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Damien Echols - Arkansas
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  1. #1
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    Damien Echols - Arkansas

    Facts of the Crime:

    On May 6, 1993, the bodies of three eight-year-old boys (Steven Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore) were found in a creek in Robin Hood Hills near West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were convicted in 1994 for the murders. Damien Echols was sentenced to death and Jason Baldwin to life imprisonment at their joint trial. Misskelley was tried separately and sentenced to life in prison.

  2. #2
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    19-Year-Old Murderer of 3 Boys Sentenced to Death
    Courts: A 16-year-old accomplice is given a life term in Arkansas. The battered victims were all second-graders.

    March 20, 1994| from Associated Press

    JONESBORO, Ark. — A teen-ager was sentenced to death Saturday for the murder of three 8-year-old boys whose bodies were found naked, battered and hogtied. An accomplice was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

    Damien Echols, 19, and Charles Jason Baldwin, 16, each were convicted Friday of three counts of capital murder. The same jury that convicted them recommended death by injection for Echols and life in prison without parole for Baldwin.

    The victims, second-graders Steve Branch, Chris Byers and Michael Moore, disappeared May 5 while riding bicycles through their West Memphis, Ark., neighborhood. Their bodies were pulled from a drainage ditch the next day.

    When Circuit Judge David Burnett asked Baldwin if there was any reason he should not impose the sentence, Baldwin said: "Because I'm innocent."

    When asked the same question, Echols replied: "No, sir."

    A witness said two of the 8-year-olds were raped and one was castrated. Prosecutors presented evidence suggesting that Echols was a devil worshiper and Baldwin was his loyal follower.

    Burnett set Echols' execution for May 5, exactly a year after the boys were killed. However, an appeal is automatic and the execution date was set as a matter of record only.

    The jury heard about 2 1/2 hours of testimony from defense witnesses for Echols before beginning deliberations on the sentences. No one testified for Baldwin.

    Echols' father, Joe Hutchison, said he blamed himself for his son's problems. "I've had regrets for eight years. I didn't do what I should have done."

    The prosecution pointed out that in interviews with a psychologist, Echols referred to himself as another Ted Bundy or Charles Manson and said "people will remember me."

    Echols and Baldwin were arrested on June 3 after a friend, Jessie Lloyd Misskelley Jr., made incriminating statements to police. Misskelley, 18, was convicted in a separate trial of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. He is serving a prison sentence of life plus 40 years.


  3. #3
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    September 30, 2010

    [B]West Memphis Three Update: Damien Echols' Attorney Argues for New Trial in '93 Murders[/B

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CBS/AP) - All Damien Echols and his supporters want is another day in court, a day that doesn't focus on black magic and innuendo, but instead on DNA evidence and witness testimony, Echols' attorney, Dennis Riordan, told the Arkansas Supreme Court Thursday.

    Echols has spent the last 16 years on death row for the 1993 murders of Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, three 8-year-old boys from West Memphis, Ark. whose naked hogtied bodies were found in a drainage ditch one day after they were reported missing in 1993.

    Echols and the other two men convicted for the murders, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin, have become known as the "West Memphis Three." Echols is the only one who got the death penalty because prosecutors argued that he was the mastermind.

    The 1993 murders shocked the small community of West Memphis and the brutal nature of the boys' killings sparked rumors of occult involvement. Elchols' supporters claim that he was arrested and convicted for being an outcast who dressed in black and listened to heavy metal.

    Riordan used his 20 minutes of allotted time in front of the justices Thursday to argue that the court should send Echols back to circuit court for an an evidentiary hearing, so that the trial judge can sort out the new evidence.

    Echols has maintained his innocence since his arrest in 1993 and many supporters have accused the police and prosecutors of having "Damien Echols vision" which prevented them from looking for other suspects. Riordan told the court that new scientific evidence in the case merits reopening it.

    Riordan told the court that DNA testing conducted after Echols' conviction did not place Echols at the scene and that other scientific evaluation of evidence contradicts statements made by one of the three men during a confession.

    However, Assistant Attorney General David Roupp argued that Echols has not proven that there was a constitutional flaw in his trial or an error relating to the evidence.

    Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in a statement after the hearing that his office relied on "solid precedent" when it argued that convicted killer Damien Echols should not receive a new trial. McDaniel said the state Supreme Court should uphold a lower court ruling that Echols hasn't met the standard to warrant a retrial.

    The Arkansas high court listened to oral arguments for about an hour Thursday. It's expected to release its decision within a few weeks.


  4. #4
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    October 13, 2010

    Jury foreman in West Memphis Three trial of Damien Echols accused of misconduct

    Arkansas real estate developer Kent Arnold seemed determined to send Damien Echols, 18, to death row despite an unsettling lack of evidence in the case against him, according to Arnold's former attorney.

    Arnold manipulated his way onto the jury, improperly discussed the case with jurors and others before deliberations, and made up his mind to "get his guy" with a conviction before defense attorneys had a chance to present Echols' case, according to an affidavit by Little Rock attorney Lloyd Warford, who was an Arnold family attorney.

    As jury foreman, Arnold convinced others to convict based on inadmissible evidence and his belief that if you looked into Echols' eyes, then "you knew he was evil," Warford alleged.

    Echols was one of the defendants known as the West Memphis Three, convicted in the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old West Memphis, Ark., boys.

    Echols' attorneys are now lobbying for a new trial, in part based on actions they say amount to jury bias and misconduct.

    Arnold did not return calls seeking comment left last week and this week at his Jonesboro office.

    Warford declined comment about his affidavit.

    Arnold didn't want the details of the dozen or so conversations he had with Warford about his jury service to be disclosed and assumed they were confidential, according to the affidavit.

    However, Arnold publicly talked about his jury service in the trial of Echols and co-defendant Jason Baldwin, 17, prompting Warford -- a defense attorney and former prosecutor -- to attempt to set the record straight for Echols' defense team.

    Warford said because he was hired by Arnold for an unrelated criminal case and business dealings, he doesn't think Arnold's comments about his jury service are protected under attorney-client privilege.

    Still, Warford asked a judge to seal his affidavit, originally filed in December with the trial court.

    Since an appeal of Echols' conviction is now being considered by the Arkansas Supreme Court, the justices have a record of Warford's affidavit and a pending motion filed by Warford asking for a ruling on the privilege issue.

    Months ago, a court clerk showed the sealed documents to Arkansas author Mara Leveritt, who took photographs, said Stephanie Harris, a spokeswoman for the high court.

    Harris declined a request last week to release the document. She said: "I think that there was some confusion initially about what was sealed in this case and I believe that the affidavit was provided inadvertently."

    The affidavit began circulating to those who are fighting for Echols' release. An Echols supporter forwarded the photographed documents to The Commercial Appeal. The newspaper verified their authenticity through official sources.

    The 10-page statement describes a foreman on a mission to send two defendants to prison regardless of the evidence at trial. Echols, who remains on death row, and Baldwin, who is serving a life sentence, maintain their innocence in the murders of the three boys.

    Co-defendant, Jessie Misskelley Jr., 16, was convicted at a separate trial after he confessed to helping his friends, Echols and Baldwin, kill the boys during a satanic ritual. Misskelley, who had tested low enough on an IQ test to be considered borderline retarded, later recanted and refused to testify in exchange for a reduced sentence.

    His confession, which was inconsistent with some of the evidence, was not allowed at the subsequent trial of Baldwin and Echols.

    But Arnold had read news reports detailing the confession and made it a focus of deliberations, according to Warford's affidavit.

    In Warford's sworn statement, he claims this is what happened:

    Arnold hired Warford in early 1994 to defend his brother, Gerald, who was accused of sexually abusing a girl.

    Soon, Arnold told Warford about his jury summons in the Echols case. Warford assured him that prosecutors would cut him after he told them of his brother's pending case.

    Warford said: "I tried to explain that the defense would not want him, either, because he knew way too much about the case.

    "... I also thought Kent would be struck because he seemed to have made up his mind the defendants were guilty and he had a disdain for our justice system and the due process rights of defendants, which he could hardly contain."

    Arnold was upset that he might not end up on the jury.

    "He thought that it was crazy that informed people like him who read the paper every day should be excluded from jury duty in favor of 'stupid people who couldn't or didn't read,' " Warford said.

    Warford, a former prosecutor, was in disbelief at learning that Arnold was chosen for the jury.

