Piers Morgan to host WM3 on Thursday 9/29

Piers Morgan plans to interview Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Lorri Davis and Jessie Misskelley on his CNN program on Thursday, September 29. Misskelley will appear via satellite from Arkansas, the other guests will be live in studio.

CNN has played an especially shameful role in covering this case. The man Morgan replaced, Larry King, did a prison interview with Damien Echols in 2007. King fed Echols a series of softball questions and failed to challenge any of the blatant lies Echols told. In 2010, King hosted Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines and Lorri Davis to talk about the case. And in January 2011, CNN ran an hour-long documentary which parroted the standard “innocent teenagers railroaded because they wore black and liked Metallica” WM3 supporter narrative.

Will Piers Morgan break the mold and show some skepticism? Or will this be another gullible CNN whitewash? Place your bets.

Did the softball girls recant?

The week after Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were arrested, five girls between the ages of 10 and 14 told police that they heard Damien Echols bragging about the murder at a softball park. Two of the five, Jodee Medford and Christy VanVickle, testified at the Echols/Baldwin trial. In case lore, they are collectively known as “the softball girls”.

WM3 supporters have long accused the softball girls of lying. And in recent years, supporters have frequently claimed that one or more softball girls recanted their testimony and admitted they were lying back in 1993-94. This claim appears so often on supporter websites that it has attained “everyone knows that …” status.

One problem: there’s no record of any of the softball girls ever recanting. I have scoured the supporter literature and never found a source cited for this assertion.

Donna Medford, mother of three of the softball girls, also talked to police in June 1993 and testified at the Baldwin/Echols trial in March 1994. Donna Medford did not hear Echols herself, but she confirmed that she heard her daughters and their friends excitedly talking about the incident when she drove them home from the softball park that night.

Donna Medford filed a new affidavit (scroll down to Exhibit RR) in 2007. Echols’ defense lawyers included this affidavit in their habeas corpus petition. WM3 supporters often refer to Donna Medford’s 2007 affidavit as a recantation. It’s not. It says exactly what she told police and the court back in 1993-94: she didn’t hear Echols herself, she heard the girls discussing it afterward in the car, she didn’t take it seriously at the time, but after Echols was arrested she went to the police. Nothing in that affidavit comes anywhere close to “Donna Medford admitted she lied” or “Donna Medford admitted her daughter lied” or “Donna Medford called her daughter a liar”.

Message board debater RCKx recently wrote, “Donna Medford never called her daughter, Jodee, a liar. Jodee was approached multiple times by defense ‘investigators’ and she never budged from her original statements. She maintained to me on several occasions in private discussions that she testified honestly to what she heard.” (Caveat: I don’t know RCKx personally and can’t confirm that he really knows Jodee Medford. I believe him, and my “anything you read on a message board is probably bullshit” threshold is pretty high, but apply whatever skepticism you deem appropriate. Please note: I did not just call RCKx a liar!)

A newspaper report of the WM3’s release included this tidbit: “The mother of a softball player who testified at trial that she overheard Echols tell friends he killed the boys, now says her daughter lied, [prosecuting attorney for the 2nd Judicial District Scott] Ellington said.” Ellington was elected to his position last year and took office in January 2011. It’s not clear how much of the case’s history he knows. Maybe Ellington was misquoted, or maybe he possesses information that hasn’t been made public, or maybe he gullibly swallowed this line of WM3 supporter disinformation without checking the facts.

It’s worth noting that both Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin publicly acknowledged around 2008-2010 that the softball park incident happened just as the softball girls testified it did (here, here and here (PDF)). As Echols and Baldwin tell it, the girls just didn’t catch that Echols was joking around.

Here’s a challenge to WM3 supporters: show me a source where Jodee Medford or any of the other softball girls recanted. If it’s true, I’ll be glad to add it to this site.

48 Hours Interview with Echols and Baldwin

CBS will run a new 48 Hours episode about the West Memphis Three this Saturday. The highlight will be a new interview with America’s most beloved child-killers, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin. Preview with interview excepts.

Judging from the preview, the interview will be just as fawning and misinformed as most WM3 coverage. For example:

In this exclusive interview Jason Baldwin says he turned down a deal for freedom initially because the stipulation for their release was changing their original not guilty pleas to guilty.

It would have been the second time he’d turned down a deal. The first time was after the three little boys were found brutally murdered in a ditch in West Memphis and Baldwin was arrested.

Prosecutors offered then 16-year-old Baldwin a five year sentence in exchange for his testimony against Echols.

Baldwin refused because he says he would have had a hand in sending his friend to death row but this time he said yes to save his friend’s life.

Five-year sentence offer? Bullshit.

Before Jessie Misskelley’s trial, prosecutors offered Misskelley a fifty-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against Baldwin and Echols. That offer is documented in the January 26, 1994 pre-trial hearing. But there is no record of prosecutors ever offering Jason Baldwin a plea deal.

Mara Leveritt claims in Devil’s Knot (pages 233 and 257) that prosecutors offered Baldwin a forty-year plea deal, then later a twenty-year plea deal. Her sources are interviews years later with defense lawyer Paul Ford and Baldwin himself. According to her footnote, Ford “could not remember the exact terms”, so the numbers must have come from Baldwin himself.

And now Baldwin claims prosecutors offered him a five-year sentence plea deal? After they refused to offer Jessie Misskelley anything less than fifty years? When they knew that Jason Baldwin was the one who actually used the knife to slice open one boy’s face and carve off another boy’s genitals? Absolute 100% bullshit.

God forbid anyone at CBS News express the slightest skepticism at what a convicted and confessed child-killer says.

More Terrible Media Coverage

Terrible media coverage of the WM3 release deal continues.

Gullible reporters keep rehashing the Paradise Lost/wm3.org/Devil’s Knot story without making the slightest effort to find out if that story is true. A prime example from Rolling Stone: How Rockers Helped Free the West Memphis Three.

Some publications haven’t even made the pretense of independent reporting, instead commissioning puff pieces by longtime pro-WM3 propagandists. Newsweek hired Mara Leveritt, while Time countered by hiring Joe Berlinger.

This isn’t journalism, it’s more like a schoolgirl crush.

Celebrity WM3 Supporter Trey Parker

At the 2000 MTV Movie Awards, Trey Parker shouted “Free the West Memphis Three!” while accepting an award. Later that year, Parker wore a wm3.org t-shirt during an Access Hollywood interview.

For me, Trey Parker is still the most disappointing celebrity WM3 supporter. I love South Park. I love Team America. And no one has satirized arrogant, misinformed celebrity cause-mongering more astutely or mercilessly.

In a 2004 interview with Hollywood, Interrupted, Trey Parker said:

And celebrities view themselves as the fucking Mozarts of their time. Even fucking Ray Romano thinks he is an elightened individual. These people all think they are enlightened artists and therefore speak for the country. But I haven’t met one celebrity who wasn’t a little bit fucked up. Actors and actresses are the worst, because they are just fucking monkeys. Half the people in this country can do what they do, but for some reason they think their opinion matters.

In the same vein, Team America had puppet Janeane Garofalo pompously declare, “As actors, it is our responsibility to read the newspapers, and then say what we read on television like it’s our own opinion.”

But on the WM3 issue, Trey Parker did exactly what he mocked other celebrities for doing. He watched a movie, read a website written by people who watched the same movie, then repeated what he heard on television like it was his own opinion. In the process, Parker helped make folk heroes out of scumbags who tortured and murdered second-graders for kicks. That’s at least as fucked up as anything Rob Reiner or Barbra Streisand ever did.

In the same Hollywood, Interrupted interview, Parker said:

People in the middle of the country do not matter AT ALL to the entertainment people in LA or New York. People in the entertainment industry are by and large whore-chasing drug-addict fuck-ups, right? But they still believe they’re better than the guy in Wyoming who really loves his wife and takes care of his kids and is a good, outstanding, wholesome person.

But in his MTV shout out, Trey Parker was essentially saying, “Ha ha, fuck you wholesome Arkansas people who take care of their kids! Here in Hollywood, we think the guys who tortured and murdered your children are cool!”

Trey Parker, it’s not too late. (No, I’m not self-absorbed enough to think the creators of South Park read this site. But maybe they have a clipping service or Google alert. Maybe someone reading this has a friend of a friend who works for William Morris. Who knows.) It’s not too late to read the facts, realize you’ve been had, and be brave enough to admit publicly, “I was wrong about the West Memphis Three”. You could be the first celebrity WM3 apostate.