Today could be a day that many people have waited for since 1994. The West Memphis Three: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley could be released from the Arkansas prison where they have been incarcerated for 18 years.
The highly publicized cased of a trio of teenagers (at the time of arrest) who were accused of slaying three boys: Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore in a bizarre, gruesome fashion in West Memphis, AK.
The State of Arkansas convicted the three men with what seems to be lack of evidence and on the coerced confession of Jessie Misskelley, who possesses an IQ of 72 (making him borderline mentally retarded.)
Like many people I learned about The West Memphis Three through the critically acclaimed documentaries, “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” (1996) and “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations” (2000).[Note: Production of Paradise Lost 3 has been announced today.] Since the original documentary, many celebrities have championed the cause of “Free The West Memphis Three” (or WM3.)
It’s always been appalling how three men can be convicted and thrown away for life, with virtually no evidence. The West Memphis Police Department clearly botched the investigation and turned a blind-eye to logic and other leads that would’ve taken the investigation down a different path.
Today, August 19th,2011, may be the day that the State of Arkansas rights its wrong. New DNA and physical evidence plus a key witness recanting her statement have forced the State of Arkansas’ hand to do something.
I don’t know what the outcome will be. There is speculation that the WM3 will be released by pleading No contest with time served. Others say they will be released, maintaining their innocence, while acknowledging the State has enough evidence to convict them. There is so much speculation as to what will come, but one thing seems constant – the imminent freedom of The West Memphis Three. (It’s been reported the WM3 left prison with all their belongings, which points to a release.)
NOTE: As I write this post, I have the CNN stream of the monitor and I am awaiting credible news of what will happen to Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley.
I want to be clear of one thing. Righting a great legal wrong is not the same as justice as long as the killer of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore is free.
NOTE: 9:55 pst am
The WM3 entered a plea guilty of the murders, reafirming the jury’s verdict of guilty.
As part of the plea the defendant’s sentences were amended to 18 years – with time being served. The WM3 will be free as of today, 8/19/11.
It’s been 18 years of fight, 18 years of public support and outcry, two – possibly three documentaries (if not more) and Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley have been released from prison.
What would you have done if it were your son’s killers? What would you do if your sons were wrongly accused of a crime so heinous? What would you do if you were behind bars for someone else’s crime? This all seems too crazy to even think about.