West Memphis Three

View previous topic View next topic Go down

West Memphis Three

Post by ophion1031 on January 27th 2016, 3:25 am



The West Memphis Three are three men who were tried and convicted as teenagers, in 1994, of the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment. During the trial, the prosecution asserted that the children were killed as part of a Satanic ritual. A number of documentaries have been based on the case, and celebrities and musicians have held fundraisers in the belief that they are innocent.

In July 2007, new forensic evidence was presented in the case, and a status report jointly issued by the state and the defense team stated: "Although most of the genetic material recovered from the scene was attributable to the victims of the offenses, some of it cannot be attributed to either the victims or the defendants." On October 29, 2007, the defense filed a Second Amended Writ of Habeas Corpus, outlining the new evidence.

Following a successful decision in 2010 by the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding newly produced DNA evidence, the West Memphis Three negotiated a plea bargain with prosecutors. On August 19, 2011, they entered Alford pleas, which allowed them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Judge David Laser accepted the pleas and sentenced the three to time served. They were released with 10-year suspended sentences, having served 18 years and 78 days in prison.
avatar
ophion1031

Posts : 3748
Join date : 2015-06-01
Location : Albuquerque

http://www.ophion1031.com

Back to top Go down

Re: West Memphis Three

Post by ophion1031 on January 27th 2016, 3:28 am

Three eight-year-old boys—Steve Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers—were reported missing on May 5, 1993. The first report to the police was made by Byers' adoptive father, John Mark Byers, around 7:00 pm. The boys were allegedly last seen together by three neighbors, who in affidavits told of seeing them playing together around 6:30 pm the evening they disappeared, and seeing Terry Hobbs, Steve Branch's stepfather, calling them to come home. Initial police searches made that night were limited. Friends and neighbors also conducted a search that night, which included a cursory visit to the location where the bodies were later found.

A more thorough police search for the children began around 8:00 am on May 6, led by the Crittenden County Search and Rescue personnel. Searchers canvassed all of West Memphis but focused primarily on Robin Hood Hills, where the boys were reported last seen. Despite a shoulder-to-shoulder search of Robin Hood Hills by a human chain, searchers found no sign of the missing boys.

Around 1:45 pm, juvenile Parole Officer Steve Jones spotted a boy's black shoe floating in a muddy creek that led to a major drainage canal in Robin Hood Hills. A subsequent search of the ditch revealed the bodies of three boys. They had been stripped naked and were hogtied with their own shoelaces: their right ankles tied to their right wrists behind their backs, the same with their left arms and legs. Their clothing was found in the creek, some of it twisted around sticks that had been thrust into the muddy ditch bed. The clothing was mostly turned inside-out; two pairs of the boys' underwear were never recovered. Christopher Byers had lacerations to various parts of his body, and mutilation of his scrotum and penis.

The autopsies, by the forensic pathologist Frank J. Peretti, indicated that Byers died of "multiple injuries", while Moore and Branch died of "multiple injuries with drowning".

Police initially suspected the boys had been raped; however, later expert testimony disputed this finding despite trace amounts of sperm DNA found on a pair of pants recovered from the scene. Prosecution experts claim Byers' wounds were the results of a knife attack and that he had been purposely castrated by the murderer; defense experts claim the injuries were more probably the result of post-mortem animal predation. Police believed the boys were assaulted and killed at the location where they were found; critics argued that the assault, at least, was unlikely to have occurred at the creek.

Byers was the only victim with drugs in his system; he was prescribed Ritalin (methylphenidate) in January 1993, as part of an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder treatment. The initial autopsy report describes the drug as Carbamazepine, and that dosage was found to be at sub-therapeutic level. John Mark Byers said that Christopher Byers may not have taken his prescription on May 5, 1993.
avatar
ophion1031

Posts : 3748
Join date : 2015-06-01
Location : Albuquerque

http://www.ophion1031.com

Back to top Go down

Re: West Memphis Three

Post by ophion1031 on January 27th 2016, 3:30 am

Stevie Edward Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore, were all second graders at Weaver Elementary School. Each had achieved the rank of "Wolf" in the local Cub Scout pack, and they were best friends.

