The West Memphis Three: Did Satanists Murder 3 Boys? by Fiona Steel Blog by VampCora RLE FE 2 xtremesaint
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Fiona Steel is a former marketing and business administrator whose writing talents include writing top-selling, marketing and training video scripts for international companies as well as writing training manuals on business skills and computer software. With a teaching and psychology background, Fiona developed an interest in crime writing from the perspective of the psychological aspects of the criminal mind. Her particular interest is the woman’s involvement in criminal matters, both victim and perpetrator. Fiona lives in Queensland, Australia with her writer husband and three children.
Transcripts: Edward Mallettí's post Rule 37 hearing argument, which he submitted to Judge Burnett in the Circuit Court of Craighead County, Arkansas, No. CR93450 & 450A, State of Arkansas – Plaintiff/Respondent vs Damien Wayne Echols – Defendant/Petitioner Post Rule 37 Hearing argument Brent Davis' post Rule 37 hearing brief, which he submitted to Judge Burnett, in the Circuit Court of Craighead County, Arkansas, No. CR 93450 & 450A Damien Echols – Petitioner vs State of Arkansas – Respondent Respondent's Post-hearing Brief Judge David Burnett's 6 page Rule 37 order in the Circuit Court of Craighead County Western District No. CR 93450 & 450A State of Arkansas – Plaintiff vs Damien Echols – Defendant Order Detective Mike Allen's report on his interview with a book store owner about Damien Echols's book buying habits Document, written, but unsigned by Detective Sgt. Mike Allen of the WMPD dated 12/31/93. Transcript of signed statement of Lt. James Sudbury of the WMPD regarding a telephone conversation with Steve Jones, a Juvenile Officer for Crittenden County, Arkansas. Transcript of John Mark Byers's interview. By Gary Gitchell and Bryn Ridge. January 26th 1994. Transcript of WMPD interview with John Mark Byers. Bryn Ridge and James Sudbury conducted the interview on 19 May 1993. MISSING PERSON'S REPORT FILED BY JOHN MARK BYERS According to West Memphis Police Department Offense Incident Report, Complaint No: 1541, regarding victim Christopher Byers, dated 5-5-93, filed by Mark Byers Transcript of Melissa Byers Interview According to handwritten notes taken by Detectives Hester & Allen of the West Memphis PD during an Interview with Melissa Byers on 5-25-93 at 9:00a.m. (Melissa Byers' nationality is listed as: American) Transcript of Brent Turvey's profiling report submitted to Defence Attorneys. Psychological Profile and Forensic Analysis. By Brent Turvey. MS Books: Criminal Profiling An Introduction to Behavioural Evidence Analysis Brent E. Turvey, M.S. Academic Press 1999
UPDATES MAY 1999 TO JANUARY 2001 According to a news item on the WM3.org website, John Mark Byers, the stepfather of victim Christopher Byers was imprisoned after having his parole revoked for attempting to sell drugs to an undercover police officer in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The hearing was held on May 26, 1999 in Sharp County where he was found guilty of violating the conditions of his parole and sentenced to serve 96 months in the Department of Corrections facility at Pine Bluff, Arkansas. On March 31, 2000, the Arkansas Times reported that Edward Mallett, counsel representing Damien Echols, had accused Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee of making false statements regarding his clients’ case. Mallett told the paper that a false statement regarding DNA evidence in the case was made via an e-mail issued from the Governors’ office. The message was sent in response to one of the many hundreds of e-mails sent to the governor's website after the repeated airing of Paradise Lost: Revelations, the second of two films about the case which were shown on HBO the same month. Many of the messages received were from “concerned viewers” who believed that Echols, Baldwin and Miskelley were innocent. The message in question was sent to the governors’ website from a viewer asking Huckabee to “look into this case.” Teena Watkins, the governors’ liaison for criminal justice affairs, replied to the message on March 23. The reply read: “The Governor has received your e-mail and has asked me to respond. As the Chief of the Executive Branch of government, the Governor has no investigative authority. He cannot re-open the case nor have any investigation done. “I do want to assure you that DNA testing was done, and that a match was found among the men convicted. I am sure you realize that Paradise Lost and its sequel are fictionalized accounts based upon a true story. These shows are not documentaries or news stories.” Mallett disagreed stating: “no match was found linking any of the defendants and any evidence found at the scene or on the persons of any of the little boys.” As a result the Arkansas Times placed several phone calls to Watkins to confirm that she had sent the message, but the calls were not returned. The following day Rex Nelson, the governor's spokesman, was contacted for a response but no answers were forthcoming One of the producers of Paradise Lost, told the paper that he did get through to Watkins at the governor's office but she told him she could not comment and hung up. Brent Davis, the prosecutor for Arkansas's Second Judicial District who is representing the state, also refused to comment but added that he “did not know where the governor's office might have gotten its information.” The article also stated that, “according to trial records, four pieces of evidence were submitted to laboratories for DNA testing. All three defendants volunteered to have samples of their DNA taken. However, during their trials, no testimony was presented establishing a link between their DNA and DNA discovered on any of the items tested.” The second issue, the description of the HBO films as being “fictionalized accounts” and “not documentaries,” was refuted by film maker Joe Berlinger who pointed out that “HBO billed the films as documentaries, reviewers internationally have regarded them as such, and that the first film, which contained actual footage from the trials, received an Emmy in the category ‘Outstanding Achievement in Informational Programming.’” Berlinger, criticized the statement from the governor's office as “shocking” and “emblematic of the corruption of truth that has epitomized this case.” On Sunday May 22, 2000, the Jonesboro Sun reported that an “Order of Interim Suspension,” the precursor of disbarment proceedings, had been instigated against Jason Baldwin’s Defense Attorney, Robin Wadley for “professional misconduct.” The article did not provide any details of the alleged misconduct. On September 2, 2000, The WM3.org website reported that John Mark Byers was released from prison after serving just 15 months of his original 96 month sentence. No reason was given for his early release. On January 17, 2001, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that Lisa Fugett Sakevicius, the chief criminalist at the Arkansas State Crime Lab had died. Sakevicius had originally given expert testimony on fiber analysis during the Echols/Baldwin trial in her capacity as the fiber expert for the State and told the court that the fiber “evidence” she had examined was “inconclusive.” UPDATE - NEW BOOK ON THE WM3 As the controversy continues over the case of these three young men, Jason, Jessie and Damien, another book was published at the end of 2002, seemingly launched from the questions raised in HBO documentaries and offering what author Mara Leveritt claims is "the true story." In Devil's Knot, Leveritt again lays out the case of the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. However, her clear bias detracts from the book's larger impact. It