Two documentary films, Paradise Lost
and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations
, introduced many of us to the case of "The West Memphis Three." The documentaries try to shed light on the murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.
Shortly after the boys were found mutilated and murdered, local newspapers reported that the killers had been caught. The police had three teenagers in custody--but was there any evidence?
Although there was no physical evidence, murder weapon, motive or connection to the victims, Jessie Misskelley Jr., Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were arrested on June 3, 1993 and convicted of murder in 1994. For all this time, The West Memphis Three have been imprisoned for crimes many people believe they did not commit.
The so-called circumstantial evidence presented by prosecutors included the fact that the three teenagers had black hair and black clothing, heavy-metal T-shirts and Stephen King novels. This was supposed to prove that they had sacrificed the three eight-year-olds as part of a satanic cult ritual.
Unbelievably, Damien Echols was sentenced to death, Baldwin received life without parole and Misskelley got life plus 40 years. The police relied on an inaccurate, coersed "confession" by Jessie Miskelley, Jr. Misskelley is mentally handicapped and was subjected to 12 hours of police interrogation without benefit of counsel and without parental consent. Jessie recanted his confession that evening.
The three murdered boys were: Christopher Byers, Stevie Branch and Michael Moore. The above-mentioned documentaries suggest that Christopher Byers' step-father may have committed the crimes.
Dennis Riordan, the attorney for Damien Echols, now says that soon he will present new DNA evidence favoring the innocence of Echols. He told KARK 4 News by phone that the results of the new DNA evidence are "significant."
Fourteen years after the horrendous murders, advances in technology may shed new light on the case of The West Memphis Three.
For the past two years, evidence in the case has been submitted for enhanced DNA testing, and now some of those test results are coming back. Approximately 180 items were submitted for retesting.
Regardless of the results, there is no guarantee of a new trial for Damien, Jessie and Jason.
For information on this case, I recommend: http://www.wm3.org/splash.php
Of course, this website is biased and promotes the idea that The West Memphis Three are innocent.
I became interested in this case many years ago when I first saw the two documentaries on HBO. I was so appalled by what I saw that I did further research into the case. The filmmakers, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, supposedly started working on a third documentary in the summer of 2004; however, as of today, there is no release date available.
I do not believe the three people who were convicted of these horrible crimes are guilty. What do you think?