Arkansas Supreme Court Orders Review of 1993 Capital Case

On November 4, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered evidentiary hearings to consider whether newly analyzed DNA evidence should result in a new trial for Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, who were convicted of the 1993 murders of three West Memphis Cub Scouts. Echols was sentenced to death and the other defendants received life.  The results of the DNA tests on evidence from the crime scene excluded Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley as the sources. The high court also ordered an examination of claims of misconduct by the jurors. According to defense lawyers, Misskelley’s confession was not introduced at Echols' trial, but the jurors considered it anyway. The state Supreme Court had previously upheld Echols' conviction in 1996, when DNA testing was not available because of technical limitations. The case of the "West Memphis Three," a name used by their supporters, has attracted attention from the national media and celebrities. In August, a rally in Little Rock to support Echols featured actor Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks.

(J. Zeman, "Arkansas Supreme Court orders new hearing for Echols," Northwest Arkansas Times (online), November 4, 2010).  See Innocence.