    Warford said: "He laughed when I was surprised and made a joke about the stupid lawyers and judges not asking specific questions."

    Arnold claimed he avoided answering questions that could get him kicked off the jury.

    As the testimony got under way, Arnold grew frustrated at the slow pace of the trial.

    Warford wrote: "At one point, I remember him saying something to the effect that at least nine of us are ready to vote right now and asked, why don't the prosecutors just play the confession and get this over with."

    As prosecutors continued with their case, jurors realized they didn't have fingerprints, hairs, blood, semen or saliva linking the defendants to the crime.

    Warford said: "Eventually, Kent said this prosecutor has not done his job and that if the prosecution didn't come up with something powerful the next day, there was probably going to be an acquittal."

    Arnold vowed: "If anyone is going to convince this jury to convict, it is going to have to be me."

    Arnold asked Warford for tips on swaying a jury. When Warford told Arnold he couldn't discuss that, Arnold quipped: "What if I pay you to tell what I need to say to get this guy?"

    Warford wrote: "Kent's attitude late in the trial could best be described as almost angry with the prosecutor and the lack of proof."

    The confession was not allowed at trial, but a West Memphis police detective improperly made a reference to something Misskelley said, prompting defense attorneys to request a mistrial. The trial judge ruled that the trial must continue, but he instructed jurors to disregard any mention of a confession -- which angered Arnold.

    Warford said: "Kent would go on and on about how in business he always wants as much information before he makes a decision and he was offended that judges could keep jurors from getting all the information."

    That didn't stop Arnold from considering the confession, key to a conviction.

    "Kent told me if the confession had not been mentioned in court, then he might not have been able to convince the swing jurors to convict."

    Warford said he told Arnold that, in rare cases, police obtain false confessions from innocent people. A year before Echols' trial, Warford had defended a man who falsely confessed to a murder. His client was exonerated after the true killers eventually confessed and were linked to the crime through DNA evidence.

    Arnold said to Warford: "Your client must have been retarded." Warford responded that his client was "borderline intellectual functioning as is often the case with people police get to give false confessions."

    Arnold was unmoved.

    Warford wrote: "Kent clearly did not believe there was any such thing as a false confession. As far as he was concerned, the confession settled it."

    Ruling due on DNA

    The Arkansas Supreme Court is expected to decide within a few weeks whether to grant a new trial to Damien Echols based on new DNA evidence cited by defense lawyers and concerns about the jury deliberations in the case, among other issues.

    Concerns raised in an affidavit about the way the jury reached its decision to send Echols, then 18, to Arkansas' death row may not result in a new trial, legal experts say.

    Veteran Arkansas death penalty defense attorney William O. "Bill" James said state officials will be reluctant to grant a new trial.

    "This is a huge case," he said. "A lot of people just want it to go away."

    Howard Brill, a professor of legal ethics at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, said it's debatable whether conversations between jury foreman Kent Arnold and attorney Lloyd Warford were confidential because of attorney-client privilege, but even if those discussions can be cited, the court may avoid ruling on the issue.

    "What happens inside the jury room is highly confidential and it would undermine jurors, in general, if they had to rehash what they talked about," Brill said.


  5. #5
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    "West Memphis 3" Get New Hearing in Murders of Three 8-Year-Old Cub Scouts

    After analyzing new DNA evidence, the Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered a new hearing for the "West Memphis 3," three men convicted as teens in the 1993 murders of three West Memphis Cub Scouts.

    The justices also said a lower court must examine claims of misconduct by jurors who sentenced Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin..

    Defense attorneys hope the DNA evidence will exonerate Echols, who has been on death-row since 1994, as well as Misskelley and Baldwin who are serving life terms in prison.

    Lawyers for Echols argued at a hearing in September that Circuit Court Judge David Burnett should have taken the DNA test results into consideration when deciding whether or not to grant him a new trial; however, in 2008, Burnett rejected Echol's request for a new trial without ever holding an evidentiary hearing.

    The prosecution has belittled the significance of the new evidence saying that the absence of the men's DNA does not prove that they are innocent, and that these men were convicted based on other evidence.

    The eastern Arkansas murder case has drawn the attention of Hollywood celebrities and civil rights activists.

