TURN OVER NEW EVIDENCE IN DAMIEN ECHOLS’S APPEAL FOR NEW TRIAL
Affidavit States Foreman Urged Jurors to Convict Echols Based Upon False Confession, Denies Atty General McDaniel’s Efforts to Keep Evidence From Court
(Little RockAR, June 29, 2009) – On Thursday, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the Craighead County Circuit Court and Judge David Burnett to “correct supplemented record on appeal,” requiring the lower court to include a sworn affidavit by a prominent Arkansas attorney that alleges extraordinary juror misconduct in Damien Echols’s original trial. Legal scholars believe the juror’s actions led to a wrongful conviction of Echols and Jason Baldwin. The Supreme Court’s action turned back efforts by District Attorney Dustin McDaniel to keep the exculpatory new evidence from the justices’ consideration. McDaniel had asked the Supreme Court to deny Echols’s request to include the affidavit, originally filed in May 2008.
Known as Baldwin exhibit 76, because it is concurrently under consideration in Jason Baldwin’s hearing for a new trial in Jonesboro, the sworn affidavit reveals shocking details of improper conversations that the jury foreman, Kent Arnold, conducted with the attorney while the original trial was in progress, clearly violating the law and the rights of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin to a fair and impartial trial. In those conversations, Arnold indicates that he had prejudged Echols’s guilt and was trying to convince other jurors to convict based upon news reports of the so-called confession of Jessie Misskelley, which was barred from admission at the Echols-Baldwin trial. In essence, the jury foreman introduced Misskelley’s false confession into jury deliberations.
In addition to the juror misconduct, new evidence includes DNA and forensic findings that link others to the crime scene, and not Damien, Jason Baldwin or Jesse Misskelley.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has given Judge David Burnett 30 days to complete the record. It will likely take another 30 to 60 days before the Court is ready to review the new evidence.