Steve Edward Branch
Stevie Branch (November 26, 1984 – May 5, 1993) was the son of Steven and Pamela Branch, who divorced when he was an infant. His mother was awarded custody and later married Terry Hobbs. Branch was eight years old, 4 ft. 2 tall, weighed 65 lbs, and had blond hair. He was last seen wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt, and riding a black and red bicycle. He was an honor student. He lived with his mother, Pamela Hobbs, his stepfather, Terry Hobbs, and a four-year-old half-sister, Amanda. Steve Edward Branch is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Steele, Missouri.


Christopher Mark Byers
Christopher Byers (June 23, 1984 – May 5, 1993) was born to Melissa DeFir and Ricky Murray. His parents divorced when he was four years old; shortly afterward, his mother married John Mark Byers, who adopted the boy. Byers was eight years old, 4 ft. tall, weighed 52 lbs, and had light brown hair. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, dark shoes, and a white long sleeved shirt. He lived with his mother, Sharon Melissa Byers, his stepfather, John Mark Byers, and his stepbrother, Shawn Ryan Clark, aged 13. According to his mother, Christopher was a typical eight-year-old. "He still believed in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus". Christopher Mark Byers is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery East in Memphis, Tennessee.


James Michael Moore
Michael Moore (July 27, 1984 – May 5, 1993) was the son of Todd and Dana Moore. He was eight years old, 4 ft. 2 tall, weighed 55 lbs, and had brown hair. He was last seen wearing blue pants, a blue Boy Scouts of America shirt, and an orange and blue Boy Scout hat, and riding a light green bicycle. Moore enjoyed wearing his scout uniform even when he was not at meetings. He was considered the leader of the three. He lived with his parents and his nine-year-old sister, Dawn. James Michael Moore is buried in Crittenden Memorial Park Cemetery in Marion, Arkansas.


In 1994, a memorial was erected for the three murder victims. The memorial is located in the playground of Weaver Elementary School in West Memphis, where all three victims were second graders at the time of the crime. In May 2013, for the 20th anniversary of the slayings, Weaver Elementary School principal Sheila Grissom raised funds to refurbish the memorial.
avatar
ophion1031

Posts : 3748
Join date : 2015-06-01
Location : Albuquerque

http://www.ophion1031.com

Back to top Go down

Re: West Memphis Three

Post by ophion1031 on January 27th 2016, 3:35 am

Baldwin, Echols, and Misskelley

At the time of their arrests, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was 17 years old, Jason Baldwin was 16 years old, and Damien Echols was 18 years old.

Baldwin and Echols had been previously arrested for vandalism and shoplifting, respectively, and Misskelley had a reputation for his temper and for engaging in fistfights with other teenagers at school. Misskelley and Echols had dropped out of high school; however, Baldwin earned high grades and demonstrated a talent for drawing and sketching, and was encouraged by one of his teachers to study graphic design in college. Echols and Baldwin were close friends, and bonded over their similar tastes in music and fiction, and over their shared distaste for the prevailing cultural climate of West Memphis, situated in the Bible Belt. Baldwin and Echols were acquainted with Misskelley from school, but were not close friends with him.

Echols' family was poor and received frequent visits from social workers, and he rarely attended school. He and a girlfriend had run off and later broke into a trailer during a rain storm; they were arrested, though only Echols was charged with burglary.

Echols spent several months in a mental institution in Arkansas and afterward received "full disability" status from the Social Security Administration. During Echols' trial, Dr. George W. Woods testified (for the defense) that Echols suffered from "serious mental illness characterized by grandiose and persecutory delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, disordered thought processes, substantial lack of insight, and chronic, incapacitating mood swings."

At his death penalty sentencing hearing, Echols' psychologist reported that months before the murders, Echols claimed that he had obtained super powers by drinking human blood. At the time of his arrest, Echols was working part-time with a roofing company and expecting a child with his girlfriend, Domini Teer.


