There are seven video segments in all so please visit youtube to watch the rest of Ms Leveritt's presentation!
WAREHOUSE WARZONE is a music festival founded by Scott Gravlin of Radikal Rekordings/Radikal Rekreations and Joey of Senseless Violence Promotions in 2010. This year marks our inaugural event, two days of metal, hardcore and punk mayhem. Held on the Veneering Floor of the former OWD Plastics Factory, the event has room for 3,500 spectators per day with 20 Vendors. A fully insured event being held to raise money for community projects, including refurbishing the local skate park a 50/50 raffle for the domestic violence center, donating all money from recyclable bottles and cans to the civic center, accepting donations from vendors to go to the local food pantry, as well as raising money for the West Memphis 3 Defense Fund (wm3.org). We thank all the bands who have agreed to perform at our inaugural event, as well as the vendors, the owners of the OWD, and everyone who helped us put this event together, from sound gear to door security. Thank you as well to anyone attending this event. We appreciate you helping our vision come to life!
$10 for a day pass, $20 for the weekend pre-purchased, and
$15 for a day pass or $ 25 for the weekend at the gate.
FREE ADMISSION TO ANY MEMBER OF THE ARMED FORCES WITH CURRENT MILITARY ISSUED PHOTO ID!
THIS IS AN ALL AGES EVENT, IT IS 100% ALCOHOL FREE! ANY ALCOHOL FOUND ON THE PREMISES WILL BE CONFISCATED, ANY WEAPONS OR DRUGS WILL BE CONFISCATED AND TURNED OVER TO THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES.
The Following Bands Have Been Confirmed:
The Fabulous Miss Wendy
Elevator Death Squad
Kill All Betrayers
Renewal Of Faith
Accusations Of The Insane
All For Revenge
Motion Of The Ocean
Crown Of Lions
Half Past Human
Jerry Shot Tom
Well Of Sin
Nothing In Vain
REMINDER: There is still time to register and bid on two autographed
Epiphone guitars from the Revolver Golden Gods Awards show on Skeleton
Key Auctions. Autographs include heavy metal legends such as Slash,
Jerry Cantrell, Zakk Wylde, Kerry King, Scott Ian from Slayer and many
more! These auctions began May 24 and will end on Thursday, June 10,
2010. Each guitar has been up 17 days, one day for each year that
Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin have been unjustly
imprisoned for crimes they are innocent of. 100% of your winning bid
will go to the WM3's legal defense fund which is a tax deductible
501(c)(3) corporation. Please visit the Skeleton Key Auctions website
now and pre-register now in order to get your bids in by Thursday--
the bidding on these guitars should be fast and furious in the final
SATURN RETURN /////// GROUP SHOW
JUNE 4 - JULY 23, 2010
SATURN RETURN features artists who employ self-reflexive, often
hermetic, modes of creation and whose resultant works are marked by an
internally-focused, saturnine character. In astrological circles, when
the planet Saturn "returns" to the degree relative to the Sun it
occupied at the time of one's birth—approximately every 29.5 years—the
individual enters a period of intense personal contemplation;
re-evaluating their past trajectory and present state of being with
the soft-daydreamer's gaze of the myopic.
The image of the artist working in isolation, retreat or withdrawal is
hardly new. However, as collectivity and participation are, as of
late, often used synonymously with social engagement and public value,
the artists featured in "Saturn Return side-step the formalism of
discursivity and sociability to pursue a visual language of personal
reflections and private acts.
In the gallery’s project room JEN DENIKE and DAMIEN ECHOLS will
present "Tzaphkiel," a collaborative installation and meditative
performance that centers on the release of Damien Echols from death
row. In 1994, Damien Echols was convicted of homicide on the basis of
a single confession that has subsequently been recanted. Eighteen
years old at the time of his conviction, Echols has spent the last
sixteen years on death row. His case is currently on appeal to the
Arkansas State Supreme Court where he is due to receive a critical
hearing September 30th, 2010.
"Tzaphkiel" marks the second time that DeNike and Echols have
collaborated on a major piece. Eight mirrors lean against the gallery
walls creating a kaleidoscopic point of intersection for divination
and reflection. Four pillows, each representing a cardinal direction,
offer viewers a place to sit and meditate while viewing themselves on
all sides. Two of Echols’ paper talismans—one dedicated to Saturn and
the other to Tzaphkiel—adorn the project room doorway while his paper
flowers—handcrafted in Manichean shades of white and black—occupy a
vase in the center of the room. During the performance, DeNike will
work to embroider a cloth scroll with the phrase “I believe in magick,
I believe in you” a piece she began nearly two years ago as a tribute
The installation takes its name from the Golden Dawn archangel
associated with Saturn. Tzaphkiel, often called upon for banishing and
overcoming obstacles is said to possess the ability to create portals
and see across time. From June 4-11, in conjunction with the
installation, DeNike and Echols will embark on a seven-day
collaborative meditation. DeNike will reside in the gallery,
subsisting only on water. During the day she will lead a white light
meditation where gallery visitors are invited to send white light to
Echols, who will be mediating simultaneously in prison. At night,
DeNike and Echols will work with Saturn energy invoking Tzaphkiel
calling for a just resolution in Echols’ case. Although DeNike has an
extensive history of performative work, this marks the first time the
artist herself will be the primary participant in a live work.
SATURN RETURN is organized by Elizabeth Lovero
JUNE 4 - JULY 23, 2010
619 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
(212) 594 9478
Today marks the 17th year that Jessie Misskelley Jr, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols have been imprisoned for murders they did not and could not possibly have committed. June 3, 1993 -- the day that the WMPD picked up and coerced a false confession from Jessie Misskelley -- resulted in not only his arrest but a warrant for Damien and Jason's arrests that evening. Since that day all three of them have lived in a jail or a prison cell, even though they are innocent of these crimes.
Whatever you may be doing today, take a minute to think about them. Read Mara Leveritt's latest hard hitting stories online. Tell others about this case, donate to the WM3 defense fund. Drop them a note. Let Damien, Jason and Jessie know that we're behind them until they finally receive the justice they so deserve.
Later today, please listen to THE PARAFACTOR: Live Paranormal Radio at 6pm PST. Guests on behalf of DJ&J will include Joe Berlinger, some or all of the WM3 Support Fund, Anje Vela from Skelton Key Auctions and other surprise guests. Click here to listen to the show live or streaming audio later!
Please visit memphismagazine.com to read the original article with pictures!
In May 1993, the grusome murders of three young boys shocked the
nation. The "West Memphis Three," as the alleged culprits were dubbed,
have spent 17 years behind bars. But why? The evidence -- or lack
thereof -- is shocking.
By Mara Leveritt
Memphis shared the shock in May 1993 when investigators found the
bodies of three 8-year-old boys submerged in a drainage canal just
across the Mississippi River in West Memphis. Fear flooded the region.
The unusual tone of that fear was noted just a week after the murders,
when USA Today wrote of the "monstrous evil" that lay behind them.
Exactly a month after the murders, West Memphis police said three
local teenagers were that evil. Memphis breathed a sigh of relief. And
the following year, after two trials that saw one teen sentenced to
death and the other two to life in prison, the ordeal seemed to be
But it has turned out to be far from that. Since those convictions,
many have come to view the roles played by police, prosecutors, and
judges in winning those convictions as almost as shocking as the
murders of young Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers.
And now, 17 years later, the growing infamy of the West Memphis case
is Arkansas' cross to bear.
Most people in this region who were over 10 years old in that warming,
first week of May remember where they were when they heard the grim
details of the murders: that the children were naked, that their
little bodies were hog-tied wrist-to-foot, that one of the boys was
castrated, that they had disappeared in the early evening — on the
night of a full moon. Parents remember keeping their own children safe
indoors until the announcement by police a month later that the
killers were caught at last.
The Commercial Appeal broke the story of how one of the three,
17-year-old Jessie Misskelley Jr., had confessed. And, because someone
leaked a transcript of the teenager's questioning by police, the paper
devoted its front page to what Misskelley said. The article quoted
Misskelley explaining how he had met two other boys — 18-year-old
Damien Echols and 16-year-old Jason Baldwin — in the woods where the
bodies were found; how he'd witnessed Echols and Baldwin beating and
sexually abusing the children; and how, when one of the boys had tried
to escape, Misskelley himself had caught and held the boy for Echols
and Baldwin to finish him off.
The details were tragically, gruesomely sensational. But the most
chilling detail to emerge concerned what appeared to be the teens'
motive. Though Misskelley's statement was disjointed and often
confused, readers gleaned from it that the killers had been flirting
with devil-worship and that the children were somehow sacrificed
toward some sort of Satanic end.
The trials (Echols and Baldwin were tried together after Misskelley's
trial ended) cemented that impression. Misskelley, who had recanted
his incriminating statements the day after making them, was tried in
February 1994. He was a small, scrappy boy who had been in special
education until he finally dropped out of high school. "I had to take
up for myself," he once said, "to let people know they couldn't run
over me just because I was small. I was walking around always looking
for fights, because I knew they would come. I took up for a lot of
people because I had a quick temper and I knew what it was like to be
picked on. I'd been picked on since I was about four or five." He sat
in the courtroom with his head hung, looking down at the floor.
Prosecutors played a tape of Misskelley's confession. The Arkansas
Supreme Court would later note that he was convicted almost solely on
the weight of that statement. The jury sentenced him to life in prison
plus 40 years.
In March 1994, Echols and Baldwin were tried together. Neither of them
had ever confessed, and Misskelley refused to repeat his claim that he
had seen them murder the boys. If Misskelley did not agree to testify
against Echols and Baldwin, prosecutors were barred from playing the
tape of his statement, because to do so would deny Echols and Baldwin
their Sixth-Amendment right to face their accuser.
Prosecutors told the parents of the murdered boys that, without
Misskelley, they weren't sure they had enough evidence to convict
Echols and Baldwin. They explained that was why they offered
Misskelley a reduced sentence — to a term of years that could have
gotten him out of prison by now — if he agreed to testify. The parents
were unhappy about the offer, but Prosecutor Brent Davis told them,
"Unfortunately, we need his testimony real bad."
"All is not lost if he doesn't testify," Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
John Fogleman added. "But the odds are reduced significantly. I mean,
we've still got some evidence."
But the 17-year-old refused the prosecutors' offer.
Without Misskelley, Davis and Fogleman faced asking a jury to order
the death penalty for Echols and Baldwin based on this evidence: three
fibers found in the homes of the accused that were "microscopically
similar" to fibers found on the victims; a woman's claim that, on the
night of the murders, she saw Echols walking with a girl near where
the bodies were found; statements from two teenage girls who said
they'd overheard Echols at a softball field bragging about having
committed the murders; the claim of a jailhouse snitch that Baldwin
had described killing the boys to him; and a knife that divers pulled
from a lake near Baldwin's house that prosecutors said might have been
used on the boys.
Davis and Fogleman feared that wasn't enough. The fibers were generic;
they could have been found in anyone's home. In different ways, the
credibility of the statements by the woman, the "softball girls," and
the snitch all could be attacked. Nothing proved that the "lake knife"
had ever been used on the boys or that Baldwin had any connection to
the knife. And worse for the prosecution, without Misskelley, there
was no apparent motive for the murders.
Sensing that jurors would doubt that Echols and Baldwin would have
murdered three children they did not know without a motive, the
prosecutors tried to prove one. They called to the stand a young
woman, Victoria Hutcheson, who testified that Echols had driven her
and Misskelley to an "esbat," which she described as something like a
witches' orgy. Defense attorneys countered with testimony that Echols
had no driver's license, had never driven, and had no access to a car
like the one Hutcheson described.
DEVIL IN THE DETAILS
Nevertheless, the stage having been set, the prosecutors brought in
their big gun, Dr. Dale W. Griffis, a self-proclaimed "cult expert."
Defense attorneys quickly established that Griffis had gotten the
Ph.D. he claimed, without ever attending a class, from a mail-order
diploma mill. They argued that Griffis should not be qualified as an
expert, but the trial judge, David Burnett, ruled that he would accept
Griffis as an expert "based upon his knowledge, experience, and
training in the area of occultism or Satanism."
