One of the members of the famed West Memphis Three, Jason Baldwin was in court yesterday seeking a new hearing. Baldwin, along with Jessie Misskelley and Damien Echols, was convicted of murdering three young boys in 1993; since that time, new evidence has come to light which these convicted individuals hope to exonerate them of these crimes. Additionally, Baldwin claims he had ineffective counsel during the first trial. Earlier this month, all three members were denied new trials as the judge ruled the new DNA evidence failed to prove they were not at the scene of the crime; as such, Baldwin’s request for a new trial at this time focuses solely on his lack of effective counsel.
In 1993, three young boys were found bound and murdered in what police thought was an occult ritualistic murder. Baldwin, Misskelley and Echols were then arrested and put on trial, with the trial focusing on satanic rituals and heavy metal music. At the time, no forensic evidence could be found tying any of these individuals to the murder, but more recently DNA evidence was extracted from the knife used which match two unrelated individuals.
Due to the nature of the crime, some suggest that there was an attempt to appease the community as quickly as possible. Since the trial, allegations have come about regarding the confession of Misskelley, a “borderline retarded” individual. The reliability of his testimony has been challenged by many, even his own father.
In reexamining evidence, forensic specialists have also concluded that this was not any type of occult ritualistic murder. These specialists found no evidence of sexual abuse, and determined that the mutilation to the boys was caused by animals. Both the alleged sexual abuse and mutilation were the key facts giving rise to the idea of a satanic ritual.
Whether one supports the West Memphis Three or believes they are guilty, it seems very apparent that the judicial system did not work properly in this instance. While proper forensic tools may not have been available in 1993 to examine DNA, the fact that there was no physical evidence tying the accused to the murders and the reliance on a unreliable witness as the primary support for conviction would seem to give cause for a new trial.
It is understandable that the thought of ritualistic occult killings would give rise to fear in a community. Anybody hearing about such killings in their neighborhood would most likely react in fear the same way the residents of West Memphis did. However, a community’s fears do not override the right of Due Process that these individuals seem to have been denied. Whether they are innocent or guilty nobody will really know until all the evidence is properly presented.
For more on the West Memphis Three, many of the court documents and other updates can be found here. (Note: this site is pro-West Memphis Three and their opinions do not necessarily reflect my view; however, the site does provide much case information directly from the Courts, the police and other media outlets.)
Also, information on the case and additional evidence found since their conviction can be found here.