    Actor Johnny Depp has fervently thrown his support behind the West Memphis 3 in hopes of clearing the men he believes were wrongly convicted. Depp told 48 Hours | Mystery, "They were easy targets," and that, "There was a need for swift justice at the time to placate, understandably, an angry and frightened community."

    Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols have been in prison for 17 years after they were convicted of murdering Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore, whose bodies were found bound and mutilated in a creek.

    "I don't believe this is just a random tragic thing. I have to hold on to the faith, the belief that this is for a reason and that something good will come out of this somehow," Echols said in an interview with 48 Hours | Mystery in February.


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    Damien Echols-Life on Death Row

    The life of a death row inmate: Damien Echols has been on death row for almost two decades. Echols and 2 other boys were dubbed the "West Memphis Three" after being convicted for the murders of three West Memphis cub scouts in 1993.

    The murders happened more then 17 years ago.

    In May 1993, the bodies of the 3 young victims were found in a wooded area in West Memphis. A year later, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were found guilty of murder.

    Nearly 15 years later in 2007 new forensic evidence was presented in court. Earlier this month the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered new hearings for all three convicted killers.

    For his entire adult life, Echols has been on death row. In solitary confinement 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except when he does interviews.

    His cell has no windows.

    He's never seen the internet or used a cell phone.

    He's also married and has a son.

    He spoke with FOX13 about life on death row.

    Echols was 19 when he first arrived on death row.

    He remembers his first day, saying "There was some guard barking at me, your number is SK931. Remember it. And I looked at the clock and it was 9:31 at night."

    Echols and 2 other boys were teenagers when they were convicted for the 1993 murders of 3 2nd grade boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.

    Echols was sentenced to death.

    He's on death row at the Varner Unit of Supermax State Prison facility in Grady, Arkansas.

    His cell isn't much bigger than where we did the interview.

    Echols said, "You're bed is a concrete slab on the wall, like this table. There's a plastic mat on top, your shower is a shower head in there and there's another concrete slab that serves as a table."

    Since the verdicts, questions have loomed about whether justice was served.

    Documentaries and books have made the case, Echols and the other 2 boys were wrongfully convicted.

    A number of musicians and actors have rallied around the West Memphis Three, including Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, who regularly visits Echols.

    Echols doesn't like to talk about celebrities, citing their privacy.

    Echols said, "When Eddie comes here we talk about baseball and eat M&M's. You don't equate that with the person you hear on the radio sometimes."

    Another visitor, who he sees every week, is his wife, Lorri Davis.

    Davis, started writing him letters, after seeing a documentary about the murders.

    They got married 15 years ago, in the only Buddhist ceremony in the prison.

    Echols said, "When you are married to someone out there you take for granted, physical intimacy, coming home to someone your married to, you don't have that in a situation like this. It forces you to grow together psychologically and emotionally. You have to find other means of connecting, bringing together."

    Echols also has a son, by a teenage girlfriend.

    His son visits him on death row.

    He's almost the exact age Echols was, when he was arrested for the murders.

    Echols said, "It’s one of those things you wrestle with where did the time go? What happened? It's crazy."

    Echols, who's actually from Marion, Arkansas, not West Memphis said he considers Memphis, Tennessee home.

    And remembers watching local TV stations.

    Echols asks, "When did Channel 13 become FOX?"

    That was in 1995.

    Echols said us being there, a Memphis TV station, brought back many memories.

    He said, "I miss that stuff so much Memphis in May commercials come on every 2 seconds. You don't know how much stupid things like that mean or things annoying the heck out of you like that, how much nostalgia it brings back, you can't imagine it."

    Echols has missed the 21st century.

    Reporter asks, "Have you seen a laptop before?" Echols said, "Only on TV. I haven't seen one like that."

    Echols has a TV in his cell.

    No cable.

    He's never seen the internet or used a cell phone.

    Echols said, "In a way i'm glad i missed a lot of that stuff, the computer stuff, Facebook and all that sort of stuff. Now i don't have an interest in it and it seems to be consuming most people's lives."

    Echols reads, thousands of books.

    His wife has had to rent a storage facility to keep all his books and letters.

    Echols said, "People probably think i'm obsessed sitting around thinking about the fact i'm in prison all the time. I'm not, i have things i work on."

    Echols said he studies herbs, natural healing and meditation.

