WM3: Time for Truth, Parts 1 & 2

Guys, watch the above videos to find out why it is that these three people should not be sitting in jail.  Remember, despite the above evidence, Damien Echols is sitting on Death Row and Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley are going to spend the rest of their lives in prison.

It’s just not right.

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

I wanted to show you guys the trailer for Paradise Lost 1 because I want you guys to see that this IS an interesting movie if nothing else.  The first movie (above) just basically shows a more or less balanced version of the events as they took place not giving much credence either way to whether the WM3 did it or did not.  Mostly you are able to draw your own conclusions.  Damien is kind of painted as a somewhat histrionic nutcase as are the parents of the dead kids.  Watch it, it’s good yo.

Why the WM3 concerns you…

This case has no winners, no happy endings and no justice.  There certainly wasn’t justice served for those three children who were viciously murdered.  There definitely wasn’t justice served for the families who were devastated by the loss of their children.  There wasn’t justice served for the Echols, Misskelley or Baldwin families.  And you can have the opinion that Damien, Jason and Jessie did this.  Most people DO…at first.  I did.  Kristyn just did.  When you watch the first movie of Paradise Lost, you might too.  You see three poor kids, you see Damien Echols acting like an arrogant teenager rock star, you see the anger of the families, that Jessie Misskelley gave a confession AND the fact that all three kids were found guilty on all three charges.  You look at that and say, “Well they MUST be guilty bc no reasonable person would put someone to death for a crime where there was no evidence.”

Then you watch Paradise Lost 2.  Paradise Lost 2, outlines the mistakes made in the original trial, evidence originally missed (such as bite marks found on the bodies, NONE of which match the tooth impressions of the three sitting in prison), the growing movement to overturn this ruling and profiles into other avenues of suspects never pursued.  I can’t get into all of it right now but I will be writing more on the subject at a later date.   In the meantime, I encourage you to go to the following sites to look up information:

www.wm3.org
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Memphis_3

There are more too but everybody loves a good wiki and the wm3 site has more information than you can EVER read in a day so start with that.  (Wiki has other pages regarding this too, one on each kid, one on each movie, etc.)

I just wanted to put my impressions down as to why I’m sick to my stomach for forgetting about this while these three sit in jail.  I know I’m not going to single-handedly rescue these three from the fates that have been handed down to them.  They have a team of people, celebrities and a worldwide movement helping them.  It’s just that I saw these movies years ago and saw them as that…movies.  Not people…movies.  And I don’t even know why the hell I thought of Paradise Lost 1 and 2 again recently but something reminded me, we rented them from Netflix and watching these movies as an adult made me realize that it’s not enough to say, “That’s sad” and move on when I CAN do something to help.  I can write blogs, I can write letters, I can send money for commissary or their legal fund, I can tell people.  And why might you ask, would I want to help someone on Death Row or who is in Prison for life?  Bc that could be any one of us.  This is happening IN AMERICA.  Three people are in prison for almost half of their lives for a crime that they are not tied to via evidence, DNA, dental impressions, etc, etc, etc.  No one can place them at the scene of the crime.  They all have alibis.  THEY DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THE KIDS WHO WERE MURDERED.  Their trials were a complete comedy of errors from start to finish.  Almost everyone involved in this crime that wasn’t put behind bars has profited in one way or another whether through bribe “rewards” to job promotions, etc.  Basically they were made an example out of and in a rush to get someone behind bars lots of different mistakes were made: something called “Satanic Panic” (which you can read up on and you WILL agree was huge in 1993), the bungled investigation of the local police, the leaks to the media, the big money “rewards” for tipsters in a poor community, the fact that these three boys were dirt poor and could not afford things like DNA testing or high-powered attorneys, the list goes on.

I mean Jessie Misskelley was interrogated for TWELVE HOURS WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY OR PARENTS PRESENT.  How can that happen?!  The boy has an IQ of 72.  After his trial, in an appeal to the case, his defense attorneys presented a video of them convincing him that he’d committed a robbery in his town.  It took them FIFTEEN MINUTES to do it.  Fifteen minutes.

Anyway, I’ll say more on this later, but I just…can’t abide this.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t forget about the children and the families destroyed in these murders.  That is, of course, the entire point.  Even if you look at people who look different and have a problem understanding them, I’m sure you CAN look at a case that has NO material evidence, no solid leads, no witnesses, no DNA matches, no NOTHING and wonder why three people have spent half of their lives behind bars.  Or at least wonder if maybe there is another explanation.  I mean teenage boys don’t do ANYTHING that’s not messy.  How can three teenage boys leave a crime scene so clean that it completely stumped trained police officers and investigators.  I couldn’t do that.