would have been better to tell the story in the way it unfolded, without commentary, and let the reader decide. She chooses instead to interpret for the reader those things that seem significant for her own ideas about the case. In addition, she makes the defendants into innocents, their defenders into tireless heroes, and everyone on the other side into backwoods ignoramuses who performed inept investigations, exaggerated evidence and covered up the crimes of another suspect. There's no doubt that we have a judge in this case who acted like a referee deciding in favor of only one team, that we have a state legal system that was equally blind to serious legal problems, and that we have serious flaws in both the investigation and prosecution. However, not all of those who speak out for the defendants are without flaws. We have a criminal profiler, for example, who interprets the pathology evidence of crime scene photos well outside his expertise and who has been as much criticized for his self-promotion as has the prosecution's "self-styled" expert in satanic crimes. Leveritt goes after one but does not question the other. Her seeming reluctance to examine both sides equally hurts her case and gives the impression that she's writing this book as an activist rather than as a journalist. To review, the three victims were battered and murdered on May 5, 1993 (one sexually mutilated), and three other boys were arrested and convicted, based principally on the confession of one. Everything hinged on Jessie Miskelley Jr.'s trial, in which his confession was clearly shown to be inconsistent and flawed, although the jury was still persuaded it was authentic and not coerced. While Leveritt says that they did not get to hear the full testimony of the defense's key witness on coerced confessions, Dr. Richard Ofshe, the trial records that she reports indicate that the jury certainly did hear his ideas about the techniques used to get the confession. He quoted from a study in the Stanford Law Review in which juries had convicted an innocent person in 350 cases, and 19 percent of those convictions were based on false confession. He also described the techniques of coercion used to obtain false confessions. That Miskelley did not have a lawyer present was a violation of his rights as a juvenile, yet this got through the system anyway, even on appeal, and kept the machine rolling into the trial of Jason and Damien. The case was weakest against Jason, who had no criminal record and only a superficial association with Damien, but who Miskelley claimed had been the most brutal of the three. No one quite knows why Miskelley felt so compelled to provide such graphic detail of the brutality inflicted on the victims, and his conclusion after years in prison that "if you didn't do it, don't ever admit that you did," is incomprehensibly idiotic under the circumstances, but Leveritt makes no comment. Yet the prosecution and jury seemed most bent on locking up Damien, who had a professed interest in witchcraft, who had admitted to drinking blood, and who preferred to read horror novels. He was also bipolar and took medication to alleviate depression. The second trial focused on the alleged participation of the "killers" in the dark arts, or the occult, rather than on any telling physical evidence. It's true that a suspect knife was found buried in a lake near Damien's house (Leveritt hints that it was planted by investigators) and that some fibers seemed consistent enough to link the defendants to the victims, but the case against them was made primarily on the fabricated testimonies of people who later changed their stories, who were seeking reward money or who were shown to have been lying. All three young men were convicted and Damien was sentenced to die by lethal injection. Since these convictions, many voices have been raised in protest over the investigation and trial proceedings, and in support of the convicted boys, claiming a travesty of justice. An activist Web site was set up on their behalf by three Californians, who continue to pursue the case. Yet despite all efforts, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the convictions. HBO produced two documentaries, airing them respectively in 1996 and 2000. The officials reacted, claiming that the program was biased and incomplete. The residents of West Memphis were duly insulted. They claimed that outsiders just did not understand, yet many of these so-called outsiders, appalled at the outright ignorance displayed in the films, flung further insults back at this seemingly self-righteous community where people still believed in a literal devil. Leveritt, an Arkansas reporter familiar with local attitudes, decided to look into both sides of the issue. She interviewed many participants, read court transcripts, and looked at the evidence that she was allowed to examine. The question she explored was one of perception: could people in modern times still be so afraid of devil worship that they would react out of fear and convict three people of murder based on no evidence? In other words, "if presumably rational processes had given way to satanic allusions, it was fair to ask both how and why such a thing had happened." Throughout the early part of the book, the spotlight is on John Mark Byers, the stepfather of one of the victims, Chris Byers. Given his checkered background, his brutality to family members, and his long list of crimes, he became a key suspect for the defense lawyers, the HBO filmmakers, and Leveritt herself. There is a strong implication in this book that he was close with the lead investigator, who was willing to overlook certain things, as well as with a judge who played an important role in the case. When Leveritt interprets his behaviors in a suspicious manner time and again, it's as if she is doing the same thing she accuses the investigators of doing: presuming guilt before he has been tried. That hurts her claim to objectivity, and by association, diminishes the impact of her thesis about the defendants. Nevertheless, the shocking problems with the investigation are persuasively laid out, along with the social hysteria during the 1980s and early 1990s about widespread organized networks of Satanists. The way the media immediately assumed that "monstrous evil" was behind the gruesome murders indicts prominent news networks and magazines as much as it does the inept justice system in Arkansas. Other potential suspects—including one who confessed--were ignored, and several officials involved appeared not only to have been unqualified for their positions, but to some extent were outright voyeurs. They seemed, as Leveritt portrays them, to take great pleasure in the salacious details that they imagined about the murders. Apparently, a psychologist who assessed the so-called "ringleader" was not nearly as alarmed. Even Damien's supposed drinking of blood from friends seemed merely an adolescent fad. Much like the hundreds of children in the McMartin Preschool case that occupied the 1980s in California, where seven people's lives were ruined because untrained social workers coached children to create false scenarios of abuse, the story told by Miskelley, who claimed that he and his two cohorts killed the three victims, was both inconsistent with the evidence and patently absurd. Yet adults wanted to believe them. Investigators also seemed to think that this confession was their best shot at closing the case. Even though Miskelley recanted at one point, the momentum was too great to let go. This book, while undermining itself in places, is a good study of the social psychology of a bad investigation, where so little means so much. Damien Echols had a perfectly good alibi, but the tug to pin this on Satan was strong in a conservative religious community like