West Memphis 3 Damien Echols appeals to Ark. Supreme Court for DNA evidence

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 5:10 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Attorneys for the West Memphis Three are taking their latest appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court. They want evidence in the infamous 1993 triple murder case retested using modern DNA procedures.

On Monday, one of the West Memphis Three, Damien Echols, filed an appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court, asking it to revisit his petition to use modern technology to examine specific evidence in the case for DNA findings that might prove his innocence.

Echols’ appeal asks that the Supreme Court overturn the decision and restore the matter to the Circuit Court for a full hearing on the merits of his request for this new scientific testing.

The appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

In June 2022, Judge Tonya Alexander in West Memphis, Arkansas, determined that Echols did not have the right to forensic evidence since he was not currently incarcerated.

The court determined that it lacked the authority to require the use of cutting-edge DNA testing on evidence in the 1993 case.

M-Vac DNA testing technology has been used or is currently being utilized in several Arkansas cases, including for the Craighead County Sheriff’s office and the Marion, Arkansas Police Department, according to a press release.

The prosecutor has 30 days to respond to the Echols brief, upon which Echols can supply additional comments, according to the press release.

West Memphis Three
West Memphis Three(Action News 5)

It was a unanimous decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court back in 2010 that reopened the West Memphis Three case.

Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelly were all three convicted in the 1993 murder of three eight-year-old boys.

The victims, Christopher Byers, Michael Moore, and Stevie Branch were killed in what was believed to be a satanic ritual.

Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were convicted of the brutal crimes in 1994.

They were released in 2011 after taking an Alford Plea, accepting a guilty plea while maintaining their innocence.

Now, their attorneys are asking the state’s highest court to intervene once again.

“There’s no question that these young men did not commit this heinous crime,” said Lonnie Soury, an advocate for the wrongfully convicted and a member of the West Memphis Three legal defense team.

Soury says they are using every means possible to get permission to use modern M-Vac DNA testing technology on the evidence from one of Arkansas’ most shocking crimes.

“We’ve essentially spent the last three years requesting to test the DNA forensic evidence in the case, specifically the knots, the ligatures used to tie up the three little children that were murdered,” Soury said.

Soury said his clients won’t stop until justice is served.

“They are convicted killers. That is a heavy load to carry,” he said. “And it’s one they are innocent of. And we would hope the state of Arkansas, the judges and the legislature would, in the interest of justice, want to get to the bottom of this murder.”

Soury said the Circuit Court judge denied their request to test DNA, saying essentially that only inmates who are still in prison have that right.

Soury said the state of Arkansas has a vested interest in this case because the majority of people who are exonerated of crimes are cleared after they are released.

He said if Arkansas law prevents that from happening, it’s a major concern.

He said incoming Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders might want to take a look at this case, too.

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