    "One of the things that's therapeutic has allowed me to survive in here is my spiritual practice," said Echols.

    Death row inmates are allowed to go to a caged area, outside for an hour each day. He declines, saying the area is filthy.

    Reporter asks, "So you don't go outside at all?" Echols said, "No i haven't been outside in probably 7 years."

    Echols said he lives off M&M's and chips, which inmates are allowed to buy.

    He can't stomach what he calls "glop." Inmates at Varner get fried chicken periodically, on the days executions take place.

    Echols said, "I lost count there's been somewhere between 25-30 people executed in the time i've been here."

    Reporter asks, "What's that day like for you? When someone's executed?"

    Echols said, "It's extremely bizarre and surreal. It's strange, what sticks out in your mind, for example, the only time we get fried chicken is when someone's executed. I haven't figured out if that's to pacify you or if it's almost like a taunt, i don't know."

    In Arkansas, the death penalty is administered by lethal injection. Echols said he's seen the "death house" but only on TV.

    Reporter asks, "Do you think about the day your scheduled to die?" Echols said, "No. When they train race car drivers they tell them not to look at the wall, sooner or later you're going to plow into it. No I don't think about that because i don't want to hit the wall."

    Defense attorneys say DNA recently tested, shows no trace of Echols or the other 2 defendants.

    Earlier this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a new hearing for the West Memphis 3.

    Next month, Echols turns 36 years old.

    He said, "It's about to be 2011 it seems just yesterday it was the new millennium how did more than a decade pass already? Just passed around me and i'm still sitting here?"

    There is no scheduled date for Echols' execution.

    There's no date for the new hearing either, although prosecutors say one could be set anytime, they hope to have a date next week.

    (Source: myfoxmemphis)

  7. #7
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    Personal Inmate Information
    DOB: 12/11/1974
    Race: White
    Gender: Male

    Crime and Trial Information
    * County of conviction: Craighead
    * Number of counts: Three
    * Race of Victims: 3 White
    * Gender of Victims: 3 Male
    * Date of crime: 05/05/1993
    * Date of Sentencing: 03/19/1994

    Legal Status
    Current proceedings:
    Habeas petition pending in E.D. Ark.,
    currently held in abeyance pending
    exhaustion of state court remedies
    (specifically, pending DNA testing in state

    Theresa Gibbons
    Donald Horgan
    Dennis Riordan
    Deborah Sallings

    Court Opinions
    Echols v. State, 902 S.W.2d 781 (Ark. 1995) (remanding to determine competency of Echols to waive his claims pertaining to the death sentence on direct appeal); Echols v. State, 936 S.W.2d 509 (Ark. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1244 (1997); Echols v. State, 42 S.W.3d 467 (Ark. 2001) (reversing denial of post‐conviction relief in part and ordering trial court to specifically resolve all issues raised by Echols's petition); Echols v. State, 84 S.W.3d 424 (Ark. 2002) (granting stay of execution); Echols v. State, 120 S.W.3d 78 (Ark. 2003) (continuing stay of execution); Echols v. State, 125 S.W.3d 153 (Ark. 2003) (denying coram nobis); Echols v. State, 127 S.W.3d 486 (Ark. 2003) (affirming denial of post‐conviction relief); Echols v. State, 201 S.W.3d 890 (Ark. 2005) (denying motion to recall the mandate).

    Legal Issues
    In Echols v. State, 127 S.W.3d 486 (Ark. 2003):
    (1) whether trial counsel had actively represented conflicting interests, with respect to filming of documentary about petitioner's case

    In Echols v. State, 125 S.W.3d 153 (Ark. 2003) (coram nobis):
    (1) competency to stand trial (issue raised throughout appeals)

    In 936 S.W.2d 509 (Ark. 1996):
    (1) whether occult‐related evidence, including expert's testimony that the murders in question were consistent with occultism and satanism, was admissible
    (2) whether trial court erred in excluding evidence suggesting that one of the state's witnesses could have been the murderer; the evidence included prior bad acts of the witness and the inclusion of his name as a possible suspect in a police laboratory report

  8. #8
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    Briefs set for West Memphis Three hearing

    Lawyers for the West Memphis Three appeared before a judge in Jonesboro today to set a briefing schedule for the hearing ordered by the Arkansas Supreme Court on whether the three men deserve new trials in the killings of three West Memphis children in 1993.