West Memphis. Damien did say some things that were taken to mean he had knowledge about the crime, so to some extent, he hurt his own case. Not only that, he adopted the air of an alienated adolescent who views himself as socially disaffected, even bad. Few jury members were charmed. However, Leveritt accepts the superficial media grouping of Damien Echols' favorite authors, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz and Stephen King. They are all labeled horror writers yet only King can truly be called that. Most of Koontz's novels emphasize the way ordinary people rise up to meet a larger-than-life bad guy and defeat him. They end on a high note. Anne Rice created universes for vampire characters, but they are more clearly in the genre of vampire romance than horror. She also has a family of witches who figured at that time in three novels, and Echols had said many times that he was interested in witchcraft in the religious sense, not in Satanism. Koontz has only one book in which a character builds an altar to Satan, and that character is destroyed. Rice has no such books. Until one understands the distinctions among these authors, and then takes the time to learn what Damien Echols liked so much about these books, there's no way to know whether and how they might have influenced him. In fact, they could have exerted a positive influence, but assumptions got made by investigators, and Leveritt does nothing to clear them up. Each time she mentions any book that Damien read, she fails to provide much background. In a trial in which so much was riding on how Damien formed his character, this lack of analysis is disappointing. In many ways, the meatiest part of this book is the section containing more than 400 references and notes. The real problems with the investigation, as well as with piecing together a coherent account, are shown in the many instances of confusion and inconsistent reporting. It's also interesting to read about the incidents that occurred during the making of the documentaries, since these happened during the legal proceedings and afterward. For example, John Mark Byers gave the filmmakers a hunting knife with blood on it that turned out to be consistent with his stepson's, who had been castrated. They turned this over to the police. However, nothing much was made of it. Similarly, the bite mark issue raised in one of the films was dealt with badly, both in the film and in this book. If there truly was an issue in which a bite mark could have exonerated the defendants, an exhumation could have been ordered to bring up the body and provide both sides with means for careful examination. As it stands, it appears to have been merely a side issue raised by a man with no training in forensic pathology and it was quickly dispensed with in the courtroom. While there is much to appreciate about how this book offers behind-the-scenes investigative details and prosecutorial strategies, the author's apparent bias gives the impression that some aspects of the story may be missing. Certainly, everyone hopes that genuinely innocent people sitting in prison will be exonerated and freed, but this book will probably fall short in having much impact toward that end.
The situation today in the West Memphis Three case is that three young men have been in prison for six years. One of the them faces death. The evidence in the case is not strong enough to support a guilty verdict, yet all of their attempts to have their case re-tried have failed. It begs the question how can this happen? Isn’t the legal system designed to protect the innocent? How can it all go so terribly wrong? The problem is much easier to identify than the solution. The problems with this case began from the moment the bodies were first discovered. Lack of experience and professionalism on the part of police at the crime scene meant that it was not properly protected and vital evidence was either destroyed or not collected at all. The failure to keep the sticks which held the boys clothing down in the creek is a prime example of this. The removal of the bodies from the creek before the medical examiner had arrived meant that more vital information was lost. The same lack of experience was witnessed in the medical examiner's failure to take the temperature of the bodies at the scene. The failure to note vital aspects of the victims’ injuries further confused the investigators perception of the crime which was already clouded by assumptions they had drawn about the situation, based not on the scientific facts before them but on cultural bias, prejudice and limited experience. Once the investigators had formed their limited view of the events surrounding the murders, they doggedly pursued any avenues which supported that view. Any information which contradicted it was quickly discarded as irrelevant. Vital information regarding the case was openly discussed by the investigators with witnesses, suspects and the media. Information which should have been known by only the offender and the police was public knowledge, severely effecting the validity of any information procured from witnesses and suspects alike. Failure to consider that the information they were receiving from potential witnesses may have been nothing more than their own information coming back to them, transformed by the processes of rumor mongering, gave them the false impression that their own interpretations were being confirmed. In their zeal to "get their man" and satisfy the community’s demand for "justice" the investigating police, knowing that their case was weak, used many questionable tactics to obtain the corroborative evidence they needed. Many witnesses were enticed to testify with the promise of reward money or leniency in other criminal matters, while others were bullied and intimidated into providing the information the police needed to support their own theories. Once the arrests were made the adversarial legal system, which sets two opposing sides against each other in a quest to win rather than reveal the truth, worked to reinforce the view of the crime as perceived by the police in the first instance. It was the defense team’s job to refute their case and cast doubt in the minds of the jury. Whichever side could tell the best story would win. In this case, the prosecution’s job was made easier by the amount of media coverage, supporting the police view of the crime, which the jury had been subjected to before the trials. The information that the jurors read in their newspapers and saw on their television, originating from police sources, reinforced the belief that three young boys had been brutally murdered as a part of some Satanic ritual. The media assumed no responsibility to investigate the truth of the information they received, it was presumed that the police information was based on real evidence and made good copy. The media "reports" confirmed an already widely held belief in the community that Satanic cults were a real threat to its safety and few would have questioned the conclusions drawn by the police. A guilty verdict was the only course that could be taken to allow this community to feel safe again, to feel that they had the power to overcome an evil and, until Jessie, Jason and Damien were arrested, nameless enemy. The fight to have the guilty verdict reversed would require that the judicial system, intrinsically bureaucratic in nature, look within itself and acknowledge its own weaknesses and shortcomings. Any admission of its own failure will only occur under extreme public pressure and outrage at the injustice which has occurred. It takes time for such a process to occur, statistically at least ten years. Jessie and Jason have a lifetime, but whether Damien’s time will run out before this slow process is complete is yet to be seen.
