LITTLE ROCK -- Lawyers for one of the three teens convicted in the brutal 1993 killings of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis plan to bring their new appeal to a state judge by the middle of next month, a new court filing shows.
Lawyers for Damien Echols say they reached an agreement with prosecutors to hold the hearing. The decision comes after U.S. District Court Judge William R. Wilson Jr. asked Echols to present parts of his new, wide-ranging appeal to state courts before seeking relief from federal courts.
The filing by Echols' lawyers, dated Thursday, says much of the DNA testing ordered by the Craighead County Circuit Court in 2005 has been completed. Echols' new appeal claims evidence tested from the crime scene showed no traces of the him or the two other men convicted in slayings, though much of the evidence failed to yield reportable results. The appeal also includes testimony from forensic experts saying the genital mutilation of one of the boys likely came from an animal after their deaths.
Echols' lawyers say they plan to file the appeal with the circuit court by Feb. 15, giving prosecutors time to examine the evidence before a hearing in late spring.
Echols, now 33, was sentenced to death over the slayings of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. Co-defendant Jason Baldwin received a life sentence without parole, while Jessie Misskelley received a life-plus-40-year sentence for the killings.
The three victims disappeared while riding bicycles in their quiet, tree-lined neighborhood May 5, 1993. The bodies of the three Cub Scouts were found the next day in a watery ditch near their homes.
Police arrested the three after a confession by Misskelley in which he described how he watched Baldwin and Echols sexually assault and beat two of the boys as he ran down another trying to escape. Prosecutors describe the killings as coming from the teens' participation in a satanic cult.
The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the convictions, but a later documentary about the case sparked interest across the Internet, as well as among celebrities. Last month, about 150 supporters of the "West Memphis Three," including Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, rallied on the steps of the state Capitol.