Hearing set in West Memphis Three case | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hearing set in West Memphis Three case

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Lonnie Soury, a spokesman for defendants in the West Memphis Three murder case said Circuit Judge David Laser of Jonesboro has scheduled a hearing beginning Oct. 1 and lasting up to three weeks to consider evidence that the three are entitled to new trials based on DNA evidence and jury misconduct.

All the details on the jump.

Here's the judge's order.

(Little Rock, Arkansas- March 17, 2011) In the Court’s First Scheduling Order, issued by Second Judicial District Circuit Judge David N. Laser, the Judge ordered an evidentiary hearing for up to three weeks (continuous) between October 1, 2011 and December 15, 2011. He further ordered that requests for DNA testing be made by motion within 15 days of the order issued March 14, 2011. He asks that all DNA and forensic testing ordered by the court to be completed and back in the court within 90 days. Concerning the juror misconduct issue, Laser asks attorneys and prosecutors to submit briefs by May 1, 2011.

Lorri Davis, Echols’s wife and co-founder of Arkansas Take Action, said, "We are very pleased that Judge David Laser has ordered a three-week continuous evidentiary hearing to review evidence of the innocence of Damien, Jason and Jessie. He clearly wants this case to move as expeditiously as possible. I am hopeful that upon a full review of the evidence there will finally be justice by years end. Every day in solitary confinement for Damien, and maximum-security imprisonment for Jason and Jessie, is a day in hell."

Among the issues the court will be asked to review in establishing whether Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley deserve a new trial include DNA evidence, both existing and new material to be tested, alibi evidence, false confession evidence, juror misconduct evidence, forensic evidence covering cause of death and cause of injuries (animal predation), new witness statements, motive evidence, night of murder evidence, etc.

In the brief filed on behalf of Damien Echols, the attorneys requested that the court enable additional DNA testing, in addition to the existing “undisputed” DNA evidence. “The Arkansas Supreme Court also remanded for this Court’s consideration a pending request by Baldwin and Misskelley for DNA testing of certain hairs and animal hairs. There are additional items which Echols would like to request be DNA tested, or scientifically tested otherwise as noted, now as well.”

· The victims’ clothing, and shoes and shoelaces should be DNA tested.

· All remaining biological extract should be DNA tested.

· Various items of physical evidence from the crime scene should be checked for prints and DNA tested.
· All hair retrieved from the crime scene should be DNA tested.

· The white sheets in which the victims’ bodies were transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office, and the white paper on which the victims’ clothing was dried before being examined, should be DNA tested.

· Certain undigested food-like substances found in the digestive tract of Stevie Branch during his autopsy.

Juror Misconduct

According to Echols’s brief, filed prior to Laser’s order, “The record before this Court already contains evidence showing that jurors, and in particular the jury foreman, improperly considered and discussed the “confession” by Jessie Misskelley in finally deciding on their verdict against Echols and Baldwin. In addition, the record contains a sealed affidavit from a prominent local attorney containing previously unavailable evidence of misconduct by the jury foreman both before and during the trial. In the course of conversations with the attorney-affiant, the jury foreman disclosed his intense interest in the Misskelley confession and the manner in which he would place his knowledge of that forbidden matter before other jurors in order to ensure that the defendants were convicted at trial. The jury foreman apparently did so because the prosecution’s proof at trial was “scanty” and “extremely circumstantial.”

This is also precisely the type of evidence that the Court should, indeed must, consider as part of its overall determination of whether the newly supplemented record before the Court would necessarily leave an impartial new juror with a reasonable doubt as to Echols’s guilt.”

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