Chris Morgan and Brian Holland
Early in the investigation, the WMPD briefly regarded two West Memphis teenagers as suspects. Chris Morgan and Brian Holland, both with drug offense histories, had abruptly departed for Oceanside, California, four days after the bodies were discovered. Morgan was presumed to be at least casually familiar with all three murdered boys, having previously driven an ice cream truck route in their neighborhood.

Arrested in Oceanside on May 17, 1993, Morgan and Holland both took polygraph exams administered by California police. Examiners reported that both men's charts indicated deception when they denied involvement in the murders. During subsequent questioning, Morgan claimed a long history of drug and alcohol use, along with blackouts and memory lapses. He claimed that he "might have" killed the victims but quickly recanted this part of his statement.

California police sent blood and urine samples from Morgan and Holland to the WMPD, but there is no indication WMPD investigated Morgan or Holland as suspects following their arrest in California. The relevance of Morgan's recanted statement would later be debated in trial, but it was eventually barred from admission as evidence.

"Mr. Bojangles"
The citing of a black male as a possible alternate suspect was implied during the beginning of the Misskelley trial. According to local West Memphis police officers, on the evening of May 5, 1993, at 8:42 pm, workers in the Bojangles' restaurant located about a mile from the crime scene in Robin Hood Hills reported seeing a black male who seemed "mentally disoriented" inside the restaurant's ladies' room. The man was bleeding and had brushed against the restroom walls. Officer Regina Meeks responded to the call, taking the restaurant manager's report through the eatery's drive-through window. By then, the man had left, and police did not enter the restroom on that date.

The day after the victims' bodies were found, Bojangles' manager Marty King, thinking there was a possible connection to the bloody man found in the bathroom, reported the incident to police officers who then inspected the ladies' room. King gave the officers a pair of sunglasses he thought the man had left behind, and the detectives took some blood samples from the walls and tiles of the restroom. Police detective Bryn Ridge testified that he later lost those blood scrapings. A hair identified as belonging to a black male was later recovered from a sheet wrapped around one of the victims.
avatar
ophion1031

Posts : 3748
Join date : 2015-06-01
Location : Albuquerque

http://www.ophion1031.com

Back to top Go down

Re: West Memphis Three

Post by ophion1031 on January 27th 2016, 3:40 am

Evidence and interviews
Police officers James Sudbury and Steve Jones felt that the crime had "cult" overtones, and that Damien Echols might be a suspect because he had an interest in occultism, and Jones felt Echols was capable of murdering children. The police interviewed Echols on May 7, two days after the bodies were discovered. During a polygraph examination, he denied any involvement. The polygraph examiner claimed that Echols' chart indicated deception. On May 9, during a formal interview by Detective Bryn Ridge, Echols mentioned that one of the victims had wounds to the genitals; law enforcement viewed this knowledge as incriminating.

After a month had passed with little progress in the case, police continued to focus their investigation upon Echols, interrogating him more frequently than any other person. Nonetheless, they claimed he was not regarded as a direct suspect but a source of information.

On June 3, the police interrogated Jessie Misskelley, Jr. Despite his reported IQ of 72 (categorizing him as borderline intellectual functioning) and his status as a minor, Miskelley was questioned alone; his parents were not present during the interrogation. Misskelley's father gave permission for Misskelley to go with police but did not explicitly give permission for his son to be questioned or interrogated. Misskelley was questioned for roughly 12 hours. Only two segments, totaling 46 minutes, were recorded. Misskelley quickly recanted his confession, citing intimidation, coercion, fatigue, and veiled threats from police. Misskelley specifically said he was "scared of the police" during this confession.

Though he was informed of his Miranda rights, Misskelley later claimed he did not fully understand them. In 1996, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that Misskelley's confession was voluntary and that he did, in fact, understand the Miranda warning and its consequences. Portions of Misskelley's statements to the police were leaked to the press and reported on the front page of the Memphis Commercial Appeal before any of the trials began.