Prior to Jessie’s trial, Daniel Stidham had asked WMPD officers whether a criminal profile had been made on this case. He was told that none had been done. After the trial, he learned that the officers had lied to him. The FBI had presented the WMPD with a cursory profile in the form of a survey to be conducted to trace any Vietnam veterans in the area at the time of the murders. This determination was made solely on the nature of the injuries to Christopher Byers’s genitals as the FBI had not received all of the crime scene reports normally required for an in-depth criminal profile. All efforts by Stidham to procure the services of a reputable and qualified Criminal Profiler before the trials were fruitless due to the lack of resources available. It was not until after the three young men had been convicted and sentenced that he was able to secure the services of Brent Turvey, who agreed to take the case pro-bono. Brent Turvey has a Master of Science degree and is a highly qualified and experienced Forensic Scientist and Criminal Profiler. At the time he was first approached by Stidham, Turvey was based in California and had not heard about the case. Turvey’s Criminal Profile revealed many areas of physical evidence which were missed or misinterpreted by the Medical Examiner and Coroner on this case and overrules many of the assumptions made by police as to the nature of these murders. If all of this information had been available when the police initiated their investigation its outcome may have been very different. In this case, Turvey based his report on a forensic examination of all of the available crime scene and autopsy photos, a crime scene video, investigator’s reports, witness statements, family statements, and autopsy reports. The purpose of the report was to "assess the nature of the interactions between the victims and their environments as it contributed to their deaths as indicated by available forensic evidence, and the documentation regarding that evidence." After examining the evidence available, Turvey revealed a number of evidentiary points which had not been noticed during earlier examinations. The most important of these was his opinion that the patterned injuries all over Steven Branch’s face were not the result of an attack with a serrated edge knife, as was originally believed, but were, in fact, bite marks. This opinion was confirmed by Dr Thomas David, a board certified forensic odontologist, who identified the marks as being human adult bite marks. After comparing these marks with bite impressions obtained from Jessie, Jason and Damien, Dr. David gave his expert opinion that they did not match. Bite marks are extremely useful in identifying the perpetrator of a crime as they can be as unique as a fingerprint. Further suction type bite marks were also found all over Christopher Byers’s inner thigh. Also, on Christopher Byers, was the impression of the knife handle on the right side of the wound in the genital area. It is not known at the time of writing whether this impression has been compared to the two knives presented at the trial as possible murder weapons. Turvey describes these injuries as having been brought about by forceful, violent thrusts which were neither skilled nor precise, but were rageful, careless and purposeful. Another unidentified pattern compression abrasion was found on the back of Steven Branch’s head which Turvey believes is consistent with a footwear impression. He recommended that a footwear impression expert analyze the impression to make a more precise determination. At the time of writing, it is not known whether this has been done or what the results were. The final piece of physical evidence which had not been thoroughly analysed at the time of the trials was a piece of torn cloth found in the clutched hand of James Moore. Turvey believes that this piece of cloth may be a potential link between the victims and their assailant, and for this reason needs to be fully examined by a qualified person. The conclusions which Turvey draws from the evidence available were that: 1. The site where the bodies were found was a dump-site only and not the primary crime scene, it is more likely that there were actually four scenes involved in this crime: the abduction site, the attack site, a vehicle used to transport the boys and their bikes, then finally the dump-site in the woods. The extent of the injuries to the victims, especially the emasculation of Christopher Byers, would have meant a great deal of blood would have been at the scene. In this situation there was virtually no blood. There were search parties moving through the area which would not have given the assailant(s) the time needed to carry out the attack without being disturbed. The nature of the injuries to Christopher Byers would have caused him to scream. No screaming was heard by searchers or local residents near the site. There were no mosquito bites on any of the bodies which would be expected if they had been in the woods for the period of time that would have been required to carry out the attack. James Moore had an unexplained directional pattern abrasion just below the right anterior shoulder area. This abrasion was created by forceful directional contact with something that was not found at the scene. The nature of the attack required light, time and uninterrupted privacy. It was dark in the woods. The crime scene would more likely be a secluded structure or residence away from the immediate area of attention. The assailant was someone known and trusted by the victims. The physical evidence, crime scene and victimology in this case are most consistent with the classification of a Battered Child or Child-Custodial Homicide. The fact that there were three children together suggests that it would have been difficult for the offender to take all three children unless he was able to gain their trust. The children would have been taken to another location before the attack began which implies a level of trust, also that intimidation and fear would have been factors in gaining control, suggesting that the assailant was much larger and stronger than the victims. The violence and level of force in this attack was punitive in nature, indicating that the offender was punishing the boys for some real or perceived wrong. The difference in the nature of injuries in the three boys indicates that the assailant had a different relationship with each of the boys. James Moore is described by Turvey as a "collateral victim" who was probably only attacked because he was with the other two. The severity of the blows to his head and the lack of damage from the ligatures on his ankles and wrists suggest that he was unconscious throughout the attack. The anger of the assailant , manifested in victim damage and sexual mutilation, is directed primarily at Steven and Christopher, indicating a strong personal association with them. That all of the related physical evidence was disposed of at the dump site suggests that the assailant believed he may be investigated because of his relationship to the victims and so had to dispose of any evidence. The dump site being so close to the point of abduction suggests that the assailant knew the area well and lived close by, to enable a quick return to an area of safety. He would also have to have been to the site recently to know that there would be water there at the time. The type of bite marks are most often seen in Battered Child Homicide. The presence of healed injuries on Christopher Byers’s body, Melissa Byers’s concern that Christopher was being sexually abused which she expressed to a school counselor before his death, medical records, reported behavioral problems and Chris’s diagnosis with ADD and other behavioral disorders, are all strong indicators that Christopher Byers had been physically, if not sexually, abused prior to this attack. Steven Branch had lacerations on his penis which were probably self-inflicted indicating a sexualized child, usually associated with sexual abuse. There were probably two assailants. The primary assailant would