And surely if that doesn’t grab you, how about the fact that Terry Hobbs, one of the murdered boys (Steven Branch) step fathers’ hair was found in the shoelaces that tied up the boys.  OR the fact that his friend’s hair was ALSO found at the scene.

And if that doesn’t strike you as interesting, how about the fact that John Mark Byers (Christopher Byers) step dad gave the producers of Paradise Lost 1 a Christmas Present that was a used foldup hunting knife?  Or that blood matching Christopher Byers AND John Mark Byers was found in the fold of the knife?

OR that John Mark Byers has a lengthy criminal and drug past.  AND that he admits to being sexually abused in almost exactly the same manner as a child?

OR that Christopher Byers mother and John Mark Byers’ wife, Melissa Byers, died in a suspicious manner not long after.  John, at the scene of her death said, “They’re going to try to say that I strangled her but it was an overdose.”  Her cause of death remains undetermined.  Traces of non-lethal amounts of various prescribed and narcotic drugs found in her system AND physical signs of suffocation with a pillow exist.

I could go on and on (obviously).  Do yourself a favor and at least read up on the Wikis of this case.  If you go on WM3.org, ALL of the case files, autopsy reports and criminal cases, appeals, etc are on there as well as some letters from Damien Echols on what it is like to live on Death Row.   I’ll get into some of that at a later date.

But when you look at all of what I said, you STILL might want to believe they did it.  Whether you do or you don’t, still do yourself a favor and rent the movies, read the Wikis and go on wm3.org just to kill some time.

The point is, if this can happen to them, it can most certainly happen to you.  AND whoever killed those little boys still walks free for the past 16 years.  So either way you look at it, it’s just as easy in this country for you to go to prison for something you did not do as it is for someone to kill your kids and walk off scot-free to do it again.

Oh and a similar murder was committed not far from West Memphis after the three had already been sentenced and turned themselves in.  So someone is out there literally getting away with murder as Damien Echols, 34, gets closer and closer to being executed via Lethal Injection.  He is only 4 years older than I am, he’s never even seen the internet and only knows about the world what he sees on TV.

West Memphis Three

Chris Byers, 8; Michael Moore, 8; Steve Branch, 8

Chris Byers, 8; Michael Moore, 8; Steve Branch, 8

On May 3, 1993, three boys went missing in West Memphis, Arkansas.  Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore went to school that day, came home, went out to play and were never seen again.  A search party went out that night and the next morning to find the boys.  At approx 10am the next day, their bodies were found in the woods in shallow water, naked and lifeless.  Steve Branch and Michael Moore’s ultimate cause of death was drowning.  They were also beaten, had head wounds and cuts and scrapes all over their bodies. Christopher Byers did not die due to drowning.  He was dead prior to being dumped in the woods.  He also had serious damage to his body and had been castrated.  All three were hog tied.

Of course, this caused an epic scandal in the local, state and national media. Three almost nine year old boys had been brutally murdered.  The public wanted answers.  The site of the crime was totally free of blood.  There were no weapons found at the scene.  No one had seen or heard anything.  In short, they had no leads.

Damien Echols was 19 at the time of his arrest.

Damien Echols was 19 at the time of his arrest.

A young teenager named Damien Echols caught the investigators’ attention.  He frequently wore all black, listened to Metallica, had long hair, read Stephen King novels and was Wiccan.  The police officers looked at everyone in town and tried to decide who seemed most likely to commit a crime.  Damien Echols was their main suspect.

The police went to his house and questioned him and his friend Jason Baldwin.  Both teenagers knew of the crime because of talk around town.  The police involved in the initial finding of the bodies had talked.  The people of West Memphis and then, therefore the media, had more information on the deaths than is usually released to the public.  Naturally, this event was the talk of the town and rumors spread fast.  By the time that police questioned Damien Echols, he knew more than he should have and parroted it back to the police who took that to mean he must have committed the crime considering he knew more than he thought he ought to have.  BUT they could not place him at the scene of the crime and the crime scene was too clean of evidence.

So the police started offering monetary rewards for tips regarding this crime.  In a poor town like West Memphis, that was really all of the incentive any of the townspeople needed to start “coming forward” with information.  All of the information has since been debunked and several of tipsters (even those who testified against Damien Echols) have since come forward to admit that they lied.

Jessie Misskelley was 17 at the time of his arrest.

Jessie Misskelley was 17 at the time of his arrest.

One woman, desperate for money, turned to her child’s babysitter, Jessie Misskelley.  Jessie knew Echols from around town.  They were around the same age and though they did not hang out, they were acquaintences.  The mother asked Jessie to invite Damien over to his house and try to get him to talk.  Nothing came of this.

This is how Jessie Misskelley got involved in talking to the police.  Jessie Misskelley, it should be noted, has an IQ of 72 and at the time had the speech, thoughts and demeanor of that of an 8 year old child even though he was 17 at the time.  The police interrogated Jessie trying to get a statement out of Jessie that he had seen Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin commit these murders.  After twelve hours of grilling Jessie, with no lawyer or parents present, the police officers turned on the video tape and recorded the only 45 minutes of video tape that exist from this interrogation.  These 45 minutes are a taped confession of Jessie Misskelley not only admitting to seeing Damien and Jason committing the crime but to actually confessing to have a hand in it.  It turns out that he was offered $30,000 in reward money if he would “just give them what they wanted and he could go home”.

Long story short, Jessie Misskelley went on trial and was found guilty of all three murders and sentenced to Life in Prison plus 40 years.  During his trial he plead Not Guilty and recanted his earlier confession.  This didn’t make a difference.

Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were tried together but separately from Jessie Misskelley.  Jessie Misskelley was given the option to testify against Jason and Damien for a shortened sentence but refused on the basis that the confession was coerced. 

During the trial, the prosecution focused on Damien’s hobbies, interests, appearance and clothes.  They questioned him about Wicca.  They questioned him about bands he liked, books he read, art he’d made, his penchant for wearing black clothes, etc.  In short, they questioned him about things that did not have anything to do with the murders so they could paint the crime as a “Satanic Sacrifice Killing”.  Jason Baldwin opted not to speak in his own defense and therefore was not ridiculed this way.  Damien, being a confused and cocky 19 year old came across as arrogant and weird.  The court of public opinion considered them guilty as charged.

The jurors were instructed not to consider Jessie Misskelley’s confession as part of the evidence against Jason and Damien.  It has come to light since that at least two jurors used that confession as a deciding factor in their conviction.  It has also come to light that the juror foreman, repeatedly contacted non-jurors to discuss the case, although it was expressly forbidden to do so.  He is basically quoted as saying that he was unhappy with the case against Damien and Jason that the prosecution was leveling and that if they didn’t come up with more hard evidence, it would be up to him to convince the rest of the jury to convict them of the crimes.  This is currently being argued in court.

Jason Baldwin was 16 at the time of his arrest.

Jason Baldwin was 16 at the time of his arrest.

The result was that in 1994 (16 years ago) both Jason and Damien were convicted on all three accounts.  Jason Baldwin, 16, at the time, was sentenced to Life without Parole.  Damien Echols, 19, at the time, was sentenced to Death by Lethal Injection.

Two documentary movies were made on the the case, “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” (released in 1996 on HBO) and “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations” (released in 2003 on HBO).  The first movie attempted to look at the case from a balanced perspective, allowing the viewer to decide whether or not the three were guilty of the crime, just laying out what went down basically.  By the time the second movie had come out, more evidence had come out due to technological advances and fresh eyes looking at the case again that basically prove that the wrong three people are in prison.

It takes a good look at John Mark Byers (the castrated boy’s Step-father), his odd behavior and criminal past.  It also shows the growing movement in support of these three people.  Since that movie was released, DNA evidence has come to light that totally exhonerates Jessie, Jason AND Damien but puts Terry Hobbs (Steve Branch’s step-father) and his friend at the scene of the crime.  Terry Hobbs’ hair is tied up in one of ligatures used to hog tie Michael Moore and Terry Hobbs’ friend’s hair was also found at the scene.  Both men were walking the woods that night together “looking for the boys”.

The point of my writing this is to lay it out as it is.  I may have gotten small details wrong but this is a synopsis of what happened.  I just wanted to lay it out for you to read so that you understand my next blog and the following information that can be found here:

http://www.wm3.org/

Also, so you know, these three boys (now men) all still sit in prison doing all that they can to try to keep Damien from being wrongly executed and to prevent Jason and Jessie from being held in prison for the rest of their lives for crimes they did not commit.

Damien Echols (top L), Jason Baldwin (top R), Jessie Misskelley (bottom L)

Damien Echols now 34 (top L), Jason Baldwin, now 31 (top R), Jessie Misskelley, now 33 (bottom L)