Shortly after Misskelley's first confession, police arrested Echols and his close friend Baldwin. Eight months after his original confession, on February 17, 1994, Misskelley made another statement to police. His lawyer, Dan Stidham, remained in the room and continually advised Misskelley not to say anything. Misskelley ignored this advice and went on to detail how the boys were abused and murdered. Stidham, who was later elected to a municipal judgeship, has written a detailed critique of what he asserts are major police errors and misconceptions during their investigation.


Vicki Hutcheson
Vicki Hutcheson, a new resident of West Memphis, would play an important role in the investigation, though she would later recant her testimony, claiming her statements were fabricated due in part to coercion from police.

On May 6, 1993 (before the victims were found later the same day), Hutcheson took a polygraph exam by Detective Don Bray at the Marion Police Department, to determine whether or not she had stolen money from her West Memphis employer. Hutcheson's young son, Aaron, was also present, and proved such a distraction that Bray was unable to administer the polygraph. Aaron, a playmate of the murdered boys', mentioned to Bray that the boys had been killed at "the playhouse". When the bodies proved to have been discovered near where Aaron indicated, Bray asked Aaron for further details, and Aaron claimed that he had witnessed the murders committed by Satanists who spoke Spanish. Aaron's further statements were wildly inconsistent, and he was unable to identify Baldwin, Echols, or Misskelley from photo line-ups, and there was no "playhouse" at the location Aaron indicated. A police officer leaked portions of Aaron's statements to the press contributing to the growing belief that the murders were part of a Satanic rite.

On or about June 1, 1993, Hutcheson agreed to police suggestions to place hidden microphones in her home during an encounter with Echols. Misskelley agreed to introduce Hutcheson to Echols. During their conversation, Hutcheson reported that Echols made no incriminating statements. Police said the recording was "inaudible", but Hutcheson claimed the recording was audible. On June 2, 1993, Hutcheson told police that about two weeks after the murders were committed, she, Echols, and Misskelley attended a Wiccan meeting in Turrell, Arkansas. Hutcheson claimed that, at the Wiccan meeting, a drunken Echols openly bragged about killing the three boys. Misskelley was first questioned on June 3, 1993, a day after Hutcheson's purported confession. Hutcheson was unable to recall the Wiccan meeting location and did not name any other participants in the purported meeting. Hutcheson was never charged with theft. She claimed she had implicated Echols and Misskelley to avoid facing criminal charges, and to obtain a reward for the discovery of the murderers.
avatar
ophion1031

Posts : 3748
Join date : 2015-06-01
Location : Albuquerque

http://www.ophion1031.com

Back to top Go down

Re: West Memphis Three

Post by ophion1031 on January 27th 2016, 3:51 am

Misskelley was tried separately, and Echols and Baldwin were tried together in 1994. Under the "Bruton rule", Misskelley's confession could not be admitted against his co-defendants; thus he was tried separately. All three defendants pleaded not guilty.


Misskelley's trial
During Misskelley's trial, Dr. Richard Ofshe, an expert on false confessions and police coercion, and Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley, testified that the brief recording of Misskelley's interrogation was a "classic example" of police coercion. Critics have also stated that Misskelley's various "confessions" were in many respects inconsistent with each other, as well as with the particulars of the crime scene and murder victims, including (for example) an "admission" that Misskelley "watched Damien rape one of the boys." Police had initially suspected that the victims had been raped because their anuses were dilated. However, there was no forensic evidence indicating that the murdered boys had been raped. Dilation of the anus is a normal post-mortem condition.

On February 5, 1994, Misskelley was convicted by a jury of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. The court sentenced him to life plus 40 years in prison. His conviction was appealed, but the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the conviction.


Echols' and Baldwin's trial
Three weeks later, Echols and Baldwin went on trial. The prosecution accused the three young men of committing a Satanic murder. The prosecution called Dale W. Griffis, a graduate of Columbia Pacific University, as an expert in the occult to testify the murders were a Satanic ritual. On March 19, 1994 Echols and Baldwin were found guilty on three counts of murder. The court sentenced Echols to death and Baldwin to life in prison.

