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Ash Browne 
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Re: “Damien Echols' statement on plea deal…

by Ash Browne on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 12:13pm
Rifling thru a 2nd hand bookshop in Takoradi, Ghana of all places while on an extended holiday/Volunteering teaching trip - I stumbled across a paperback book that (on reading the back cover) I at first did not buy, then on a 2nd visit decided to take the plunge & acquaint myself with the leering youth(s) on the cover & the salacious but almost incomprehensible subject matter.

On completing the book 'Blood of the innocents' my initial viewpoint was not a swinging veer to the call of "Innocent!" but more a sad, disturbed view of dissaffected youths in the South, who - fueled by drink, drugs, heavy metal, the occult, & most of all - boredom, may or may not have committed a crime some have called 'Satanic', but which could really have occurred in any poor, downtrodden trailer park back corner of anywhere with the wrong conditions…

No need to outline the Story & grim findings of a crime that infamously occurred on May 5th 1993, as there are countless Websites & other books ('Devil's Knot' by Mara Leveritt) & infamous docu-movies like 'Paradise Lost' & it's follow up Revelations (1996 & 2000 respectively) but before I had seen any of these I conducted my own Research on the Internet - reading pretty much anything & everything (including users forums) interesting I could find on the case - pro & con.

There are many Supporters today - almost 20 years later since the 3 accused have been incarcerated & 1 on death row, who believe whole-heartedly in their Innocence & calls of 'Police Corruption', 'Railroaded' & a biased court & jury have blighted the case in it's history, but taking a balanced, not-judgmental view while looking at the research would lead any sane person, I believe, to come to their own conclusion looking at the evidence, or lack of any, on it's own…

What really clinched the case for the Police & led to the arrest & incarceration of the 'West Memphis 3' was the confession(s) of 1 Jessie Misskelley jr, a 17 year old hick from Arkansas, West Memphis - a town famous for nothing more than being across the River from the more famous Memphis, Tennessee. MissKelley was questioned by police for a number of hours & then eventually confessed (ie. 'something extraordinary happened' (sic) 'Blood of the Innocents'). His 3 confessions are Available for all to hear & read on the Internet:

Defenders argue he was coerced & pressured into making these Statements after being held in Police Custody for several hours before a taped interview was made, therefore suggesting Jessie was mistreated or blackmailed into giving a confession to secure his Release or gain the Reward Money. But Please, really - What kind of Idiot would grass themselves & THEIR FRIENDS up thinking this would somehow free everybody? Listen to the transcripts of the Interviews & judge for yourselves if Jessie sounds 'coerced' or under pressure or 'scared' to the point he would confess to being witness to 3 Murders he did not commit. Why would he randomly pick Damien Echols & Jason Baldwin as cohorts over anybody else? Are people suggesting the police somehow fed him these names & he chose to incriminate his friends in a crime they all did not commit? What would be the point?

Much has been made of the fact that Jessie was a (quote) "dipshit" who had an IQ of less than 72 & was 'easily led' by the police into making 3 'false' confessions, with details pertaining to the crime that only someone who was there would know. Defenders have again pointed out the fact that Misskelley got the time wrong of the assault - first 12.00 noon then 5, then 6, then 7 then 8… What he does state clearly is that it was "getting dark" when it happened… Jessie admitted that he was very drunk to the point of being sick on Evan Williams Whiskey, so therefore, coupled with the effect that he was a little 'slow', adds to the fact that he probably didn't remember exactly what time it was…

If you look on the other side of someone who is a little slow, easily-led & impressionable - it's quite easy to see how the "dipshit' Jessie Misskelley was coerced, not by the police, but by his mates Damien & Jason into committing the crime in the first place.. Why else would he name them if they weren't involved? What did he, or they, have to gain by falsely incriminating someone?

Defenders, Dan Stidham particularly, have pointed out Jessie's apparent low IQ & how he was an easy target for the West Memphis police - What? - into making 3 separate confessions (one after he was convicted on the way to prison in the back of a van) of a crime you DID NOT commit? Makes no sense - even for the lowest, dipshittest person on earth.

