Wrongful convictions occur every day. With a legal system that is at times dependent on eyewitness accounts and hearsay there is room for error. Sometimes these errors of justice are quickly rectified, but at other times the process can be long and drawn out. In the case of the West Memphis three: Damian Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, were teenagers when they were arrested for the murders of three young boys: Chris Byers, Michael Moore, and Stevie Branch. For nearly two decades, although convicted of the crimes, the West Memphis three denied any involvement in the murders.
The West Memphis three case is a prime example of how small town misconceptions and rumors can take hold of a criminal case and twist non-existent evidence into concrete evidence, leading to a miscarriage of justice. Damian Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin are innocent of the murders of Christopher Byers, Stevie Branch and Michael Moore. On the 6th of May 1993 most of Arkansas watched the news and learned a terrible crime had been committed. Three little boys had been found beaten, murdered, and thrown in a ditch like trash.
As the news spread of the murders of Michael Branch, Steven Moore and Christopher Byers, details of the case began to be leaked. Most details of a murder investigation are kept private. This is done in an effort to keep out false confession and used in following leads from tips. However, news that the boys were found naked, beaten, cut, and that one of the murdered children was castrated quickly spread and became common knowledge in the town. These leaks of information were the first in a series of investigation mishaps.
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With rumors in their ears and a community scared, the pressure was on for the West Memphis Police to find the monsters that did this. One would think all aspects of case like this would be explored. However, on the night of the murders employees at a nearby BoJangles restaurant called the West Memphis police to report a strange incident that occurred in one of their public bathrooms. A man, wet, covered in mud and blood had entered the restaurant women’s bathroom and left a mess. An officer responded to the call but no evidence was collected until the next day.
The evidence that was collected at the restaurant, after the boys bodies had been found, was subsequently lost by officer Brian Ridge, the same officer who would later interview one of the accused. It can clearly be seen that losing evidence of any sort at such a crucial time is an example of police incompetence. Satanic panic is a term mentioned a lot in this case. Damien Echols name was first mentioned by an overzealous juvenile officer named Steve Jones early in the investigation (the day after the bodies were found).
Due to the leaks in the press about the injuries on the murdered boy’s bodies and rumors of satanic rituals Mr. Jones was contacted by officer Sudberry of the West Memphis police department. During this informal conversation, Jones states he knows of a person he believed to be not only to be involved in occult activities but that could also be capable of this type of crime; Jones named Damien Echols. (Steel 2012) Based on this hunch, with no evidence, both officer Sudberry and Mr. Jones went to speak to Damien Echols at his home the next day.
During this interview with Jones and Sudberry, Echols made a statement he thought one of the murdered boys had been injured worse than the others. This statement was later used against Echols, even though it was common knowledge in West Memphis at the time. (Steel 2012) There was no reason at this time to suspect or interview Echols at this time. One can clearly see that Echols was mentioned at this point, not because of evidence, but more convincingly, because he was different. According to Mara Leveritt, Damian Echols stuck out in a crowd, often wearing all black along with a long black trench coat.
In the story "Twelve Angry Men", Reginald Rose shows how making one's own decisions is one very important aspect in life. He also showed that one's decisions should not be impeded by stereotypes. I believe that the jury reached the right verdict because the witnesses were disprove n along with all of the evidence. The first reason is that the witnesses were proven to be wrong. For example, there ...
One would think a person would never admit to doing something so terrible such as murdering three little boys if they had not committed the crime. But according to Jennifer Schell, PhD. this occurs more often than once thought. In research compiled by Schell the following statistics were given about false confessions: 93% were made by males, 81% occurred in murder cases, 74% of the time the real perpetrator was found, 63% were younger than 25, and four out of five of the false confessors who went to trail were convicted.
Ridge , the same officer who earlier lost blood samples from the Bo Jangles restaurant. In an interview given by chief criminal inspector Gary Gitchell, Miskelley “was only picked up in hopes he knew something about cult activity. ”(Berlinger & Sinofsky 2012) Misskelley at the time was only 17 years old.
With no parent present, without Miranda rights being read to him, Misskelley was questioned for 12 hours of which only the last 41 minutes were recorded. During this last 41 minutes of a 12 hour interview, Jessie Misskelley, whose IQ is 72, confessed to the murders of the three little boys and also indicated accomplices’ Damian Echols and Jason Baldwin. Even though his supposed confession contained many inconsistencies such as the time of the day; Jessie originally said the crime occurred in the morning, but investigators knew this could not be true.
Byers, Moore, Branch, and Baldwin had all attended school that day. Misskelley stated the boys were “tied with rope”; however, they were actually tied up with their own shoe strings. Also there are many inconsistences in Misskelly’s confession when compared to the injuries of the boys. One can come to the immediate conclusion that if Misskelley made this many crucial mistakes during the 41 minutes he was recorded, even after 12 hours of interrogation, he was lying. Gitchell’s entire case relied on this faulted confession.