At trial, the defense team argued that news articles from the time could have been the source for Echols' knowledge about the genital mutilation, and Echols said his knowledge was limited to what was "on TV".

The prosecution claimed that Echols' knowledge was nonetheless too close to the facts, since there was no public reporting of drowning or that one victim had been mutilated more than the others. Echols testified that Detective Ridge's description of their earlier conversation (which was not recorded) regarding those particular details was inaccurate (and indeed that some other claims by Ridge were "lies"). Mara Leveritt, an investigative journalist and the author of Devil's Knot, argues that Echols' information may have come from police leaks, such as Detective Gitchell's comments to Mark Byers, that circulated amongst the local public. The defense team objected when the prosecution attempted to question Echols about his past violent behaviors, but the defense objections were overruled.
avatar
ophion1031

Posts : 3748
Join date : 2015-06-01
Location : Albuquerque

http://www.ophion1031.com

Back to top Go down

Re: West Memphis Three

Post by ophion1031 on January 27th 2016, 3:57 am

Criticism of the investigation
There has been widespread criticism of how the police handled the crime scene. Misskelley's former attorney Dan Stidham cites multiple substantial police errors at the crime scene, characterizing it as "literally trampled, especially the creek bed." The bodies, he said, had been removed from the water before the coroner arrived to examine the scene and determine the state of rigor mortis, allowing the bodies to decay on the creek bank and to be exposed to sunlight and insects. The police did not telephone the coroner until almost two hours after the discovery of the floating shoe, resulting in a late appearance by the coroner. Officials failed to drain the creek in a timely manner and secure possible evidence in the water (the creek was sandbagged after the bodies were pulled from the water).

Moreover, Stidham calls the coroner's investigation "extremely substandard." There was a small amount of blood found at the scene that was never tested. According to HBO's documentaries Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000), no blood was found at the crime scene, indicating that the location where the bodies were found was not necessarily the location where the murders actually happened. After the initial investigation, the police failed to control disclosure of information and speculation about the crime scene.

According to Leveritt, "Police records were a mess. To call them disorderly would be putting it mildly." Leveritt speculated that the small local police force was overwhelmed by the crime, which was unlike any they had ever investigated. Police refused an unsolicited offer of aid and consultation from the violent crimes experts of the Arkansas State Police, and critics suggested this was due to the WMPD's being under investigation by the Arkansas State Police for suspected theft from the Crittenden County drug task force. Leveritt further noted that some of the physical evidence was stored in paper sacks obtained from a supermarket (with the supermarket's name printed on the bags) rather than in containers of known and controlled origin.

When police speculated about the assailant, the juvenile probation officer assisting at the scene of the murders speculated that Echols was "capable" of committing the murders," stating: "it looks like Damien Echols finally killed someone."

Brent Turvey, a forensic scientist and criminal profiler, stated in the film Paradise Lost 2 that human bite marks could have been left on at least one of the victims. However, these potential bite marks were first noticed in photographs years after the trials and were not inspected by a board-certified medical examiner until four years after the murders. The defense's expert testified that the mark in question was not an adult bite mark, while experts put on by the State concluded that there was no bite mark at all. The State's experts had examined the actual bodies for any marks, and others conducted expert photo analysis of injuries. Upon further examination, it was concluded that if the marks were bite marks, they did not match the teeth of any of the three convicted.
avatar
ophion1031

Posts : 3748
Join date : 2015-06-01
Location : Albuquerque

http://www.ophion1031.com

Back to top Go down

Re: West Memphis Three

Post by Rocketman on January 30th 2016, 8:29 pm

I never got why a lot of people were pissed that these 3 were convicted and said they were innocent. I never saw it that way. Sure there are things that dont add up but i think they were guilty.
avatar
Rocketman

Posts : 916
Join date : 2015-09-14
Age : 54
Location : Toledo, Ohio

Back to top Go down

Re: West Memphis Three

Post by Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum