Months ago, the Circuit Court for Crittenden County dismissed Damien Echols’ petition to use new technology to test certain evidence for DNA in the West Memphis Three case. On Jan. 9, Echols filed an appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court asking them to reverse that decision.

 

Echols, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, spent 18 years on death row after being convicted of the murder of three eight-year-old boys in 1993 despite the lack of any evidence tying them to the crimes. They were released in 2011 after signing an Alford plea, but to this day, they remain convicted murderers.

 

New DNA technology has the potential to not only finally prove their innocence but also find the boys’ real killer(s). Regardless, the motion was rejected in June 2022 at the county level for lack of jurisdiction. Judge Tonya Alexander determined Echols did not have the right to test the evidence because he isn’t currently incarcerated.

 

However, the DNA statute in Arkansas clearly states:

 

“Except when direct appeal is available, a person convicted of a crime may make a motion for the performance of fingerprinting, forensic deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing or other tests, which may become available through advances in technology to demonstrate the person’s actual innocence. Ark Code Section 16-112-202″

 

 

Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley have seemingly suffered a lifetime of letdowns from the justice system as they’ve fought for their exoneration. In recent years, Echols’ team was told the evidence for the case had been either lost or destroyed and therefore could not be tested. Yet, after a state court order just a few months later, the West Memphis Police Department revealed all the evidence was still cataloged and in good shape.

 

The new DNA technology has been used in several Arkansas cases. The prosecutor has 30 days to respond to Echols’ appeal; Echols may provide additional comments thereafter.

 

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