16 September 2008

West Memphis Three Can't Get New Trial

The three teenagers in Arkansas, who were convicted of first-degree murder in grisly child slayings that took place in 1993, have been denied a new trial, despite the fact that no DNA evidence was found at the crime scene. From AP (by way of Reason):

In his appeal, Echols argued that newly analyzed DNA found no trace of the defendants at the crime scene. But Burnett said he agreed with prosecutors that the absence of DNA didn't equal innocence.

"Proof of actual innocence requires more than his exclusion as the source of a handful of biological material that is not dispositive of the identity of a killer," the judge wrote.

Burnett also said that even if he agreed that the new DNA evidence should be heard in court, he would still deny Echols' request for a new trial because there was "not compelling evidence that he would be acquitted."

The trial took place when prosecutors from around the country were really pushing hard to try juveniles as adults, and the evidence brought against the three teenagers was ridiculous. It included Metallica lyrics found in one of the defendants notebooks and the fact that the teens wore black (implying the committed the child murders as part of some Satanic ritual). It was the subject of a movie, Paradise Lost, and it's frightening because it probably could have been any of us socially awkward types in high school. The bogus confession was coerced by the police from the 17 year-old Jessie Misskelley, a guy with an IQ of 72, and was pretty much the sole source of evidence in the trial besides the fact that the kids were "weirdos". A case that casts a dark shadow over the legitimacy of our justice system. 17 year-old Misskelley was sentenced to life + 40 years, 18 year-old Echols was sentenced to death, and 16 year-old Baldwin was sentenced to life without parole.

Other kids serving hard time include, Erik Jensen in Colorado (life without parole), who helped his friend hide the body of his sexually abusive mother. Too bad they did it right after Columbine was all over the news.