Damien Wayne Echols in Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)

Evidence in the “West Memphis Three” Case Thought “Missing” Has Been Found

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The case of the West Memphis Three—Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley—has been one of the most infamous and hotly discussed within true crime circles. Those three were convicted of the 1993 murders of Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore, despite no evidence connecting them to the crime. But they were convicted and sent to jail for nearly two decades.

In 2012, all three convicted men made a deal with prosecutors called an Alford plea (they pleaded guilty but maintain their innocence), allowing them to be released from jail. But now, evidence that was assumed missing can be tested and might be able to finally exonerate the three.

Echols’ legal team says they have a court order from the state to see the evidence at the West Memphis Police Department. They say the evidence is in good shape and, thankfully, well documented.

Lonnie Soury, spokesperson for Echols’ legal team, says that they were shocked it took 18 months for them to finally get access to it, but at least it exists, since they were told the evidence was lost.

“We were told the evidence had been destroyed in a fire,” Soury said. “And then low and behold, we get to the West Memphis Police Department today and all the evidence is cataloged, is there intact. Nothing was destroyed.”

They are planning to test the evidence using the latest DNA technology to hopefully find out who murdered those children and also finally fully clear the West Memphis Three.

“Of course it is expensive to test DNA and providing the law enforcement, authorities in Crittenden County don’t stand in our way,” Soury said.

Michael Pope, the chief of the West Memphis Police Department, unexpectedly resigned Tuesday, and his resignation letter said he was pursuing other opportunities. West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon says neither he nor Police Chief Michael Pope were the reason for the delay in getting the evidence to lawyers.

”I have no vested interest in trying to withhold any evidence from anyone on either side. We want to make sure that they get to the bottom of what they’re trying to figure out,” said McClendon.

The West Memphis Three captured the attention of many because the case came right in the midst of the ending of the Satanic Panic. Through documentaries like “Paradise Lost,” people were able to see that the young men had been largely railroaded and presumed guilty because of their goth identities and for seeming like dark-sided individuals.

While the then-boys were criticized for not helping themselves by being smug, that smugness came from knowing they were innocent and finding the speculation against them ridiculous.

I can only hope that the information will be able to prove what happened to Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore, so that their families can finally have justice. Those were innocent kids, and they are the voiceless victims in all of this.

(via WREG Memphis, image: HBO)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.