New hearings ordered in W. Memphis 3 case | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New hearings ordered in W. Memphis 3 case

Posted By on Thu, Nov 4, 2010 at 9:06 AM

NEW HEARINGS: Ordered for, from left, Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley
  • wm3.org
  • NEW HEARINGS: Ordered for, from left, Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley

The state Supreme Court has ordered a new circuit court evidentiary hearing on Damien Echols' appeal of his conviction and death sentence in the West Memphis Three case. It issued similar orders for co-defendants Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, both serving life sentences.

The court said Circuit Judge David Burnett had erred in dismissing their requests to consider DNA evidence and other exculpatory evidence without a hearing. The ruling is a key interpretation of the state's relatively new DNA statute and a broad one. The court said the circuit judge must consider not only the DNA evidence the defendants want to submit, but any other exculpatory evidence, including evidence not presented in the original trials.

The court said Burnett had too narrowly interpreted the law passed since Echols' conviction that allows use of DNA evidence to establish ground for reversal of convictions. DNA testing found no trace of Echols' or two co-defendants' DNA in evidence submitted in the case. Some DNA of others was found, however. This isn't absolute proof of innocence, but that isn't the standard intended by the law, the Supreme Court ruled.

In a footnote, the Supreme Court also opened the door for Echols to raise his argument about juror misconduct in his case. A juror has told a lawyer that he told other jurors about a co-defendant's supposed confession that was inadmissible in Echols' trial. The order means the defendants will be able to raise, in conjunction with the absence of DNA, all exculpatory evidence that jurors should have been able to hear in their convictions in the 1993 slaying of three West Memphis children. Baldwin also was granted his request for further scientific testing of hair samples.

Here's the Echols opinion. Here's the Misskelley ruling. Here's the Baldwin ruling. The court was unanimous, with Justices Ronald Sheffield and Robert Brown and Chief Justice Jim Hannah writing the Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin opinions, respectively.

The further good news for all defendants is that Burnett, consistenty pro-prosecution in the case, will no longer be judge. He's been elected to the state Senate. He is no longer able to adjudicate the case, the Supreme Court said. The court directed the administrative judge of the circuit to reassign the case according to the district's assignment plan. Judge Ralph Wilson's office said he'd be reviewing the order and the schedule of 11 judges in the circuit before making a decision.

Atttorney General Dustin McDaniel, his arguments shredded in this particular ruling, says his office will do its duty and continue to defend the jury verdicts in these cases. Truthfully, he can do no other. But he perhaps could be watchful about his bloodthirsty quotient in the weeks ahead. These are badly flawed cases, thanks to misconduct and prejudice from the land from whence he comes.

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Favorite

Comments (14)

Showing 1-14 of 14

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-14 of 14

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • One dead, two wounded in early morning shooting

    KARK's Susanne Brunner reports that one person has been killed and two wounded in a shooting shortly after 1 a.m. this morning near Roosevelt Road and Cross Street.
    • Apr 17, 2019
  • Reality bites at Little Rock City Hall; spending must be cut

    A followup to Rebekah Hall's earlier report on Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.'s announcement that cuts will be necessary in the city budget in part to pay for "priorities," such as his desire to expand the police force, but also to deal with the reality often mentioned here of stagnant to decling city sales tax revenue. Some quick ideas on that:
    • Apr 17, 2019
  • Speaking of hard times in newspapers: Democrat-Gazette's move to digital

    Word continues to filter in of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's pullback from statewide circulation of a print daily edition of the newspaper — the latest from the Hot Springs area, just 50 or so miles down the road from Little Rock. Subscribers there were told home delivery of a print paper would end in May.
    • Apr 16, 2019
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation