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article imageMMA fighter Dan Hardy headlines benefit for West Memphis Three Special

By Melissa Higgins     Mar 17, 2011 in Crime
On Saturday, March 26, British MMA fighter Dan Hardy is hosting a post-fight party to benefit three men who are awaiting an evidentiary hearing, resulting from appeals of their 1994 homicide convictions. The event will be at El Corazón in Seattle.
As a result of oral hearings on September 30th, 2010, Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, and Jessie Misskelley were granted an evidentiary hearing that is expected to occur later this year. The purpose of the hearing is to review evidence pertaining to the case, including DNA test results performed in recent years. These test results exclude the three men as donors, suggesting someone else is responsible for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. The men have requested additional DNA testing in their February briefings.
Circuit Court Judge David Laser will preside over the hearing and is expected to determine if the evidence presented would convince a jury to acquit the three men. If the answer is yes, the judge will likely rule in favor of a retrial for the three men. Judge Laser is replacing former Judge David Burnett.
At El Corazón in Seattle, Dan will host an after-fight rock party on Saturday, March 26th. The event will go into Sunday the 27th as it begins at midnight, following his UFC Fight Night 24. Three local bands will play at the event: Heiress, The Hollowpoints, and Cascabel. There will also be signings, photos, and raffle prizes. Attendees are asked to donate a minimum of $10 to the cause.
Dan Hardy, who has been studying martial arts since he was six years old, became aware of the case after watching a video of Henry Rollins speaking on the subject. Henry Rollins has been a longtime supporter of the West Memphis Three. Dan is currently a UFC welterweight fighter. I interviewed Dan about his interest in the case. "Reading further into the case and learning about how the boys were convicted and the lack of evidence linking them to it, I became quite annoyed. With the severity of the crime and the heavy sentences that the boys received, I think it needs readdressing and they deserve a fair trial," he said.
One thing that motivated Dan to get behind the cause to help the three men gain a retrial is his concern about the number of innocent people who are convicted of crimes. When the innocent are charged and convicted it means that law enforcement failed to apprehend the appropriate individuals, and the guilty go unpunished. Dan elaborated on his commitment to the cause by saying the following:
"Everyone deserves a fair trial - race, religion and personal tastes are irrelevant; it's facts and evidence that matters. This seems like a witch hunt and a collective opinion as opposed to a real trial, and in the 21st century, this is not how things are done. The justice system is what we rely upon to protect us and protect our peaceful society. When something like this happens, we need to question its approach and see if we can't improve so these things won't happen again. No authority is above question because no authority is perfect. I think this proves it and it's our responsibility to our fellow humans, to speak out when something is wrong."
Dan's interest in the case compelled him to seek out opportunities to raise awareness for Jason, Jessie, and Damien. He came up with the idea of hosting a post-fight party for the purpose of collecting money to support the legal defense fund. The defense needs to raise money for the costs it expects to incur in the coming months leading up to the evidentiary hearing. If a retrial is granted, the costs will be even higher.
Dalyn Carbajal worked with Dan and his girlfriend to coordinate the benefit. Her interest in the case was heightened when she read an article in January 2011's issue of Revolver Magazine containing an interview with Damien Echols. She "instantaneously felt connected to him," she said when describing her introduction to the case. "I remember thinking, 'Wow, we would have been best friends in high school!' That day not only opened my eyes, but it changed my life."
The venue, El Corazón, has hosted benefits for the West Memphis Three in the past. They are familiar with the cause and happy to be a part of another effort to help the imprisoned men. Dalyn says that this benefit is just the beginning of her plans to advocate for the three and she is proud to be a part of the event.
Dan and Dalyn are proof that it is never too late to become aware of events that are happening and do one's part to remedy situations that need rectifying. "Sharing the truth with the world is the catalyst for change," Dalyn explained. "Our voices need to be heard because justice is long overdue. It's time for freedom for the three and justice for the six."
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