New Evidence in the case of the West Memphis 3
October 30, 2007 5:26 AM   Subscribe

New evidence in the case of the West Memphis 3 claims that "there was no DNA from the three defendants found at the scene, the mutilation was actually the work of animals and at least one person other than the defendants may have been present at the crime scene." [previous thread]
posted by billysumday (40 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's a self-plug, but I have my own extensive site regarding the case. This site was originally presented under the MeFi project section. It doesn't have the most recent news - a LOT has happened in the last 24 hours.

I've been fascinated by this case for years. The new evidence points to a stepfather of one of the children - but not the stepfather who has made himself notorious in this case.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:51 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've followed the case tangentially over the years. At this point I'm fairly convinced that a videotape showing the actual murder , with none of the defendants present at all, could be produced and they'd still spend the rest of their lives in jail. It bothers me whenever I think of it, but if they aren't free now I don't think they ever will be.
posted by Justinian at 5:57 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Justinian - I think they will be out of prison in a month. This is a case where now, virtually nobody of significance is still holding on to the notion of their guilt. The police have made a public statement supporting their innocence, one of the former prosecutors. The controversial stepfather (not the one with the DNA evidence), who has spent much time slamming them and citing phony evidence against them, supports their innocence.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:05 AM on October 30, 2007

Byers supports their innocence? Has he gone public with that? Or are you talking about another stepfather. And thanks for the links, dances_with_sneetches.
posted by billysumday at 6:10 AM on October 30, 2007

I feel about as optimistic as Justinian ( "but if they aren't free now I don't think they ever will be".)

I've seen both films - and had the standard armchair liberal's deeply horrified reaction.

What now puzzles me is how the confirmation that no forensic evidence links the convicted young men to the murder scene actually advances the case?

I thought a central plank of both films was that there never was any physical (chemical or otherwise) indication the three had been at the murder scene? (This was always in addition to the alarming manner of taking statements, local prejudice against the defendants and all the surrounding ambiguities).

Have I missed the bit when the latest alleged confirmation that there is still absolutely no physical proof is a real legal cause to move forward?

(I am willing to read further to understand!!).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:23 AM on October 30, 2007

What worries me is the evidence against the step-father, I mean, wouldn't you expect some of your hair to end up on your kids clothes? I mean unless it's pubic hair or something. I'd still be worried if they tried to prosecute someone for that, but I don't know that much about the case.
posted by delmoi at 6:27 AM on October 30, 2007

Here's to hoping they finally receive the justice they've been so long denied. This is a truly pathetic and tragic example of vilification in its purest form.

A documentary about this case called Paradise Lost is available in its entirety on YouTube- the film is in 38 or 40 parts, but it starts here for anybody who wants some extensive background on this.
posted by baphomet at 6:29 AM on October 30, 2007

What I find really interesting is the fact that the genital mutilation was actually the result of animals. It seemed like most theories swirled around the horror of that element - that the WM3 could have done it because they were Satanists, that Byers could have done it because of some strange punitive/sexual retribution, but that the Bojangles stranger couldn't have done it because he was just a drifter and the castration was just too personal. But once you remove the sexual element, it's now a case of three dead boys (admittedly, still hog-tied and nude). Does that further support the punitive argument? I still think that the Bojangles stranger is the most significant suspect and this case will never be solved - the same strange cast of characters will always have some measure of suspicion upon them.
posted by billysumday at 6:34 AM on October 30, 2007

Justinian - I think they will be out of prison in a month. This is a case where now, virtually nobody of significance is still holding on to the notion of their guilt.


I'm not being flippant or rude. I think what you're saying has been true for quite some time. I don't understand what is so groundbreaking now. There was no DNA of the WM3 at the crime scene? I don't see how that matters. Nobody was claiming there was.

