Now that we've started the website to help spread awareness of wrongful convictions and incarceration, It only seems right we mention the West Memphis 3. Although "The Innocent Man" and "Dreams of Ada" may have opened my eyes, the "West Memphis 3" case stayed with me from the time we first heard about them until the day Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were released, August 19, 2011. After learning of this case I knew that my future would include helping those with stories such as these three men.
It was easy to find tons of information as there are books, movies, blogs, reports and magazines and I took full advantage. After learning so much about the case and the terrible things that happened to the little boys that were murdered, Stephen Branch, Michael Moore, Christopher Byers as well as the three young men that were wrongfully incarcerated for the crime, I felt that we needed to find some way of helping them.
When they were released it was a wonderful surprise, they had been in the news a quite a bit in the last several months before the "deal" was reached but I had no idea or even thought that they would be getting out.
When we found out all the details of their release and the use of the "Alford Plea" It was disappointing, kind of like prosecutors had to have the final word and their one last "fuck you".
It came down to the fact that Damien didn't have much time left before the state of Arkansas was going to carry out his sentence of death. By agreeing to the terms of the release they were waiving any monies owed to them for wrongful conviction and incarceration but at least Damien was alive and all three of them were free.
The huge issue remaining in the case, is that there were three adorable little boys Stevie Branch, Chris Byers and Michael Moore murdered, and the crime was never solved. The killer or killers never even had to worry about punishment because this has been a closed case since 1993 the same day the boys bodies were found. One investigator said "this looks like the work of Damien Echols" and that was that. The investigators have never looked into any other suspects, even when evidence was handed to them.
Another frustrating thing about the Alford Plea is that to the state, this remains a closed case. The only mention we ever hear of finding the monster that did this, is from the guys that were wrongfully incarcerated for committing the crime. A terrible travesty of justice.
We still follow Damien, Jason and Jessie somewhat, if we see a recent article and I'm currently reading "Life After Death" by Damien Echols. However, I'm sure they have a lot of living to make up for and probably want to get on with some sort of normal lives if that's even possible.
All of the research, support and publicity can really be used to help so many others that have faced their own injustices, the number of cases out there is mind boggling. I learn about new cases weekly from updates I receive from "The Innocence Project" or from an article, book or documentary/news special I find and when I try to find details about the case a lot of the time the information is minimal. Innocent people are ripped from their lives and locked away for 10, 20, 30 years or more and nobody is even aware. The outpouring of support definitely played a huge roll in the release of "The West Memphis 3" and I hope to help bring more awareness for many others.
If interested in learning more about this case, there is I links attached to names and a really good story from TrueTV crime library below. I also found out, since writing this article that Reese Witherspoon portrays Pamela Hobbs (the mother of Stevie Branch) in movie, "The Devils Knot" set to come out sometime this year.
Article written by Lisa Wallace
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