have been a man whose focus was directed toward Christopher Byers. His accomplice may have been male or female. Three victims would have been easier to control if there were two attackers. The nature and range of injuries to Steven and Christopher indicate two separate assailants with very different ways of expressing their rage. The Battered Child nature of the bite marks on Steven Branch is more often associated with a female offender. The attack on Steven Branch was more punitive in nature than sexual. The "suck mark" type bite marks on Christopher Byers are more sexually oriented. The attack on his genitals suggests an offender who is ashamed of his own sexuality, possibly confused and angered by his own sexual impulses towards males. The offender was punishing Christopher for his sexuality and to establish, or re-establish, sexual ownership of him. The primary offender in these murders is described by Brent Turvey as possibly having the following characteristics: Showing violent and selfish sexual behaviors. A very selfish and explosive individual with a potentially violent temper. Wants to be perceived as not caring how others view him. Would be described as hostile, angry and as someone who carries grudges. Would project a macho, heterosexual, in-control image. An egocentric individual who cannot tolerate the criticism or shortcomings of others. Requires instant gratification for his impulses and can react violently when those impulses are not satisfied. He may be glib and superficial and extremely manipulative. Dominant in all relationships with women. Very possessive and irrationally jealous in his sexual relationships, possibly manifesting in violent behavior acted out towards the females in his life. Would have a level of knowledge and sophistication in criminal activity through repeated offences, exposure to law enforcement training and techniques or previous arrests for similar crimes. May have spent some time in prison or commits petty crimes to support himself. Probably will have past arrests for drugs, violent behavior and assault. Very likely to have been married more than once. A misogynistic attitude toward women, and past relationships would have involved a great deal of physical and/or emotional abuse. If married at the time of the offence, the marriage would have been in crisis. His wife may have been the compliant partner in this crime. It is very likely that the offender would have been involved in the search for the boys, possibly dumping the bodies with the intent of being the one to find them in order to shift blame. Offender will probably have a collection of knives, and will possibly have a similar interest in firearms and guns. Will probably have a drinking problem or a drug habit supported by criminal activity. He is probably unemployed, unable to hold down a full-time job for a number of behavioral reasons. He most probably used his own vehicle in this attack which would most likely be masculine, like a truck. This profile gives no support to the WMPD’s interpretation of the crime and, even if all of Turvey’s interpretations of the facts were to be discarded, the physical evidence he has revealed would make it virtually impossible for any jury to find Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The details of Jessie’s confession do not correlate with the facts of the case. The evidence that the children were not murdered in the area they were found in is overwhelming and his description of James Moore’s face being cut with a knife is overruled by the odontologist’s identification of the injuries as bite marks. As Jessie’s confession was the cornerstone of the prosecution’s case against the three teenagers, its refutation effectively destroys the significance of any corroborative evidence which was put forward.
Despite the WMPD’s focus on Damien as their prime suspect there were other possibilities which were not thoroughly investigated, a situation which could easily lead to the assumption that police chose to ignore any evidence which directed the investigation away from Damien Echols. On the night of the murders, at 8:42 p.m., the police received a call from Marty King, the manager of the Mr. Bojangles Restaurant near Robin Hood Hills. He reported that a black man "dazed and covered with blood and mud" had been in the women’s restroom for about an hour. Officer Regan Meek followed up the call by driving up to the drive-through window. She testified later that she had not gone inside as the restaurant was out of her ward. She also agreed that it had been near to the area where the boys were last seen. After the boys were found, police followed up on this report and took blood samples from the toilets. These samples however were mysteriously lost and no results are known. This incident became much more significant when laboratory reports showed that two human hairs were found on the victims' clothing, one of which was Negroid in origin. In November 1993, John Mark Byers was interrogated by WMPD officers after he had given a knife to a member of a film crew who were making a documentary about the case. During questioning by the police, John Mark Byers admitted that he had given the knife away. He also stated that his wife Melissa had given it to him for Christmas, two or three years previously and he had never used it. He kept it in the top drawer of a dresser in his bedroom where he was sure that neither of the boys could have gained access to it. When asked whether anyone might have cut themselves with the knife, Byers stated that he was certain that no one had. This story changed when the interviewing officer told him that blood had been found on the knife. Byers then recalled that he had used the knife to cut up some deer meat at home. When he was told that the blood found on the knife had matched Christopher’s blood type, Byers continued to assert that he had no idea how Christopher’s blood had come to be there. Later after test results on Melissa, Ryan and John Mark Byers were concluded, it was found that the blood stains matched in blood type with both John and Christopher Byers. No further testing was carried out which could have determined more conclusively whether it was Christopher or John Mark Byers’s blood. Another item of evidence which could have linked John Mark Byers to the murders, at least as much as any evidence brought against Damien, Jason and Jessie, was the presence of another human hair on the victim’s clothing. It was a black Caucasian hair which was shown to be microscopically similar to both John Mark Byers and Damien Echols. Unfortunately, nothing more specific was determined. During this interrogation the interviewing officer asked Byers what medication he was on to which he answered Xanax and Zorinal which he stated were anti-depressants. When he was asked whether he had any other medication he told police no, yet he had stated at other times that he was taking Tegretol which is the brand name of the drug Carbamazepine. This is the same substance which was found in non-therapeutic amounts in Christopher’s blood after his death. Christopher had also been taking Tegretol according to his medical records, but Byers had stated that Chris had not taken his medication on the day that he went missing. Although there were many items of evidence that could have pointed to John Mark Byers as the murderer of the three boys, he was never considered by police as a suspect nor was he ever thoroughly investigated. It is interesting to note that John Mark Byers was on very friendly terms with the investigating officers and was a drug informant for the WMPD at the time of the murders. Could bias in favor of Byers and against Echols on the part of the investigating police have blinded them to any evidence which might have led the investigation away from Damien and toward Byers? Finally, the tennis shoe imprint which was found on the creek bank near the bodies, did not match with any footwear owned by Damien, Jessie or Jason. This fact would again suggest that police should have been concentrating their investigations in another direction.
In order to prove pre-meditation and motive for Jason and Damien’s trial, the State called on the testimony of Dr. Dale Griffis. Griffis had received his doctorate from Columbia Pacific University in 1984 after studying by correspondence for four years. Since that time he had proclaimed himself as a "Cult-Cop" and gave lectures and seminars on the dangers of adolescent involvement in Satanic activities. It is difficult to determine his qualification for the term "expert," as according to the F.B.I there is very little evidence to substantiate stories about Satanic ritual murders in the United States. It seems that Judge Burnett, while questioning the validity of the discipline of social psychology as studied by Dr. Ofshe, did not have any problems with the rather dubious credentials of Dr. Griffis and allowed his testimony to be admitted. The basis of Dr. Griffis’s testimony was that the crime scene "Bore the trappings of occultism." In his opinion, the most salient points in this crime which suggested to him that the murders were Satanic in nature were: - 1. That they were carried out on a date close to a pagan holiday and on a full moon. 2. That young children were often sought for sacrifice because they provided a "better … life force." 3. The number of victims reflected the significance of the number three in occultism. 4. The age of the victims reflected the significance of the number eight as a witch’s number 5. Sacrifices were often performed near water for a baptism-type ritual or just to wash the blood away 6. The manner in which the victims were tied was significant as being tied ankle to wrist exposed the genitalia 7. The removal of Christopher Byers’s testicles was significant as they are removed in Satanic rituals for the semen 8. The absence of blood at the scene was significant because cult members often store blood for future services at which time they would drink or bathe in the blood 9. The "overkill" or multiple cuts could reflect occult overtones 10. The significance of most of the injuries being on the left side of the victim’s bodies was that people who practice occultism use the midline theory, the right side is related to those things synonymous with Christianity while the left side is that of Satanism 11. The cleared area on the bank could be consistent with a ceremony During cross-examination, Dr. Griffis admitted that if he had been asked by the State to testify to conditions opposite to the conditions described it could still be related to Satanic activity. He also conceded that his original testimony had not included the blood traits. He had included them only after learning that morning, that Michael Carson would be testifying that Jason Baldwin had confessed to sucking blood from Christopher Byers’s penis. It would be interesting to know what scientific and empirical data Dr. Griffis based his opinions on as much of his information is incorrect, according to the Ontario Conference on Religious Tolerance. Apparently there is a Neo-Pagan festival held on the first of May, but it is only celebrated on that day, not four days later and Satanists do not hold rituals on a full or new moon. No evidence has been found that any children have been ritually murdered in the past century in the United States by the followers of any religion. The number three has no particular significance in any pagan religions, Christianity places more significance on this number because of its belief in a Triune God. The number eight has no significance in the Wiccan or any other pagan religions. Baptism is a Christian ritual which is not shared by any pagan religions and certainly not Satanists. The statement regarding the collection of semen from the testicles reveals a lack of biological knowledge as semen is not stored in the testes and is not produced at all until adolescence. The idea that Satanists drink blood has been claimed since the 16th Century although not verified. It would be expected that in the case of a Satanic ritual there would be evidence of other ritual tools, such as an altar, a circle on the ground and candle wax. Dr. Griffis’s testimony, although highly questionable, was a repetition of the many myths and fears surrounding witchcraft and Satanism which were widely known by the West Memphis community already. Dr. Griffis’s words would have spoken deeply to the superstitions and fears of the jury and any attempt to refute them would probably have fallen on deaf ears. In Jessie Misskelley’s trial there was very little emphasis placed on the supposedly Satanic nature of the murders. To show pre-meditation the testimony of Melissa Byers, Christopher’s mother, that Christopher had told her six weeks before his death that a man wearing black clothing had taken his photograph. This testimony had been given after it had been widely known that Damien was a suspect and was not substantiated by any other evidence, nor was there any proof that Damien was in fact the man in black.
With almost no evidence to link Jason, Damien and Jessie to the murder scene or the victims, apart from Jessie’s questionable confession, police continued to interrogate any acquaintances of the three teenagers they could find. Of all the people interviewed none could testify to having seen Damien, Jason and Jessie together at any time in the past. This hole was soon filled by Jerry Driver who testified under oath that he had once seen Damien, Jason and Jessie walking together wearing long black robes and carrying staffs. During the trial this may have been convincing testimony for the jury but in light of Driver’s own admission that he had often interrogated Damien for unsolved crimes in the area over the previous twelve months, its credibility is highly questionable. The fact that Driver faced embezzlement charges in 1997 and resigned from the probation office further diminishes his credibility. To place Damien and Jason at the scene of the crime, police were able to find three witnesses. Narlene Hollingsworth and her son Anthony, a convicted sex offender, testified during Damien and Jason’s trial that Narlene had been driving them to a friends house on the night of 5 May 1993 and had seen Damien and his girlfriend Domini Teers walking near the Blue Beacon Truck Stop at around 9:30 p.m. Damien had been wearing a dark coloured shirt and his clothes were dirty. Domini had been wearing a pair of black pants with white floral appliquéd patches. Narlene’s daughter, Tabatha repeated her mother’s story during Jessie’s trial. There had been seven people in the Hollingsworth car that night but only four had been able to testify to having seen Damien or Domini. Ricky Hollingsworth, Narlene’s husband, stated that he had been unable to determine who the figures were. It was dark at the time of the sighting, which was very brief, yet the witnesses claim that they were able, not only to identify the people but determine that an already dark coloured shirt was dirty. The prosecution itself questioned how accurate this sighting was when they attempted to imply that the witnesses had been mistaken in their identification of Domini. The prosecution attempted to suggest that the second person they saw was really Jason Baldwin wearing a pair of gray jeans with holes in the knees which Jason owned. Anthony, during his testimony, contradicted his mother’s story by placing the sighting an hour later than the 9:30 p.m. time stated by Narlene. Further strengthening their case, at least in the minds' of the jurors, the prosecution presented the court with three more witnesses who claimed to have heard Damien and Jason verbally admit to their guilt of the murders. The first two witnesses claimed to have overheard Damien say "I killed the three little boys and before I turn myself in, I’m going to kill two more, and I already have one of them picked out." These remarks were apparently overheard at a softball game. They claim that they had overheard Damien make these comments to a group of friends. During cross-examination by defense counsel the credibility of this testimony was questioned. it was revealed that the girls had been unable to hear anything else that was said at the time, nor were they able to identify any of the people who had been with Damien at the time. It was also shown that one of the dates they had given that they had seen Damien at the games was after he had been arrested. The particular game at which the girls claim to have overheard Damien’s confession was held in early May, yet they did not come forward to police until after they had seen a report of Damien’s arrest on the television. The third witness, Michael Carson, testified that Jason Baldwin had admitted to him that he had murdered the boys. Carson told the court that he had talked to Jason during a short period of time that he had attended the detention center at which Jason was being held. Carson testified that he said "Just between me and you, did you do it? I won’t say a word. He said yes and he went into detail about it. It was just me and Jason [Baldwin]. He told me he dismembered the kids, or I don’t know exactly how many kids. He just said he dismembered them. He sucked the blood from the penis and scrotum and put the balls in his mouth." Judge Burnett ruled that the defense could not tell the jury that Michael Carson was a medically-diagnosed LSD addict because substance abuse was not sufficient grounds to argue the probativeness of a witness’s truthfulness. He also ruled as inadmissible a communication from Danny Williams, sent to both the prosecuting and defense attorneys. Williams was a counselor at the same detention center as Jason and Michael. He admitted that he had discussed the case with Michael Carson. The reason Williams had contacted the attorneys was that he believed Carson would be perjuring himself if he testified in court that he had heard the details of the crimes from Jason Baldwin when in fact he had heard them from Williams. Burnett ruled that to allow the jury to hear this information would be a violation of Carson’s right to patient-counselor confidentiality. It had never been proven that Carson and Jason had ever come into contact with each other while in the detention center.
