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: , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

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

Readers also liked…

  • In Little Rock, Marco Rubio sells American exceptionalism

    This is Rubio's axiomatic answer to Donald Trump's insistence that he and he alone will Make America Great Again: America is the greatest, always has been.
    • Feb 22, 2016
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders becomes White House press secretary

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders, daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is the new White House press secretary.
    • Jul 21, 2017
  • Judge Griffen: Why black lives matter

    Another few words from Judge Wendell Griffen growing from the controversy over the sale of Black Lives Matter T-shirts at the state black history museum — removed by the administration and restored after protests from Griffen and others stirred by a story in the Arkansas Times:
    • Mar 13, 2016

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation