Saturday, August 20, 2011

West Memphis Three: Alleged Satan Worshipping Child Murderers are now free

This is when you have to wonder if there is a flaw in our judicial system...

Is it justice? Or lack of evidence? Are three cold-blooded killers now walking free? Or have they been rotting innocently behind bars for 18 years?

The "West Memphis 3"

Most of my readers probably won't be familiar with this infamous murder, but here's the simplified version of what happened on May 5, 1993:
On this fateful spring day, three eight year old Cub Scouts went missing: Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers. Thorough and desperate search efforts went unsuccessful, until 1:45 p.m. on May 6th, when Juvenile Parole Officer Steve Jones saw a shoe floating in a swampy area which led the search efforts to a drainage canal in Robin Hood Hills. What they found will forever haunt them...

They did not only find the lifeless bodies of the three children, but they found them

"...stripped naked [and] 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 also had deep lacerations and injuries to his scrotum and penis."

This description of the bodies was documented by Frank J. Peretti, M.D. and William Q. Sturner, Assoc. Medical Examiner and Chief Medical Examiner.

The first thing that was assumed about this murder was that it was a result of a satanic ritual.

One month later, three men were arrested:

Damien Echols, 18-year-old suspected ringleader, was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., 17, was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin,16, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

What made the police so certain they had the killers? CBS reported:

"The key evidence: a statement that Jessie Misskelley gave them. In it, he said he saw Damien and Damien's best friend, Jason, abuse the three boys in a devil worshipping ritual."

Despite a lack of solid evidence, and claims that did not match up to the murder, the three were still arrested.

The turning point:

In 1996, "Paradise Lost" was released. An HBO documentary about this bizarre case. This really exposed the case in a way that raised a lot of questions.

"That is probably what has saved my life. I really do believe without that footage of the trials, the state would've probably already killed me by now."

What else led to the release of these three men? Steven Braga, the attorney for Damien Echols said:

"I think there were three turning points that helped make this resolution possible, three new things: A lot of new evidence, DNA evidence ... new witnesses, different things coming to fore. A new hearing, the Arkansas Supreme Court gave these young men a new hearing last November in a ruling that was unprecedented and that hearing was coming up in December so there was some pressure there."

CBS News also reported in the same 2010 article that The West Memphis Three were actively supported by people who could really make a difference, like Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and actor Johnny Depp.

"I'm here because I firmly, truly, 1000 percent believe that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley are totally innocent," Depp tells CBS News.

Anyhow, the three alleged murderers were released yesterday after a judge agreed to a plea deal.

"The three were placed on 10 years' probation and if they re-offend they could be sent back to prison for 21 years," Prosecutor Scott Ellington said.

So now these people are free, where is the justice for these young boys? Are there Satan worshipping murderers running free?