When WMPD officers arrested Damien and Jason they took with them warrants to search their homes. From Jason Baldwin’s home police seized a red robe which belonged to his mother, fifteen black t-shirts and a white t-shirt. From Damien’s they seized two notebooks which appeared to have Satanic or cult writings in them, a red t-shirt, blue jeans, and a pair of boots. After divers searched an area of a lake behind Baldwin’s house, a knife was recovered. A witness from the State Crime Laboratory testified that she found fibers on the victims’ clothing which were microscopically similar to four fibers found in Jason and Damien’s homes. None were found in Jessie’s. A red fiber found on Jason’s mother’s robe was microscopically similar to fibers from James Moore’s shirt. A green polyester fiber on James’s cap was of a similar structure to those found on a blue cotton-polyester shirt, belonging to a child relative, found in Damien’s home. Fibers from this same shirt also matched with one cotton and one polyester fiber found on James’s blue pants. The defense counsel had presented their own fiber witness who disputed the similarity of the red fiber. It was shown that these fibers could have been matched to any number of items available for purchase at a local department store. Despite the fact that these fibers showed inconclusive results, they were still presented as evidence to tie Jason and Damien to the crime. Jason’s clothing was used in Jessie’s trial to show that Jason owned clothing which was described by Jessie during his confession. None of these articles of clothing could be definitely linked to the crime with fiber or blood samples. Their sole purpose seemed to be to confirm Jessie’s claims and to highlight the boys’ preference for wearing black clothes, supposedly an indication of Satanic tendencies in teenagers. Damien’s books and writings were used as evidence of his delving into the occult, an important aspect of the prosecution’s case in Jason and Damien’s trial as the only motive they could put forward was that the murders were Satanic ritual killings. The knife found in the lake behind Jason Baldwin’s parent’s home in November 1993 had a serrated edge. Dr Frank Peretti testified that some of the wound patterns on the three victims were consistent with, and may have been caused by, a serrated edge knife. This testimony becomes questionable when new evidence available after the trials is considered. Apart from testimony of Damien’s ex-girlfriend, Deeana Holcomb, that Damien had once owned a knife similar to the one found in the lake except it had a compass on the handle, there was no substantive evidence that proved either Damien or Jason had owned the knife. Damien admitted that he had once owned a knife similar to the one submitted as evidence but his had a compass attached to the handle and was of a different color. He claimed that he had sold this knife while living in Oregon in 1992, which agreed with the time frame given by Holcomb. On the night of Damien’s arrest, a necklace he was wearing was taken in as evidence and sent away for testing as there appeared to be blood spots on it. The results of these tests were not available when other evidence had been presented at the trial so the prosecution asked for a continuance in order to obtain these results. The continuance was granted and the court reconvened two days later. The minute quantities of genetic material present for testing meant that only the blood types present could be determined. It was found that one spot was consistent with the blood type of Damien and the second spot was consistent with the blood type shared by both Jason Baldwin and Steven Branch, and 11% of the world’s population. Because there was evidence to show that both Jason and Damien were known to wear this necklace on occasions, Judge Burnett offered the State the opportunity to re-open the case presenting the new evidence, if they would agree to a severance for Jason Baldwin from the State’s case against Damien Echols as it was no longer legally acceptable for the defendants to be tried together. The reason for this was that the evidence could now be used by either party to implicate the other in what is called an "antagonistic defense." The State chose not to present the evidence and proceeded to its closing arguments. This was probably because this new evidence was very weak and a case against Jason standing on its own merits would be very risky for the State.