Thus, Griffis was allowed to testify about the aspects of the crime
that he said bore "trappings of occultism." There were three victims,
he explained. They were killed on the night of a full moon. Echols
mostly wore black. He and Baldwin liked heavy-metal music.
Of all the elements of this case that have come in for criticism,
Griffis' testimony ranks near the top, especially among those who
believe that Echols and Baldwin were, essentially, prosecuted for
little more than being "different" — which they were, as Baldwin once
"Others didn't like us," he said. "They'd been accusing me of being a
Satanist since the sixth grade. It was because I had long hair and
wore concert T-shirts, with bands like Metallica, Guns n' Roses, Ozzy
Osbourne, and U2. Damien liked straight clean black clothes, with
nothing printed on them.
"But the way we dressed was one thing people criticized," Baldwin
continued. "Most of the other kids, they either wore sports clothes,
like Tommy Hilfiger stuff, or if they were country people, they wore
flannel shirts and cowboy boots with giant buckles. So we stood out
because, even though Damien and I dressed different from each other,
we was also different from everybody else."
At their trial, those differences took on life-and-death significance.
When Fogleman asked Griffis about how he identified "young people
involved in the occult," Griffis responded gravely: "I have personally
observed people wearing black fingernails, having their hair painted
black, wearing black T-shirts, black dungarees, that type of thing.
Sometimes they will tattoo themselves."
Defense lawyers tried to focus on facts. Under questioning, they got
Griffis to concede that police had not found anything at the scene
that appeared to be related to the occult. They'd found no carved
pentagram, nothing resembling an altar, no bits of candle wax, no
knife or other weapon — and a remarkable absence of blood.
Nevertheless, Fogleman wrapped up his prosecution by recounting
Griffis' testimony and telling jurors to look at Echols and see that
"there's no soul there."
Aside from the so-called "lake knife," which divers found just weeks
before the trial, prosecutors had little to say about Baldwin.
Nevertheless, they urged jurors to sentence both boys to death.
The jury complied in part. It sentenced Echols, who'd been portrayed
as the group's ringleader, to death and Baldwin to life in prison,
plus 40 years.
That's where the story might have ended, so far as the public knew,
but for a decision made by Judge Burnett shortly after the arrests.
Much to his regret, as he would later say, Burnett agreed to allow two
filmmakers to record both trials for HBO. Two years later, that
decision resulted in the June 1996 release of the documentary Paradise
Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, which featured dramatic
segments from the trials. For the first time, people unfamiliar with
the case got a sense of how it was prosecuted, and many were
astonished. But the Arkansas Supreme Court took it in stride, and
affirmed all three convictions.
The justices on the state Supreme Court had no problem with Griffis'
qualifications. They accepted several points from his testimony,
including "that the date of the killings, near a pagan holiday, was
significant"; that "there was a full moon"; that "the victims were all
eight years old, and eight is a witches' number"; and that "the
absence of blood at the scene could be significant because cult
members store blood for future services in which they would drink the
blood or bathe in it."
With the release of the HBO documentary, what seemed significant to
many viewers was what seemed an astonishing lack of evidence on which
to hang a death sentence and two life imprisonments. Three young
Californians were so disturbed by the film that they established a
website, wm3.org, to gather more information about the case. The more
they learned — and posted on their site — the faster objections spread
to the handling of the case.
Today, many still believe that Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley, the
men now known as the West Memphis Three, are guilty and rightly in
prison. Arkansas' attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, is one of them.
"Do you really think they were convicted because they wore black?" he
wrote to the editor of the Arkansas Times. "Do you think their
confessions, the knife that matched the wounds, their unique knowledge
of the crime, the fiber evidence, and the eyewitnesses who saw them
near the scene at the time of the murders should be ignored (then or
Todd Moore, the father of victim Michael, is satisfied that his son's
killers are behind bars. And West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert
agrees. In March, after Echols said in a televised interview from
prison that the true murderer had never been caught, Paudert told a
reporter: "Well, we haven't had any more child killings in West
Memphis that's unsolved. The ones we have in custody are the ones who
Nevertheless, to the chagrin of Arkansas officials, opposition to the
case's outcome has grown as word about it has spread. Despite the
dismissals of West Memphis police officers, who say their critics are
uninformed, the points that most arouse critics' concern are all part
of the official record.
One of the most surprising results of the documentary? Romance for Echols.
Lorri Davis was a landscape architect living in New York when she saw
the film. She began writing to Echols, then allowed him to call her,
then made trips to Arkansas to visit him. She eventually moved to
Little Rock and married Echols in a Buddhist ceremony at the prison in
TRIAL AND ERRORS
Discussion boards have provided a forum where, for years now, people
from around the world have expressed amazement at how the case was
handled. Participants note, for example, that workers at a fast-food
restaurant near where the bodies were discovered reported that, on the
night the boys disappeared, a man came into their establishment with
blood and mud on his clothes and tried to clean up in a restroom.
However, when police were asked about that man at the trials, they
testified that, while they'd collected paper towels and blood
scrapings from the restroom, this evidence had been "lost."
They note that police questioned Jessie Misskelley, a 17-year-old
special-ed student, for nearly eight hours — all without a parent or
lawyer present — but recorded only a small portion of what he said,
the part they called his "confession."
They write of finding it hard to believe that police and prosecutors
accepted Misskelley's confession, when they knew that crucial elements
of the crime he described to them were wrong. Misskelley said, for
instance, that the boys were tied with "brown rope," when, in fact,
they were tied with their own shoelaces — some black, some white. He
said they were beaten and stabbed while wearing their clothes, but the
clothes were not torn or bloodstained. He said the attacks took place
in the daytime, the victims having skipped school; but the children
were in school all day and last seen around dusk. When asked about
these errors at the trial, the West Memphis police chief explained,
"Jessie simply got confused."
A lot of attention has been focused on Judge Burnett and his rulings.
Critics note that besides accepting Griffis, with his phony Ph.D., as
an "occult expert," the judge allowed prosecutors to claim repeatedly
that the children had been sodomized, when in fact, the state medical
examiner testified that autopsies had revealed no evidence of such an
Several entertainers have lent their celebrity to the case, often to
call attention to what they consider the prosecutors' abuse of the
defendants' right to free expression. Henry Rollins, Jack Black,
Winona Ryder, Margaret Cho, Johnny Depp, Tom Waits, Steve Earle, and
Eddie Vedder are just a few of the actors and musicans who've
criticized prosecutors for attempting to win a conviction based on,
among other things, the books Echols read, the clothes he wore, and
the music that he and Baldwin listened to.
Most supporters, however, are ordinary people who cannot believe that
Arkansas is willing to execute Echols and keep Baldwin and Misskelley
in prison for life, based on nothing more substantial than what was
presented at their trials. An oft-cited reason for getting involved
goes like this: "I was 'different' in high school too. What happened
to the West Memphis Three could easily have happened to me."
Over the years, as opposition to the convictions has grown, further
cracks have appeared in the case. A juvenile detention supervisor who
was scheduled to testify on behalf of Baldwin reported that she was
told to leave town or risk losing her job if she appeared in court.
She did not testify.
Victoria Hutcheson told the Arkansas Times that her testimony about
attending a witches' orgy with Misskelley and Echols was "a total
lie." Hutcheson said she was facing legal problems at the time of the
murders and that police promised they would "take care of" her hot
checks if she testified against the teenagers. She did testify, but in
October 1993, she apologized to the men in prison for those lies.
The journal Forensic Linguistics published an analysis of the
transcript of Misskelley's confession. The author concluded, "None of
the key, specific, verifiable details were provided by the confessor,"
but rather, "the police were the source of nearly all of the
substantive information regarding the crime."
None of this public reflection on the case, however, carried any
weight in court. Since the state Supreme Court had affirmed all three
convictions, Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley had only two routes of
appeal left in Arkansas. And both would take them back before Judge
One route involved retesting of evidence from the crime scene, looking
for DNA that was not discernible with testing methods available at the
time of the trials. Inmates must pay the lab and legal expenses, which
few can do. But the West Memphis Three were fortunate. By the early
part of this decade, they had supporters numbering in the thousands,
and many of those supporters wanted to help financially.
Some, like the young woman in New Jersey who sent five dollars every
month for years, contributed small amounts. Others wrote larger
checks. There will likely never be an accounting of the money paid to
lawyers, investigators, and laboratories in the 16 years since the
convictions, but it's safe to assume the sum would be staggering.
The money has produced results. In 2007, the lab that examined close
to 70 items from the crime scene reported that, while no DNA from
Echols, Baldwin, or Misskelley was found, testing revealed — by a high
probability— that a hair found in the shoelaces binding one of the
children belonged to Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie Branch. A
second hair found at the scene was identified as having come from
David Jacoby, a friend of Hobbs', who was with him the day the
With attention suddenly focused on Hobbs, Natalie Maines Pasdar of the
Dixie Chicks appeared with Echols' wife, Lorri Davis, at a rally in
front of the Arkansas Capitol to urge state officials to re-open the
case. In Pasdar's brief remarks, she mentioned the new evidence
pointing toward Hobbs.
Hobbs sued the singer for slander. In preparing for trial, lawyers for
Pasdar questioned Hobbs under oath. They asked if he'd seen any of the
victims on the day they died. Hobbs replied that he had not. A federal
judge later dismissed the lawsuit and it never went to trial.
But when word of Hobbs' statement was reported in a northeast Arkansas
paper, three of his former neighbors came forward to dispute that
claim. They gave sworn statements that they had seen Hobbs in front of
his home, three doors away from their own, with Stevie, Michael, and
Christopher. They placed the time at between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on the
day the children disappeared. If true, the women's claim would make
Hobbs the last person known to have seen the boys alive.
The next incriminating claim against Hobbs came from his ex-wife,
Pamela Hobbs. In the wake of news about the DNA findings and the
neighbors' claim to have seen Hobbs with the boys, Pamela Hobbs told a
reporter that she had harbored suspicions about him ever since 2002,
when she discovered among his possessions a small pocketknife
belonging to her son. Pamela Hobbs said Stevie always carried the
knife in his pocket and that she believed he'd had it with him when he
For years, Pamela Hobbs was vehement in her conviction that Echols,
Baldwin, and Misskelley were guilty. Now she's not so sure. She now
says all she wants is a thorough investigation and a fair trial —
things she does not believe have yet occurred.
John Mark Byers, the stepfather of Christopher Byers, another of the
victims, goes further. Once hateful in his denunciations of the West
Memphis Three, Byers recently said: "I was fooled for 14 years. But
now I know an injustice was dealt upon these boys by the state of
Rick Murray, Christopher's biological father, has also voiced
skepticism about the convictions. "I want to know who murdered my
son," Murray said. "I don't want three innocent people to suffer for
something they didn't do."
Burnett heard Echols' appeal based on the new DNA findings. Lawyers
with the state attorney general's office argued that the DNA results
did not prove that Echols was innocent and did not "establish by
compelling evidence that a new trial would result in an acquittal."
Burnett sided with the state.
In Arkansas, the last state remedy a prisoner can try is something
called a Rule 37 petition. It allows an inmate to argue that he
deserves a new trial because his attorney was so ineffective as to
have rendered his original trial unfair. Rule 37 petitions are almost
never successful, in part, perhaps, because they are generally heard
by the same judge who officiated at the original trial.
At Echols' Rule 37 hearing, his new lawyers presented a half dozen
prominent forensic scientists, all of whom testified that animals, not
humans, had caused what was believed to be the castration of
Christopher Byers and other injuries to the boys. The witnesses said
that all three boys had died from forcible drowning and that "none of
the injuries were caused during life, and none were caused by a
serrated knife, or any knife for that matter."
Their conclusion contradicted the state's entire theory of the case.
LAW & DISORDER
Another argument struck at the very heart of Echols' and Baldwin's
trial. It centered on the sworn statement of Lloyd Warford, a Little
Rock lawyer, who had nothing to do with the trial, except that he
happened to know the jury foreman.