Nobody thinks these kids (they aren't kids any more, but they were at the time) killed anybody except, maybe, the people who prosecuted them. And that's probably a result of a psychological need not to face that you put a bunch of kids in jail for the rest of their lives (and one on death row) because they were weirdos who listened to that satanic heavy metal stuff in a good ol' god-fearin' town.

What's changed? Unless Jesus rises from the dead and testifies that these guys are innocent, nothing is going to happen. And even then Jesus would face some tough goddamn cross examination by the prosecutor.

I hope I'm wrong. I really do. This isn't one of those posts where I'll look back, if I'm wrong, and feel embarrased. I'll be too happy.

But I don't think I'm wrong; three innocent guys are going to spend their lives in jail because they wore the wrong clothes and listened to the wrong music.
posted by Justinian at 6:45 AM on October 30, 2007

Well, I'll tell you what, no one around these parts even thinks abou those kids anymore. I think I've heard it brought up one time in the past 5 years of conversation. (And, now that I think of it, it was me bringing it up)
posted by absalom at 6:58 AM on October 30, 2007

Man, I hope they get out. I really do. That movie put the Fear of God in me, even though I was well past my Metallica-listening, Crowley-reading, all-black-wearing, angry-young-man phase. It had never occurred to me that, in some parts of this country, You Can Go To Jail For That. Yikes.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 7:05 AM on October 30, 2007

Oh, and delmoi - the assertion is that the stepfather's hair was found *in* one of the knots that bound one of the boys - and not his stepson, either. It's hardly conclusive, but it's about 1000x as much evidence as they have against the WM3. I think the big deal about it is that it once again highlights how many other excellent suspects there are, and that the police didn't investigate any of them.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 7:12 AM on October 30, 2007

Paradise Lost has a lot of memorable scenes, but the part with the mother of one of the dead children being excited about being interviewed on TV is something else.
posted by starman at 7:27 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm just astounded that the evidence points away from Byers. I saw both Paradise Lost movies & read through the websites back when it was a big deal, & it looked for sure like Byers was guilty. I wonder if any of the WM3 community are having trouble letting go of their own prime suspect in favor of the other stepfather.
posted by scalefree at 7:31 AM on October 30, 2007

From a legal point of view, what would it take to get the Memphis 3 - and Nichols in particular - out of jail at this point? Are the defense attorneys seeking to get the conviction overturned, filing an appeal, looking for a new trial, or what? If I remember the films correctly (I saw them when they came out years ago), the M3 had exhausted pretty much every legal avenue available to them.
posted by googly at 7:38 AM on October 30, 2007

Nichols Echols
posted by googly at 7:55 AM on October 30, 2007

Mark Byers was in a long chat last night with supporters of the innocence of the WM3 and said he believes in their innocence. The normal transfer doesn't cut it here. Terry Hobbs (the other stepfather) had his hair in one of the knots of another victim. If that wasn't enough a friend of his (and seeming co-conspirator) had left a hair at the scene where the bodies were found.

There are a hundred things wrong with the convictions of Echols and Baldwin that can lead to a quick overturning of the verdicts - by a compliant judge. I don't see that the judge would take any political heat for overturning the convictions now.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:07 AM on October 30, 2007

by another victim, I mean one who is not his stepson and by knots, I mean knots used to tie the child up.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:11 AM on October 30, 2007

But what would have been Hobbs' motivation? Why did Hobbs and buddy do it? How? When? I can see and I hope for the overturning of the convictions, but - and obviously you know more about this than I do, d_w_s - it doesn't seem like there's enough evidence to convict anyone else for the crime.
posted by billysumday at 8:18 AM on October 30, 2007

I've done a lot of reading on the case -- I used to be a little obsessed with it -- and I personally am more on the fence than most people. What really bothers me is the level of inaccuracy and dishonesty put forward by the central defense team.

I started with my interest in the case by seeing Paradise Lost as a teenager. And of course thought they were innocent and that Mark Byers was guilty. As scalefree sort of points out, the movie does the same kind of bash-job on Byers that the MW3 supporters claim happened to the WM3. For instance, the movie never bothers pointing out that Byers was literally searching for the the boys with police officers during the medical examiner's estimated time of death. Frankly, I think that Paradise Lost engages in exactly the kind of small-minded thinking (lookit that weirdo redneck!) that it claims the town of West Memphis put forward.

Another thing I think the central supporters are dishonest about is the mental condition of Damien Echols. He's portrayed as a sullen loner, when in fact he had spent time in several mental hospitals and had been granted full-disability for his mental problems, with some pretty violent acts in his past. Does this mean that he is automatically guilty? No. But it certainly explains why he might be a suspect without thinking the police just grabbed up the town's Metallica fans.

There are other things -- for instance, the fact the Jesse Miskelly confessed multiple times, on tape, at least once after his conviction with his lawyers begging him not to do so. I am not 100% convinced they are guilty -- and I'm going to have to read more about this evidence -- but I do think there's more to the case than is often presented on supporter websites.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:20 AM on October 30, 2007

WEST Memphis Three, brother.

As in West Memphis, Arkansas.

Across the river from us - not us.
posted by absalom at 8:23 AM on October 30, 2007

Bookhouse - I have extensive information on Damien Echols mental health on my website. It continues on for five web pages. And, yes, Misskelley did confess multiple times - although never with a seeming clue.

As for why did Hobbs do it. He does have a history of violence including a creepy childhood as son of a Pentecostal preacher/butcher. The rest we will have to learn a bit more about. In the recent lawyer's filing, it suggests that David Jacoby's (the friend) hair may have been transferred second hand. In that case, for the stepfather's hair to show up on a victim who is not his stepson AND to have transferred a friend's hair to the crime scene is beyond coincidence.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:35 AM on October 30, 2007

Dancing with Sneetches -- I'm sorry if it seemed like I was referring to your specific site. I certainly wasn't -- yours looks good, and I'm going to read more of it today.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:06 AM on October 30, 2007

I'm shocked the post didn't include a link to the site that not only is about the case, but became PART of the case:
posted by jca at 10:21 AM on October 30, 2007

Oh: And let me rephrase - it was a big story on the news last night, but before that it never really came up.
posted by absalom at 3:12 PM on October 30, 2007

There are a hundred things wrong with the convictions of Echols and Baldwin that can lead to a quick overturning of the verdicts - by a compliant judge.

I don't think you have a lot of experience with the legal system. It doesn't work like this. Here's a good place to start:

"There is no basis in text, tradition, or even in contemporary practice ... for finding in the Constitution a right to demand consideration of newly discovered evidence of innocence brought forward after conviction," said Scalia...
posted by Justinian at 3:12 PM on October 30, 2007

Vindication by DNA has both specific law and precedence. Beyond that, they have a number of basic constitutional items about the unfairness of the case, chief of which is a jury pool who has admitted to using evidence outside that of the courtroom.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:24 PM on October 30, 2007

They've had such basic constitutional items for many years and it has availed them nothing. Why would it be any different now?
posted by Justinian at 6:52 PM on October 30, 2007

Vindication by DNA has both specific law and precedence.


I understand that - from convictions overturned as a result of the Innocence Project, for example.

But in this case, I thought the forensic evidence was not actually used to convict? Have I got this wrong?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:28 AM on October 31, 2007

I added a page to my website to include the legal document filed. It explains the legal arguments better than I could.

Justinian - one of the main differences is that this is a Federal Court filing. The first round of appeals went back to the original trial judge who rejected them. The Arkansas Supreme Court did a negligent job in their affirming the case, including citing laughable testimony about witches "Eight is a witches number." The jury information is new and this is the first time it has been filed.

As for the rest - this is what I've been told - more will be revealed and very soon. The controversial stepfather (not the one who has the DNA directed toward him) has suggested Hobbs will be looked at for some "cold cases."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:16 AM on October 31, 2007

The controversial stepfather (not the one who has the DNA directed toward him) has suggested Hobbs will be looked at for some "cold cases."