Jessie Misskelley was brought in to WMPD for questioning on 3 June 1993. During the course of his interrogation, which lasted for several hours, Jessie was given a lie detector test and the police succeeded in securing a confession from Jessie of his own part in the murders of the three boys. He named Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols as his accomplices. According to Jessie’s defense attorney, Daniel Stidham, Jessie claims that he and his friends were first approached by the police and offered a reward for information about the murders. Jessie was later taken into WMPD for questioning despite the fact that they did not have a written waiver of his Miranda Rights signed by Jessie’s father, a legal requirement when police interview minors. Normally this breach of a minor’s constitutional rights would be sufficient to have the subsequent confession quashed. For some reason in this case Judge Burnett chose to allow it. In his confession, Jessie claimed that Jason Baldwin telephoned him very early on the morning of 5 May. During the course of this conversation, Jason had asked Jessie to accompany himself and Damien Echols to the Robin Hood Hills area. Initially, Jessie stated that he had gone to the Robin Hood area at about 9:00 a.m. that day to an area near a creek where he met up with Damien and Jason. They were actually in the creek when the three boys rode up on their bicycles. Baldwin and Echols had called to the boys who then came to the creek. At this time, Baldwin and Echols began to severely beat the boys. Jessie, claiming to be merely an observer, stated that at least two of the boys were raped and forced to perform oral sex on Baldwin and Echols. While these events were occurring, (James) Michael Moore had attempted to escape, but Jessie had caught him and returned him to Baldwin and Echols. Jessie stated that Baldwin had used a knife to cut the boys’ faces and the penis area of Christopher Byers. Echols had used a large stick to hit one of the boys and to strangle one of them. After this attack the boys’ clothes were removed and they were tied up, Jessie then left the scene. He was sure that Christopher Byers was already dead. After he arrived home, he claimed that he was telephoned by Baldwin who apparently said "We done it!" And "What are we going to do if somebody saw us?" Jessie said that he could hear Echols in the background. When asked whether he had ever been involved in a cult, Jessie said that he had been for about three months. He told police that they usually met in the woods where they engaged in orgies and initiation rites which included killing and eating dogs. He stated that at one of these meetings, he saw a photograph that Echols had taken of the three boys and claimed that Echols had been watching the boys. Jessie, when asked to describe what Baldwin and Echols were wearing at the time of the murders, told police that Jason had been wearing blue jeans, black lace-up boots and a T-shirt with a skull and the name of the band "Metallica" on it. Damien was wearing black pants, boots and a black T-shirt. During the course of this first statement, Jessie changed the time that the murders occurred from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and explained that the three boys had skipped school. These times were again changed in another recorded statement taken two hours after the first one had concluded. In this statement Jessie said that he, Baldwin and Echols had arrived at the Robin Hood area between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., but after prompting from one of the interviewing officers, he again changed this time to between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The final time Jessie gave was that the teenagers had arrived at 6:00 p.m and the victims had arrived when it was nearly dark. In this second statement, Jessie gave further details about the sexual molestation of the boys. He stated that the boys had been held by the head and ears and forced to perform oral sex on Jason and Damien. He named Steven Branch and Christopher Byers as the two victims who were raped. He stated that the boys had been tied with brown rope. A further contradiction in this story was added later when one of the interrogating officers testified that according to his notes Jessie had claimed that Baldwin had called him the night before the murders had occurred and said that they planned to go and get some boys and hurt them. Dan Stidham was able to secure the expert testimonies of Dr Richard Ofshe and Warren Homes. Dr Ofshe, a Pulitzer Prize winning social psychologist and an expert on false and coerced confessions, believed after reading the confession, listening to the tape and interviewing Jessie Misskelley, that Jessie’s confession was a coerced compliant and false confession. The reasons given for this conclusion were: 1. Many instances of coaching from the interrogating officers, especially in regard to the timing of events and Jessie’s identification of Christopher Byers as the boy who had been emasculated. 2. That nearly three hours of the interview were not recorded. 3. That the interrogating officers had used intimidating methods during the interrogation. 4. That many areas of Jessie’s confession were not supported by the facts. Examples of incorrect information in Jason's "confession:" i. Jessie stated that the victims and Jason Baldwin were not at school when in fact they were proven to have been in attendance ii. Jessie stated that the victims were bound with rope when in fact they were bound with their own shoelaces iii. Jessie stated that one boy was choked with a stick when the medical examiners report stated that there was no evidence of strangulation iv. Jessie stated that the boys were anally raped when in fact the medical examiner had found no evidence of this occurring v. Jessie described the murders as having been conducted at the scene where the bodies were found when in fact the medical examiner had stated that there was no blood found at the scene. Dr Ofshe was not permitted to state all of his opinion during the trial as Judge Burnett had previously ruled that Jessie’s confession had been voluntary and Ofshe’s testimony in this regard would directly contradict the court’s previous ruling. Burnett also stated that such a testimony would give an expert witness the power to determine whether the accused was guilty or innocent which was solely the jury’s domain. Finally, the jury only heard that Ofshe had a lot of experience with coerced confessions and it was possible for police to obtain a confession from someone who was in fact innocent, anything more specific was not allowed. Warren Holmes, an expert in lie detection testing and interrogation who has studied and worked in this field for over thirty years, agreed to testify for the defense after he was approached by Daniel Stidham, despite the knowledge that he would not be paid for his services and only his expenses would be reimbursed. At a hearing prior to the trial, Judge Burnett ruled that Warren Holmes could not testify regarding the polygraph examination itself. As polygraph test results are not admissible evidence he would only allow Holmes to testify to his experience and qualifications and to give an analyses of the interview techniques used during Jessie Misskelley’s interrogation. When Holmes analysed the polygraph test conducted by the WMPD on Jessie Misskelley he found that Jessie’s responses to the questions relating to the murders indicated that Jessie was truthful in his answers and in fact did not have any knowledge of them. The WMPD interrogating officers’ statement to Jessie that he had in fact lied, indicated that they had not conducted or interpreted the results of the tests properly. The result of being informed that he was lying would have greatly contributed to Jessie’s sense of helplessness in the situation making him more likely to comply with the demand for a confession by the police. According to Holmes there are a number of indicators which will validate to the investigators that a suspect’s confession is true. 1. In a true confession the suspect will often give the police information about the crime that the police do not already know. 2. If a confession is true the suspect gives information that fits with the real evidence of the crime. 3. A true confession is usually given in a narrative form including many incidental details about the situation surrounding the crime which can be corroborated by police later 4. In a true confession, if the investigators make an incorrect supposition about the crime, the suspect will correct them. 5. In a true confession, there is no need to correct the suspect for contradictions in their story. 6. In a true confession there is no need for coaching or leading questions in order to elicit information. Homes believed that there were many instances in Jessie’s confession where these criteria were not met. He was especially concerned that Jessie was wrong about the times and the type of ligatures used. Both of these factors should have meant a great deal to him. Nor does Jessie mention anything about his feelings at the time of the crimes or afterwards, or talk about the things that were said by himself, the other perpetrators or the victims. Jessie’s confession was elicited by a series of highly suggestive questions by the interrogating officers and was not given in a narrative form. The testimony of these two witnesses was the strongest evidence that the defense had to refute the prosecution’s case which was built solely upon the weight of Jessie’s confession. Without this expert opinion, Jessie’s case was severely hampered.
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