    Times senior editor Mara Leveritt, who wrote the ground-breaking book, "Devil's Knot," that spurred worldwide interest in the case, was on hand to cover the hearing. She reports a first-time court reference to secret DNA testing by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's office that seems likely to be a subject of much more discussion in future proceedings.

    Her full report follows on the jump. You can also keep up with her ongoing coverage on her blog, maraleveritt.com

    By Mara Leveritt

    At a scheduling conference today in circuit court in Jonesboro, Judge David Laser ordered attorneys representing Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. to file briefs with him by Feb. 18 regarding issues to be addressed at the evidentiary hearing that was ordered last September by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

    Laser said he was “giving this case priority” and that he wanted to “get this done as soon as possible.” Laser was appointed to hear the case because the previous judge, David Burnett, was elected to the state Senate.

    The conference took place with some attorneys appearing in person and others by speaker phone. Ten lawyers participated in all — four for the state and two each for the three men, known as the West Memphis Three.

    As issues to be considered were discussed, Laser said, “As I look at it, they [justices of the Supreme Court] basically want this case pre-tried through the court.” He added, “I’m certainly not limiting what can be presented. If there are additional issues or evidence that needs to come in, they will come in.”

    Little Rock attorneys Jeff Rosenzweig, representing Misskelley, and Blake Hendrix, representing Baldwin, noted that unlike Echols, their clients have still not had a Rule 37 hearing to examine the adequacy of their counsel at their 1994 trials for the slayings of three West Memphis children.

    Stephen Braga of Washington, D.C., the newly appointed lead attorney for Echols, agreed that while those appeals need to proceed, “No matter what happens to them, this hearing needs to go forward with regard to Echols.” Only Echols faces the death penalty. The other two are serving life sentences.

    Laser responded, “Yes, that seems the way it ought to be.”

    He told the attorneys, “Let’s operate on the assumption we’re going to move forward on all three cases to the extent we can.”

    Attorneys for the three men noted that there was still some hair and fiber evidence that needs to be tested. They said the “intermingled” hairs were of human and other animal origin.

    Attorney John Philipsborn of San Francisco, representing Baldwin, told the judge that at one point, after state and defense attorneys had agreed on evidence to be tested for DNA, “The state did some testing of its own.” Philipsborn asked that no party undertake potentially destructive testing of evidence without mutual knowledge and agreement.

    Laser ordered that all testing will be “above the table.” The judge also put all attorneys under a gag order. “If a new trial is ordered, we will need to impanel a jury, so a gag order seems reasonable.” He then said he would prefer to “schedule the hearing more or less like an actual trial” and that he dates open in July, August and October.

    All attorneys now have 45 days to submit briefs outlining issues they want to present and a schedule for the hearing.

    New evidence, including allegations of juror misconduct and DNA findings, prompted the Supreme Court to order a new hearing for the men, whose convictions had previously been upheld. The hearing will decide whether they men deserve new trials.

    Philipsborn's reference to other DNA testing, marked the first time that there’d been an official court reference to the fact that the attorney general did secret, additional DNA testing after no trace of the defendants turned up in the initial round of agreed-upon DNA testing. News of this leaked out inadvertently to the defense and it’s expected to be a subject of discussion in the Feb. 18 briefs. In the meanwhile, lawyers are gagged and attorney general working papers are not open to inspection. Three employees of the attorney general and Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington would not comment on the secret testing.


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    Attorneys For West Memphis 3 Seek More DNA Tests

    Attorneys for one of three men convicted in the murders of three 8-year-old Cub Scouts in 1993 want the Arkansas boys' clothes and shoes to be tested for DNA evidence for upcoming hearings.

    Legal briefs filed Friday also list hair collected from the crime scene and the sheets in which the bodies were transported as DNA testing targets.

    The three men -- Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley -- won new hearings in November, more than 15 years after they went to prison. Echols has been on death row since 1994. Baldwin and Misskelley are serving life sentences.

    The boys -- Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore -- were found beaten, nude and hog-tied in West Memphis, an eastern Arkansas city near the Tennessee border.