I'm not sure I'd trust John Mark Byers any further than I could pick him up and toss him; he has proven to be less than trustworthy during this whole mess, and has his own criminal past as well.

At any rate, I do think this will be the final straw in the case, which like may others I have been watching since 1995--mostly because at age 18, I wasn't all that much different from Damien Echols.

The entire 200+ page brief is here
posted by spirit72 at 8:47 AM on October 31, 2007

sneetches: Do you much about this - "Years before the DNA link between Hobbs and the crime scene was discovered, Pam Hobbs, the mother of Branch, came forth with evidence that she believed linked Terry, her former husband, to the murders." I presume that possibly this is the remainder of evidence that is to be revealed?
posted by billysumday at 9:30 AM on October 31, 2007

sorry... do you know much about this...
posted by billysumday at 9:33 AM on October 31, 2007

The brief is also here, in HTML format.

I agree Spirit72 - there is that aspect to Mark Byers. But he has also been part of a sting perpetrated on Hobbs in the last few months - so he may be in the know.

Pam Hobbs coming forward with evidence- my problem is I probably know too much about this. I know about a dozen things Pam Hobbs has done in this regards. What I believe she was referring to in this case was a large stash of knives she discovered her ex-husband had. She turned them over for forensic examination. Otherwise, she has come forward with previous acts of violent behavior on his part.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:20 PM on October 31, 2007

I had mentioned Mark Byers had suggested there were more killings. Yes, he does have a history of making things up, but this is what he said:

Wait tell you find out about the rest os his past. [Terry Hobbs]
TH what a prize
Loves to molest children
beat women to thepoint of hospital
Watch when it all comes out he will make,Bundy, manson cassey,look like boyscout.
The next 3 days you will learn a lot.
There will be cold cases open up after this.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:23 PM on October 31, 2007

I have a new page at my website devoted to recent developments.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:01 PM on October 31, 2007

As someone who was convinced by the Paradise Lost movies that Byers was guilty, I'm curious to know how & when his reconciliation with the WM3 community happened. Is it a recent result of the new evidence, did it happen gradually over time?
posted by scalefree at 7:45 PM on October 31, 2007

Also, are there holdouts who still think he did it? Pointers to forums or blogs that might flesh this out for me are much welcomed.
posted by scalefree at 7:50 PM on October 31, 2007

The answers to your question was this. Byers expressed his support for the WM3 at the same time he dished a lot of trash on Terry Hobbs. Byers said he was playing the role of an undercover agent for the FBI against Hobbs, taping Hobbs and getting him to make incriminating statements. Byers has made statements Hobbs is worse than Dahmer, etc., recently.

Byers says he has been a supporter for six months now, but only came out as such now that his undercover work is done.

As some have pointed out Byers is a chronic liar as well. Still, there are several things to suggest some of what he is saying is correct.

Byers announced his supporter status this week when he made all else known. There are those out there who still believe in his involvement, but they are holding their collective breaths because we are supposed to know a lot more this week, quite possibly with today's press conference.

So you won't see people publicly questioning Byers right now on forums - not until we get more info.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:35 AM on November 1, 2007

But he has also been part of a sting perpetrated on Hobbs in the last few months - so he may be in the know.

I'm sure he is in the know; I know that he was also an informant for the West Memphis PD for some time. On the other hand, I've noticed in the past that he's also a pathological liar with a serious penchant for drama. He'd have been great in Hollywood! But, I take everything he says with several grains of salt as a result.

Having said that, without being prejudicial as people were with the WM3, it wouldn't surprise me if Hobbs is in fact the perp. He had the capacity, he had motive(Pam Hobbs had confessed to an affair a month or two back), and it sure looks like he was at the scene.

Amazing stuff. Good site you've got!
posted by spirit72 at 9:11 AM on November 1, 2007

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