Sometimes - the dim kid, the one at the back of the class who becomes popular through being a joker or having fights (which Jessie did, he was a keen Wrestler) makes an excellent mate or compliant cohort. They are easily led & will do things without thinking.. Like smashing coke bottles with his fist to show how tough he was (one of Jessie's habits, despite being only 5 foot tall).
In terms of telling the Truth also - someone who is considered a little slow (as opposed to full-blown mentally retarded which he is not) is more LIKELY to tell the Truth - not because they are pressured or forced to falsely confess, but because they don't have the mental capability or cleverness which is required to be a good LIAR. Echols did, whether he was guilty or not, & Baldwin did not even testify in court - which suggests equally he could be GUILTY or innocent. Why if you have nothing to hide would you not take the stand? Surely you would be ANGRY as hell if you were falsley accused of such a serious crime you did not commit & were facing the death penalty or the rest of your life in prison…

Ambivalence or nonchalance would at best describe the attitudes of Echols & Baldwin throughout 'Paradise Lost' (1996) while Misskelley remains his jovial, southern hick self. It's actually easier to believe Misskelley was there & telling the truth, but now feels regret & guilt, hence the confession(s) & apparent weeping spells on the night of the murders… Misskelley also has his head slumped, almost trying to hide under the desk throughout his trial, suggesting not innocence or false accusation, but something else… A guilty conscience? Embarrassment. A desire to get this done & over with, as, in his own words, he "wants something done" about it. His lawyer repeatedly draws attention to the fact that Misskelley was held in Custody for hours before the first taped confession without a parent or lawyer & that anything could have happened, but by then it was too late to retract. Jessie admitted several times (& apparently still does), confessed on tape & did not contend his guilt. He was sentenced to life (40 years) plus two terms of 20 years each.

Echols & Baldwin were tried together. While Echols took the stand, Baldwin did not. Much has been made of the fact that there is NO EVIDENCE that links the West Memphis Three with the heinous crime committed on 5th May 1993. But lack of any forensic evidence does not on the other hand mean they DIDN'T DO IT.

Circumstantial evidence was used, as well as MissKelley's confession in their trial (unofficially but it was widely known of). The fact that the 3 murdered boys were found hog-tied & naked in WATER (with their clothes tied around sticks in the water also) not surprisingly washed away any incriminating evidence they left behind…
If they did do it - then they were clever or lucky enough not to leave any of there DNA behind by burying everything in the stream in the ditch in the woods. Of course there would be no DNA or bloodstains anywhere, or anyway of determining the wounds on the bodies after they had been submerged in Water all night, leaving it anyone's guess as to who committed the murders… Also, it has been claimed blood from the castration of Christopher Byers would have been profuse - but again, this is in the woods, by a muddy man-made stream/ditch - it's quite conceivable every trace of the guilty would be washed away - & also any evidence of rape, blood or bodily fluids… Laughably - some are now claiming the obvious castration of Christopher Byers' penis & testicles were caused by a snapping Turtle. A very hungry & specific snapping turtle I would say…

Baldwin allegedly confessed one-to-one with Michael Carson, a petty burglar who apparently had nothing to gain by testifying, where he admitted "putting the balls in his mouth & sucking blood from the penis". This was pretty much all the evidence there was against Baldwin - apart form the fact he was Echols best friend & also liked listening to Metallica & wore black T-shirts. Not a crime in itself, but his disgusting straw-like Mullet was. "Just look at them - they look like punks!" said Pam Hobbs, the mother of murdered Stevie Branch. This didn't help their cause. By the time of the trial - Baldwin's bad Mullet had been trimmed to a neat schoolboy-cut cradling his rat-like but apparent sweet & innocent face. He looked pretty incapable of murder I admit, but couple him with a couple of mates, all drinking & smoking & egging each other one like teenagers do, it's not hard to imagine what could have happened… 'Guilty by Association' was Baldwin's defense teams tagline - but why the Hell was he tried with Damien & encouraged to seek the 5th Amendment by not even testifying… He didn't help his cause by not saying anything - if anything this makes someone look guilty as if they have something to hide, as opposed to desperate cries of "I'm Innocent". None of the 3 apparently had a solid alibi as to where they were on that particular night, around the time of the Murders. This doesn't mean they did it. It just suggests that if someone could 100% have clarified or shown on CCTV they were somewhere else at the time, it would have helped their cause. Of course a Mother or parent would always defend their kid under any circumstances & say they were at home or with them at the time, as who would want to admit their child had been privy to such a heinous, perverse & disgusting act - but which could also be viewed as the misfortunate egging-on game of 3 seriously disaffected, drunk, bored, outsider teenagers with nothing better to do…