Warford, a former prosecuting attorney, said in his affidavit that he
entered private practice in 1993, the year of the West Memphis
murders. The following year, he was hired by Kent Arnold to represent
Arnold's brother, who stood accused of raping his 4-year-old daughter.
At about that same time, Kent Arnold was called as a potential juror
for the trial of Echols and Baldwin.
Warford wrote that he doubted Arnold would be selected as a juror
because Arnold had a relative facing prosecution, he clearly "knew way
too much about the case," and "he seemed to have made up his mind the
defendants were guilty." According to Warford, Arnold once told him,
"All you had to do to know that Echols was a devil worshiper was to
look in his eyes and you knew he was evil."
According to Warford, he told Arnold that "we could not talk about the
case until it was over, and he agreed." Judge Burnett also admonished
jurors at the start of the trial that they were not to discuss the
case outside the jury room. Nevertheless, Warford said, throughout the
trial, "Kent made constant offhand comments or statements about the
trial and his jury service."
"At one point," Warford said, "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 [Misskelley] confession
and get this over with." (The reason they didn't, of course, was that
Misskelley's statement was inadmissible.)
Warford continued: "Nevertheless, as the trial progressed, Kent
Arnold's comments were increasingly critical of the prosecution.
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. At one point, I
distinctly remember him saying, 'If anyone is going to convince this
jury to convict, it is going to have to be me.'"
During the trial, a police officer did, in fact, allude to "the
statement of Jessie Misskelley." Defense lawyers immediately moved for
a mistrial, but Burnett denied the motion. The judge cautioned the
jurors to disregard the police officer's statement.
"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 said several times that he could not believe how
many jurors had not been aware of Misskelley's confession until it was
mentioned in court."
There will be no new trials for any of the men unless some court
orders that. Legal teams for each of the men are proceeding
Echols' last state appeal of his Rule 37 petition is before the
Arkansas Supreme Court. That court has said it will hold a hearing on
the appeal, but has not set a date. If no date is set before the court
recesses for summer, the hearing (and thus their eventual ruling) will
be delayed until fall.
Baldwin and Misskelley are also appealing Judge Burnett's denial of
their Rule 37 petitions to the state Supreme Court. They too see their
best hope at the federal level.
Lawyers for Echols and Baldwin believe they have an exceptionally
strong case for a new trial. But they were not surprised when Burnett,
who ruled on the case even though he had retired from the bench by
this point and was a candidate for political office, turned them down.
Attorneys for Echols and Baldwin have complained to the state Supreme
Court that Burnett's dual roles of judge and political candidate
constituted a conflict of interest, but the high court did not
intervene to stop him. As a result, the lawyers will add the claim of
judicial bias to their quiver of arguments for future federal appeals.
Indeed, the case has taken on additional political overtones in other ways.
Former Judge David Burnett is running for the Arkansas Senate. And the
former prosecutor, John Fogleman, now a circuit judge, is campaigning
for election to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court does not hold hearings before it recesses for the
summer, a decision could be delayed until after elections in the fall.
That would look to many like the court was shielding the two
candidates from possible political fallout. "That," said Echols' wife,
Lorri Davis, "would be another crime."
If the court does hold hearings soon, it could follow form and rule
against a new trial. That would free attorneys for Echols and Baldwin
to bring their appeal immediately to a federal court.
Of course, it is possible that the ArkansasSupreme Court would order
Echols and Baldwin retried. In that event, in light of all that has
transpired these past 17 years, it is intriguing to imagine what
evidence state prosecutors would present in their attempt to win new
One town ripped apart by gruesome murders of three young boys. Three
teens, now grown men, imprisoned for 17 years on questionable
evidence. Two documentaries, one book, and countless appeals from
celebrities and organizations.
And, if the courts see fit, one last chance for freedom for the West
— Mara Leveritt is the author of Devil's Knot: The True Story of the
West Memphis Three.
Sunday, June 13th 2010-- ALL AGES benefit for the West Memphis 3
featuring Mongrel, Scarecrow Hill, Affliction, End of an Era and more
Tammany Hall, 43 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA
$10, All Ages. Start time tba.