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    West Memphis Three Hearing to be Set Soon

    A judge is expected to decide soon, when a new evidentiary hearing should be held for the three convicted of killing 3 West Memphis cub scouts in 1993. All indications are the new hearing could be held this fall.

    The West Memphis Three

    Prosecutors say the murders were part of a satanic ritual.

    Damien Echols is on death row, while Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin are serving life in prison for the murders.

    In November, the Supreme Court re-opened the case, by granting the three a new evidentiary hearing that could prove to be more like a mini trial. Now a Jonesboro judge is getting ready to set a date for that hearing.

    Victim’s Mother, Change of Heart

    For the mother of one of the victim's, she says the case is just as much a part of every day conversation now, as it was in 1993.

    "Everything was totally different than what it looks like now," said Pam Hobbs.

    Hobbs revisited the site where her 8-year old son, Stevie Branch was found murdered in 1993. Branch, along with 8-year olds Christopher Byers and Michael Moore were found naked and hogtied in a ditch in a field, which was once covered in trees.

    "In the beginning I felt those guys were guilty. I believed in my justice system, I had to heal. I’m at a healing point of acceptance and things weren't done right it was a rush to justice in the beginning," said Hobbs.

    Hobbs isn't alone, since the verdicts, questions have loomed about the convictions.

    Hobbs says she's been preparing herself to hear the evidence again and see the same people, some of them, she hasn't seen since the original trial.

    "Having to live it over again, I don't have a problem having to go through all that again. I've become stronger over the years to deal with the out come of what the future may hold," said Hobbs.

    Hobbs hopes the West Memphis three do get a new trial so she will know who murdered her son, or who didn't.

    "There's a great possibility they're innocent. Maybe our questions will be put to a rest, we'll know who did it, one thing's for sure, god knows. Whoever did it, they will pay for it, if not in this lifetime in the life here after," said Hobbs.

    Demand for More DNA Testing

    In it's pre-trial brief, filed last week the defense claims the 3 were wrongfully convicted.

    They plan to have expert testimony, showing some of the victims’ injuries were caused by animals, after their death rather than by a knife prosecutors alleged was used as part of a satanic killing. They say DNA testing from the scene excludes the boys.

    The defense says the finding is significant because "at Echols’ 1994 trial, supposed hair matches were used to convince the jury he was at the scene. Now more advanced science, shows those hairs were no match for Echols at all."

    But the defense wants more DNA testing done on the victim's clothes and the wooden planks removed from the tree fort near the crime scene.

    They also want the victim's shoelaces to be measured to determine which black shoelace was apparently cut in half to be used as a ligature. The defense says enough funds have been raised for the testing to be done at their expense.

    The state doesn't lay out it's case in the brief, but does argue, no additional testing should be permitted, adding Echols never asked for it.

    In it's pre-trial briefing, the defense also suggests an expert, the state relied on to testify on satanic cult behavior at the original trial, got his masters and Ph.D. from a university that was later shut down for running a fraudulent diploma mill.

    Defense’s Strategy

    The defense plans to point the finger at Terry Hobbs, Stevie Branch's step father and Pam Hobbs, ex-husband. They claim there are three eyewitnesses who saw Terry Hobbs with the three children shortly before their murder.

    In the brief, the defense says it plans to call Pam Hobbs to testify about Terry's "extremely suspicious" actions the following days. But Pam Hobbs, despite her previous position, she doesn't think her ex-husband had anything to do with the murders.

    "I don't think anyone needs to do what was done in the beginning and point fingers and say this one done it, voice our thoughts and theories, that's all they are," said Hobbs.

    If a judge finds a jury could acquit, based on the new evidence, Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley will get a new trial.

    Both Sides Agree on Joint Hearing

    In it's pre-trial brief the defense says, "The only thing truer than "near certainty" in this case is there is so much uncertainty about virtually every aspect, multiple reasonable doubts necessarily abound and a new trial should surely be ordered."

    Both prosecutors and the defense agree, a joint hearing for the West Memphis Three would be economical and convenient. The state says a hearing date should be scheduled at least nine months in advance, to coordinate witnesses.

    The defense suggests October, saying "because of Echols more desperate situation on death row, he cannot agree to any further continuance or adjournment of a hearing date that might push it's conclusion to next year."

    All attorneys' in the case are under a gag order put into effect in January.


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