The Ambivalence & nonchalance of the three accused also suggests a not complete absolvment of guilt - as surely you would profess loudly if you were innocent, have a decent alibi & not stare at the floor or look around with a sullen expression (or in MissKelley's case slumped head on the desk) if you had nothing to hide. Jason Baldwin looks positively scared throughout, like a Rabbit caught in the headlights knowing it's f**ked. On being sentenced to death by lethal injection - Damien stares blankly blinking ahead with no expression. He does not fall to the floor screaming or crying or shouting "I'm Innocent!" On being sentenced to death for a crime you did not commit, surely would provoke some kind of reaction. On being sentenced, all three are motionless & expressionless, no mean feat considering one has been sentenced to death & the other 2 life (without parole).

Damien did not help himself when questioned about his Occult leanings. When asked if he was familiar with Alistair Crowley, he replied he was familiar with who he was, but had not read any of his writings, despite a book of Crowley's being found in his possession. When it was then proved Damien had written (in a secret occult alphabet) his name, Baldwin's & Crowley's names on a piece of paper while incarcerated did not help his cause… Being interested in the Occult alone does not mean Echols was guilty of the Murders, but he did not deny his interest, & the fact that he had also been committed to a psychiatric ward & was on medication (as well as his apparent love of sacrificing dogs & other animals) did not look good or help his cause.

The real clincher for some though was Damien's statement of "People will remember me forever - I'll be like the West Memphis Boogieman. Even after I'm dead Parents will tell their children not to look under the bed in case Damien is there…" is not an admission of guilt as such, but more of a resignation to his fate, & he says it with a smile on his face. Surely he would have protested his innocence, rather than cock-handedly smoke a cigarette & smirk how he "enjoyed" the attention bestowed upon him.

Of course now, Damien & Baldwin protest their innocence wholeheartedly, & with much celebrity support. They are lucky no evidence linking them directly to the crimes was left (or washed away) & without Misskelley's confessions they might not even be in prison at all. MissKelley was apparently offered a deal & more lenient sentence if he testified against his former friends at their trial, but being a good ol' southern boy & not wanting to snitch on his mates, he did not. No-one likes a grass, & in MissKelley's simple mind he probably thought he'd already done society a favor by 'fessing up to the cops. He was probably too dumb to even realise his statements were begin recorded & would be played back to his detriment in court. It seems Misskelley trusted the cops more than even his own lawyers - who repeatedly beg him not to make a statement as it may harm his defense numerous times, but he does so anyway. Why would you do this in front of your lawyer if you were being harassed or pressured into making a false statement? That's what lawyers are for - to tell you not to say anything.

On watching 'Paradise Lost' it seems the defense lawyers did a pretty good job, or as best they could considering the circumstances & MissKelley's unhelpful confessions, which were not allowed to be used in evidence against Echols & Baldwin, but which were shown to the jury anyway - obviously swaying their decision. They probably could not have convicted them otherwise. The whole case has the air of a good old traditional CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE witch-hunt, except in this case the circumstances around the 3 & their previous behaviour points to a strong culpability (& evidence of having frequented the woods & getting drunk & having orgies there..) Maybe they were no different to any other disaffected teens, looking for the next thrill, egging each other on, trying to impress each other with their actions. Overpowering 3 8-year olds was not exactly a fair fight - & the oppressor / oppressed Ratio is easy to see & understand how it happened. 3 young boys, 3 older teens.

Damien it seems was living too fast, too young. As well as being intelligent, interested in the Occult, an outsider but seemingly popular with his 'weirdness' who was well aware of drinking, smoking & f**king - his girlfriend Domini Teer was pregnant with his child which she bore during the trial. Added to his 'mental problems' & incarceration in a mental home, as well as his hobby of killing & dissecting Animals (a la Jeffrey Dahmer) & general depressed, anti-social demeanor & frequent run-ins with the police, made him a prime candidate, but also one who thru no great stretch of the imagination COULD HAVE committed these crimes aided & abetted by best-friend Jason Baldwin (the alleged penis remover & eater of testicles) & local Forrest Gump dipshit Jessie Misskelley. Echols never at the time flat-out denied his involvement, except on the stand when he simply answered "No - I did not" when asked 3 times if he had killed each boy. But of course he would say that. He was, & is, clever enough (unlike Misskelley) to lie under pressure. It seems if anything, Echols relished the attention - he had obviously always wanted to be someone - & thru this heinous crime - indeed did & has become World famous, but for all that wrong reasons.. He now waits to die on death row, while numerous appeals & support groups have sprung up protesting their innocence merely on the fact that there was NO FORENSIC EVIDENCE to link them to the crimes. But look at the circumstances surrounding the case & you smell a Rat. All 3 lived in the town, were friends & frequented the woods. They listened to Heavy Metal (Slayer, Metallica - all snakes in skulls & prophets of doom & death), dressed in black (so what?) & apparently attended frequent 'orgies' or esbats in the woods (not unlike a great deal of teens who are experimenting with drink, drugs & sex for the first time).

