Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Worthy Cause

I am not much for causes. I have a few personal ones I champion but I am not exactly the flag waiving/soapbox type of a person.

But there is one cause that I have been following for well over 10 years and I think it deserves your attention.

In 1993, three young boys were brutally murdered in the Robin Hood Hills area of West Memphis, Arkansas.

Shortly after, three West Memphis teenagers were tried and convicted for these crimes: Damien Echols (death), Jason Baldwin (life) and Jesse Misskelley (life) despite entirely circumstantial evidence and a coerced confession from Misskelley.

- No DNA.
- No blood of the defendants found at the scene.
- No blood of the victims found anywhere near or on the defendants.
- No eye witnesses.
- The murder weapon matched that of a knife belonging to one of the boy's stepfathers and it DID have his stepson's blood on it.
- All the defendants had alibis.
- A blood covered homeless man was seen at a nearby Bojangles restaurant at the exact time of death.

And the confession? Questioned for over 8 hours, Misskelley - who is borderline retarded, was only recorded at the tail end of his confession. Many "facts" he gave were incorrect such as time of day, the way the victims were bound and with what materials (he said rope when it was in fact it was their shoelaces) etc. His confession shows classic signs of a boy with limited intelligence intimidated over several hours to the point where he would say anything to get out of that room.

How can this happen? In a small, backwoods, God fearing town of dare I say, rednecks, Damien, Jason and Jesse were the "freaks." They wore black. They listened to Metallica. They had long hair. They weren't like the others. When the bodies were found someone said, "It looks like a Satanic ritual." Well if it is (never proven) than it must be those "Satan worshipping bastards" that listen to Metallica and wear black.

The list of injustices goes on and on and has been documented in two excellent films:

You can also read the Wikipedia article that functions as user friendly "Cliff's Notes" version of the events.

Since 1993, these boys (now men) have been rotting away in jail. Are they asking to be set free? No. They are asking for a retrial using today's science to over turn their convictions. In addition to my mini-list above their have been sworn statements made in regards to jury tampering and a thousand other mistrial worthy offenses. Before her death, one of the slain boy's mothers even admitted she didn't think they did it.

This case scares the shit out of me. Why? Well, for one I was one of those "freaks." I caught enough shit and beatings in suburban Long Island. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like in rural Arkansas. I wore black and listened to Metallica and all sorts of "devil music." I read Anton LeFey's "Satanic Bible" because I loved horror films and thought it made me "deep." Pseudo-deep and pretentious - yes. A killer? No.

It also scares me because I am still naive enough to think, "They can't put you away for a crime you didn't commit! How can they prove you did it?" Well, apparently they don't need to prove it.

The teen aged Damien, Jesse and Jason are far from perfect. Damien especially is arrogant and narcissistic. Mainly because, like so many youth do, he thought he was invincible and shared my naivete, believing he could never be put away for something he didn't do. That's not how America works.

Regardless of your opinion and my rantings I strongly suggest you buy or rent these two films (the second one is the better one, I feel, because it really outlines all of the absurdity). You can also find clips on YouTube. If nothing else you will be completely enthralled. It is like the very best Dateline or 20/20 piece but on crack.

You can also check out their website here.

They have been in jail for over 5,500 days. You can spare an hour of your time.

1 comment:

brentpeterson said...

Thanks for bringing light to this important cause. The new hearings may begin Monday, September 8. We don't know yet because the same freak judge from the '94 trials will preside again. He likes to throw his weight around in an attempt to keep the defense off guard until the last second. Actually Arkansas supporters hope he rules to not allow any new evidence heard so we can move to federal court in Little Rock sooner where we'll get a fair shake. The crew at www.wm3.org can be expected to keep daily updates posted if the hearings go forward. You can go to our site to make tax free donations for the defense fund: www.freewestmemphis3.org. Thanks again!