‘What I did was wrong’ 

The evolution of a critical story.

Vicki Hutcheson began backtracking from her testimony within months after the trials’ conclusion. Her accounts have changed over time. Hutcheson made her first conflicting statement five months after the trials, when she still faced possible charges of perjury. At that time, she told an attorney and a private investigator that, while she felt she’d gone to an “esbat,” or witches’ meeting, she had been drunk that night and could not recall whether Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley had gone with her. By the late 1990s, realizing that the statute of limitations on perjury might have expired, Hutcheson answered an interviewer’s question on a web site concerned with the case, wm3.org. When asked about “her story” to police, Hutcheson replied: “Well, I’m really concerned about legal issues right now with it. But basically, I said what the West Memphis police wanted me to say. And that was that I went to the meeting. The esbat meeting. It was all their stories.” She added, “I just want to tell Jessie and Jason and Damien that I’m sorry.” When asked for this article why anyone should believe her now, Hutcheson replied: “If they knew me now, they’d know that God is so important in my life, there is no way I could lie again. Or steal. Or do a lot of the things I used to do. “For the first time since this all went down, I have a feeling of comfort. I feel better. What I did was wrong, and I hate that I ever did it. And I think that, if I had to do it over again, I would let them send me to prison, like they were saying. But back then, I was too scared.” Today, Hutcheson lives with friends in Northwest Arkansas, caring for their daughter who has cerebral palsy. But she also has continuing problems with the law. She was jailed for in September in Benton County and her probation revoked after a contempt of court citation. She was issued a ticket for a misdemeanor charge of theft by receiving and ticketed by the West Fork police for driving without a license. Hutcheson believes she is being harassed for speaking up about the West Memphis case. Coincidence or not, she was arrested 48 hours after the West Memphis police learned this article was being prepared. Meanwhile, the three men who were convicted partly on Hutcheson’s testimony continue to press their appeals. Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin both have claimed ineffective assistance of counsel and have sought the retesting of DNA in the case. Results on that retesting are expected this fall. Lawyers for Damien Echols are also awaiting results of those tests. At the same time, however, they are preparing an appeal for Echols in federal court, since the Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled that he has exhausted most of his state appeals.

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