If anything, the West Memphis Three are Victims too. Victims of a stupid, misfortunate game that went too far & horribly wrong for all involved, but reeks of a teenage act of uncontrolled aggression - stemming from years of suppression, alienation & general boredom & dissatisfaction with the town they lived in & it's surroundings… The early 90's no-hopers club, the Music of the day was grunge, everything was about death & debt & general dissatisfaction with life & nothing to look forward to. NO FUTURE. & in West Memphis, unless you had eyes on becoming a car Mechanic, this was probably true… I'm sure they all deeply Regret to this day what happened - YOU ARE NOT THE SAME PERSON YOU WERE AS A TEENAGER 20 years ago (16, 17, 18 respectively) but realise (due to their luck & good fortune) that in the event of absolutely NO DNA or forensic evidence linking them to it, their only hope is to DENY RESPONSIBILITY completely in the hope of being set free one day…

So, in conclusion - do I believe the West Memphis 3 are guilty? YES I DO. Why? Because Circumstantial evidence surrounds them & never at any real point did any of them DENY their involvement at the time, just stared & looked around blankly (& guiltily). Even watching them shackled up at the end of Paradise lost, they do not look particularly scared, more resigned to their fate…

Do I believe they should be set free & Echols death penalty over-turned? YES. Why? Because for almost 20 years they have languished in Maximum Security prisons for a crime they may or may not have committed as teenagers, which I'm sure they are all deeply Sorry for, but will never admit even if it meant a reprieve or lower sentence by grassing on each other. People do change & after 20 years (I am of the same age as the West Memphis 3) everybody deserves a 2nd chance. Maybe not a 45 year old child rapist, but these 3 were stupid, poor disaffected teenagers with no hope, no prospects & nothing better to do. Drunk & trying to impress each other with their 'evilness', that 'how far can you go notion?" I believe the attack was not planned, but a chance encounter which was a culmination of all the bad, sad & mad influences in the lives of all three. In the case of Echols & Baldwin, they were creative, artistically-talented 'Trailer Trash' born on the poverty line from broken homes, who in any other circumstances may have gone onto greater things: Echols a Writer & Baldwin an Artist. MissKelley on the other hand, I'll say it again, was an honest, generally well-liked, easily led, compliant "dipshit" fond of drinking & fighting who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time with two even more socially f**ked up youths. That's why he 'fessed up - he was the least culpable of the 3, but in witnessing, not doing anything to stop it, & capturing & beating Michael Moore for Echols & Baldwin to finish off, he confessed probably through a guilty conscience - & because he could live with himself knowing he didn't actually do the damage that killed the 3 boys (he left the scene early). As well as Baldwin's apparent removal of Christopher Byers penis & testicles, which he then allegedly put in his mouth & sucked (again another twisted daring schoolboy 'prank' gone horribly wrong, 'Lord of the Flies' anyone?) it seems Echols was fond of Blondes, as in Misskelley's statement, he apparently sodomized Stevie Branch as well as sticking his 'thing' in 1 or more of their mouths & instigating fellatio. Who did exactly what may never be known, but they are pretty detailed & lurid descriptions from the mouth of someone who is apparently "mentally retarded" & can barely remember his own name or what time it is…

So - FREE THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE? YES. When? They have served their time & would be free in England by now (a la Robert Thompson & John Venables) Due to the circumstances surrounding the case, the age of the accused at the time & their lucky lack of evidence - they tick all the boxes for a classic 'MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE' but that does not mean that they DIDN'T do it. I believe after all this time, they should be given a 2nd chance as I am sure they have suffered enough in prison already & deserve a chance at freedom. Only they, & they alone, know what really happened & that is something they will have to live with for the rest of their natural lives, guilty or not.

Copyright: Ash Browne. 2011

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Ash Browne on 08/31/2011 at 8:36 PM


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