-fact.

My guess is nothing will changes. Someone got away with murder and innocent people were run roughshod by a prosecutors more concerned with getting a conviction than getting the right person. It'd be nice to fix the problem, but I'm not getting my hopes up.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:32 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

For background, I recommend watching the entire three-part documentary series, "Paradise Lost," from the start. It chronicles the original arrests, trials, appeals and the whole 18-year odyssey. Warning: It's infuriating at best. And the Hobbs factor is really bizarre, as is the Alford plea deal that got them free. The state just wanted to avoid a huge lawsuit. So they fucked with these guys' lives and kept them in an additional ten years just to save a buck. Fucking nauseating. Guess the big takeaway is this: Don't listen to Metallica or wear black t-shirts in Jerkwater, Arkansas.
posted by VicNebulous at 1:36 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

Jackson was one of the major funders of the criminal defense work and campaign to get them out.
posted by gingerbeer at 1:37 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, weird. I just posted about Alec Baldwin's Here's the Thing podcast, and his most recent interview is with Joe Berlinger, director of the Paradise Lost docs.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:40 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

always appalled at the fact that Terry Hobbs pulled out all of his teeth once dental imprints were found.

I believe youre thinking of Byers.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:44 PM on January 20, 2012

always appalled at the fact that Terry Hobbs pulled out all of his teeth once dental imprints were found.

I believe youre thinking of Byers.

They both did it.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:45 PM on January 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Wow really?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:49 PM on January 20, 2012

Don't listen to Metallica or wear black t-shirts in Jerkwater, Arkansas

In 1992.

There are thousands of WM3 supporters in Arkansas. Stop painting the entire state with this brush.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:49 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

Here's the full press release: "My Uncle Terry murdered the three little boys."

allen.spaulding: it's true that the original prosecutors (and judge) were blatantly uninterested in finding the real killer(s), and in obstructing any efforts to find the truth. Scott Ellington, the prosecutor who was part of the Alford plea, inherited the case only in the past couple of years and had nothing to do with convicting the WM3, and has indicated that even though he considers the case closed, he is open to considering new evidence. A number of people involved with the WM3 defense seem to feel that this indicates that he may personally/privately tends to believe that the WM3 may indeed have railroaded, but his job is to uphold the state's position unless and until new evidence can be brought to pursue a new trial and conviction.

I believe youre thinking of Byers.

They both did it.

Byers has shown himself to be fairly nutty, to be sure, but there's no plausible scenario where both he and Hobbs had motive and opportunity to commit the murders together. (There's not really a plausible scenario involving Hobbs on his own, either.)
posted by scody at 1:50 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Uh, they both got their teeth removed.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:51 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sorry, meant to link to this in my previous comment: an interview with Dan Stidham, Jessie Miskelley's former attorney, who discusses Scott Ellington.

Uh, they both got their teeth removed.

Hah! That's what I get for previewing too fast.
posted by scody at 1:53 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm interested to find out what Jackson's interest in the case is.

Anyone who grew up as an outsider would find the case to be very, very interesting.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:01 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm interested to find out what Jackson's interest in the case is.

From a recent interview with Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh:
Peter Jackson: We’d never intended to do a film while we worked on the case the first four years. HBO had the film part covered. We were just trying to save Damien, who’d become a friend. You get to know the people and before too long you have an emotional connection and it becomes a very personal fight. We presented all of our findings, the new science, the experts, the forensics, the redefining of the case the state presented in the original trial, all that went before the original trial judge, David Burnett, in September, 2008. We all expected this would be the moment when the case would end. We thought the judge might be morally strong enough to do that, but as it turned out, he wasn’t. He threw it all out and said --

Walsh: He said it was not compelling.

Jackson: In a way, his words “not compelling” inspired us to do this film. We had very, very compelling evidence, and a state refusing to let it be heard or seen. We always thought if any sensible intelligent person took two or three hours to look at the basic facts of the case, they would always come to the same conclusion. That this was a complete farce and a sham. We needed a way to get the evidence that the judge was blocking from the courtroom, in front of people. And then the thought became a documentary film.
More current interviews, articles, etc. here.

More about Jackson and Walsh's actions helping fund the defense investigations here.
posted by scody at 2:14 PM on January 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

Why Terry Hobbs makes a plausible suspect. The website linked goes through the lack of police investigation into Terry Hobbs right after the murders (he basically took off when he and his wife separated, and no one appeared to think the timing was odd), his inconsistent testimony and wholly unsubstantiated--and even contradicted--alibi, and the DNA evidence at the scene of the murders that links him to the shoelace used to tie up one of the bodies.

Add in his violent tendencies, reported abuse of his own daughter and his stepson before the boy was murdered, and of course the bizarre teeth-pulling...it sounds convincing.

Whether the man will ever be accused officially is doubtful, though, since according to the West Memphis court system, they got the guys responsible.

It's just absurd that these boys ever went to jail in the first place for the murders, let alone that they were imprisoned for 18 years. It makes my heart break, thinking about it; my own son likes to wear black and listen to metal and is a bit of a loner, and I just think, "What if someone tried to pin a crime like this on him?!"
posted by misha at 2:15 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Warning: It's infuriating at best.

True, but also the understatement of the year. My partner, who has actually had plenty of shitty things happen to him re: Johnny Law, had nightmares after immersing himself in this story because it was so easy for him to identify with these guys and could imagine having been similarly railroaded. I don't think the docs themselves are necessarily "triggering" but.... argh I get frustrated at best just trying to explain my reaction. It feels narcissistic to even remotely try to put myself in their shoes. But I can get why Andy (aforementioned partner), Jackson, and Rollins are so invested in these events; there but for the grace of something go we.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:16 PM on January 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

misha: "Why Terry Hobbs makes a plausible suspect."

Let me guess, is it having "Wayne" as a second given name? Because that's the sure mark of a serial killer if I've ever seen one.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:29 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Thanks, scody :) Pretty amazing and good on Mr. Jackson.

Being a follower of Rollins for an embarrassingly long time, my thought was his interest was that he identifies with a group like this former bunch of loser kids that dressed funny, listened to weird music and were misunderstood, compared to everyone else in the town - just like well, he did. See for example the poem, "I know you"

When I was a much smaller, younger alex, that sort of stuff got me through high school.
posted by alex_skazat at 2:33 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Where can you get the Paradise Lost documentaries streaming legally online? It's not for sale/rental at iTunes or Amazon. Drives me nuts!
posted by scunning at 2:57 PM on January 20, 2012

P.S. This one of the (many) times I wish Andy was a MeFite because me publicly lumping him in with Henry Rollins (and probably Peter Jackson too) is the ultimate relationship "Get out of jail free" card for any future transgression.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:10 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Joakim, Mark Byers is also a very...strange individual. At best, he's an attention-seeking former drug addict who has now "come to Jesus". At worst, he's a killer who took the life of those three boys and/or his heroin-addicted wife and is getting off on all the media coverage. And he doesn't even have that "middle name of Wayne" thing going for him.

When you look at the other inhabitants of West Memphis, you just have to wonder how so many damaged people ended up in that place. And also how the real killer, if he is Byers or Hobbs, has managed to elude the police for so long. It's not like either of them are mental giants, you know?

Seriously, though, I honestly don't know who killed those boys.

I just know that there was no way the Memphis Three should ever have been found guilty on the basis of "evidence" like a trumped-up confession (21 minutes long and contradicted by the actual facts in evidence, made after 11-13 hours of interrogation, by a boy with an IQ of ~85) and the testimony of an "expert in the occult". Oh, and the findings of a medical examiner who couldn't tell the difference between knife wounds, bite marks and animal scratches inflicted post-mortem.*

I hope that if anyone else is accused of the murders, there's actual evidence involved and not just another witch-hunt. No matter how much I would like the real killer or killers found (I think everyone would), most of what we have to go on is pure conjecture after all this time.

My real fear is that we'll never know for sure who killed those 8 year-old boys.
posted by misha at 3:17 PM on January 20, 2012

And also how the real killer, if he is Byers or Hobbs, has managed to elude the police for so long. It's not like either of them are mental giants, you know?

The answer is pretty simple, and not all that mysterious: incompetence in the first instance, leading to a rush to judgment, followed by decades of ass-covering. Hobbs -- and for the record, I am strongly in the camp who believes that he did it -- left town shortly after the murders and no one in the police thought this was unusual. In fact, he wasn't formally questioned by the WMPD until 2007 (and much of what he said in that police interview contradicted earlier things he'd said, as well as then being contradicted by statements he made in 2008 in his deposition for his failed lawsuit against Natalie Maines). And the police's questioning was not rigorous; after all, they were major stakeholders in making sure the Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley convictions weren't overturned.

The evidence against Hobbs has been mounting for years. That he's managed to elude the police has very little to do with him and a lot to do with the WMPD.
posted by scody at 3:33 PM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

(or, the shorter version: "elude" suggests that the police are looking for the real killer. But the WMPD haven't been looking since 1993.)
posted by scody at 3:37 PM on January 20, 2012

Is there any possibility that Hobbs or Byers could be sued in civil court for wrongful death or the like? I have heard of that happening before but only when the person being sued was acquitted. These guys were never tried in the first place, so I am just wondering how that might work.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 3:48 PM on January 20, 2012

I think that would be extremely unlikely. For starters, to bring a wrongful death case, you have to be related to the victims in some way, and the families of all three boys are split on who they think did it; some still think it was the WM3 (obviously Hobbs maintains it was them, but other parents/step-parents still contend they were correctly convicted), while other familiy members suspect that it was Hobbs. (I don't think any family members supsect it was Byers. And truly, for all the extreme weirdness he displayed in Paradise Lost 2 and his questionable/violent background, there's no meaningful evidence pointing to Byers in the way that the evidence continues to point to Hobbs.) So there's no unified consensus among the boys' families as to who is actually responsibile.

Secondly, the murders have officially been solved; the WM3 were convicted and have not (yet!) been exonerated. So until they're exonerated (which I think will only happen once someone else is convicted), trying to sue someone else entirely for wrongful death would seem to be a non-starter from a legal point of view.
posted by scody at 4:29 PM on January 20, 2012

Amy Berg made this film. She did all the actual work of directing, sitting in edit, etc.. Calling it "Peter Jackson's" film is a mistake.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:37 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

HBO is currently showing the most recent Paradise Lost documentary. You can watch 'Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory' on HBO, as well as being available streaming on HBO GO.
posted by ericb at 9:24 PM on January 20, 2012

In previous WM3 threads, there was always someone who wandered in to say "Based on my own research, I believe the WM3 did it." and then never clarified what that research was. Where did those people go? Are they making their own documentary?

If they made Trollhunter, it was pretty good. Needed more trolls.
posted by unsupervised at 9:54 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you're talking about Bookhouse, unsupervised.
posted by palomar at 10:00 PM on January 20, 2012

From what I've read at the jivepuppi.com site on the case, I always wondered if a lot of the botched 'investigation' was due to the discovery site being quite close to a place where drugs were being transported, with the knowledge of the local police. Some of them were later found guilty of various corruption charges. They may have been concerned that having too much attention on the nearby truck stop and it's staff (who should have been questioned thoroughly for anything they may have seen or heard) would bring to light their own crimes.
posted by harriet vane at 3:09 AM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why Terry Hobbs makes a plausible suspect.

That link is a perfect summary of the kind of stuff foreigners fear when they think about the USA. Serial killers, rapist hillbillies, insane Christian snake-handling cult sects and corrupt small town cops and prosecutors.

It's like Deliverance meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets In The Heat Of The Night meets The Dukes of Hazard with a soundtrack by the Louvin Brothers.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:41 AM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I grew up in West Memphis. Left when I was 18. It's not so much an inbred hillbilly town with Deliverance soundtrack as it is a decaying bedroom community of Memphis, Tn. It's a town that once had a reputation as Sin City, due to the number of juke joints and other unsavory opportunities for those that crossed the river from Memphis. Poor white river-rat trah bumping up against an equally poor black underclass, with only a thin layer of barely upper-middle class "society" feeling a laughable need to feel above the rest. Not a fun place to grow up a weird-identifying kid, to be sure.

I really don't know where I'm going with this, as I almost never de-lurk, commenting not really being my thing, and I haven't been there in years. Graduated high school in '87, quickly proceeded to gtfo. I don't know anyone who still lives there, all my (few) friends from back in the day have left as well.

I will say that I had had a few run-ins with the WMPD, and my (again, admittedly small) crowd had much in common with the WM3 dudes, at least musically and aesthetically.

You can be pretty fucking sure I've had some "there but for the Grace" thoughts since all this started unfolding.

Anyway, it's late, and I should sign off, before I trail off...
posted by erskelyne at 5:48 AM on January 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

"We would never say that we have proof positive beyond a reasonable doubt that Terry Hobbs did it," said attorney Stephen Braga at a Sundance press conference on Saturday. "But the case is building, and that allows us to go to [district attorney] Scott Ellington and say, 'Can we work with you instead of against you?' And he has indicated that he is receptive to that."
posted by scody at 7:10 PM on January 21, 2012

It's not so much an inbred hillbilly town with Deliverance soundtrack as it is a decaying bedroom community of Memphis, Tn.

Yeah, it's really just the Mark Byers coverage in the Paradise Lost documentaries that gives you that impression. Especially his testifying at his local church.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:45 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

After watching all three documentaries and following the coverage rabidly, I don't think Byers is even close to a "person of interest" for anyone that has seen past the first movie. Am I missing something?

Byers is over the top, to be sure, but he didn't kill those kids. Hobbs, however...
posted by getawaysticks at 7:42 AM on January 23, 2012

IIRC, Byers still looked iffy in the second documentary.

I just watched the third after reading this thread and that makes it clear that the whole 'teeth pulled out' business upthread is a red herring. The marks on the kids bodies were almost certainly made by animals, along with the emasculation.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:36 PM on January 24, 2012

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory nominated for Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
posted by scody at 1:19 PM on January 24, 2012

« Older That's not just a kid's instrument   |   Chicago Gang Cards Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments