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.

22 thoughts on “Did the softball girls recant?”

  1. Of course Goth-boy-man-tits made these statements. The jury is smart enough to figure out the context for themselves. But let’s think about the context for a second…

    Can you imagine that this guy is such a likely suspect that everyone in the town is talking about him to the point where they are taunting him at public events? He must have been in heaven with the attention and feeling of “being somebody to fear.” Yet, he was free to walk the streets — he already talked with the cops and he was “cleared” in his own mind.

    Was he picked on? No. It’s called being a suspect — or in this case, a “dumbass.”

    Of course no one mentions that the police questioned and polygraphed dozens of other possible suspects before they arrested Damien — almost a month after the crime, and only after a guy places him and another kid at the crime scene with an odd yet disturbing confession. All they needed was ONE RELIABLE ALIBI. Just ONE. But they have ZERO alibis for where they were between 6:30 and 8:00 — yet there is evidence and witnesses that place them near the Robin Hood Hills area at that time.

    Think about this. The only people who really know if these guys killed these kids or not — outside of Damien, Jason and Jessie — are the cops. They either “forced a confession and aligned the planets to ensure that none of the suspects would have an alibi and no other clues or realistic suspects/confessions would emerge” — or they didn’t.

    Do you think the cops are that smart and powerful? Do you think they said ‘let’s pin this on Misskelley — don’t worry, we’ll back his story into fit the facts, and then we’ll kill all the alibi witnesses.” And, if you think that was a coerced confession (pick any on Jessie’s confessions you want), don’t you think they would have made it better or at least foolproof? “LEY’S GET HIM TO CONFESS — BUT LET’S MAKE SOME GLARING ERRORS TO MAKE IT LOOK REAL”

    Anyone who is blindly sold on the Paradise Lost mantra of: “Oh my God, these three metal kids were on their way to play video games when the cops hauled them to jail and then told the jury there was a full moon and that the metal kidz musta dunz it” theory really needs to spend a few minutes (or hours) reading through the case documents and trial transcripts at Callahan’s site: http://callahan.8k.com/documents_az.html#jagee

    Listen to the audio of the closing arguements — just keep an open mind.

    1. And it doesn’t end there. Not only wrote the cops an Oscar deserving script that looked so deceptively natural, the leading actor was chosen also with an outstanding precision. Who could act better as if he naturally confessed than a boy whose IQ is next to “retarded”? Depp has met his match in Misskelley, no doubt about it.

  2. This one particularly annoys me.

    First, is there any doubt Scott Ellington is a dumb ass at this point? My money is on simple regurgitation of supporter lies and propaganda on his part.

    The next shows what an absolute pile of steaming shit CBS has become. When Echols told the producers of 48 Hours he was “joking” about his roles in the murders, they failed to mention one little fact: Echols testified under oath he never made such a statement. So CBS let an admitted perjurer give them a point of view to their already slanted coverage and failed to mention his trial testimony. Isn’t that convenient?

    The Medford “recantations” exist only in the fever swamps of supporter sites but were part of the mythology that led to the eventual release of the child murderers.

  3. Are you delusional message boarders actually suggesting you know more about the state of the State’s case than prosecutor Ellington does?

    Ellington was well briefed by his staff about the hopelessness of the State’s case and he knows far more than any of you ever could about what the so-called Softball Girls would have testified to in a new trial.

    Ellington took the deal in an attempt to save some face for those who screwed up so badly in the investigation and prosecution of the original case, as well as for that idiot judge who is now a state rep. If he thought for a second the State had even a small amount of evidence to demonstrate guilt, he never would have released a man from Death Row. Never would have happened. You have to be a complete fool not to see that.

    1. @Rennick – Well if the state’s case was “hopeless” against the WM3 – then why did they accept the plea deal – knowing they would still be labeled CONVICTED CHILD KILLERS – instead of being fully exonerated since they are so innocent and the hearing was just a few months away?
      Doesn’t make sense, does it?
      Oh wait – it’s so they can “continue to search for the killers, but from outside the prison instead of inside.” yyyyeeeeeaaaaaaaahhhhh – that’s the ticket!

    2. @ rennick

      In 1994 — Damien denied on the stand under oath that he ever made such comments about the murders as the ones they were claiming happened at the softball game.

      Today — Damien readily admits that he in fact did make those comments at the softball game, but adds that he was “joking.” And then he wonders “why were they coming after me so bad?”

      No need to wonder what the girls might testify to — DAMIEN ALREADY CONFRIMED IT!

      Ellington admitted he hasn’t read all the case files. There is no evidence that the girls recanted their statement. In fact, it seems they reaffirmed their positions. Do you have information the rest of is don’t?

      Ellington had a chance to get this thing of his plate and end the WM3 propaganda machine once and for all. The kids served 18 years, under the new deal they would be released under some type of supervision and forfeit their chances of suing the state of Arkansas. He made a decision based on economics, it seems. Lose three costly trials, lose three costly lawsuits, and retain 100% guilty pleas from the killers.

      Two of the victims parents liked the deal. The WM3 easily took the deal. Killers out of jail under terms and being watched. End of story.

    3. Rennick,
      This is a quote from Scott Ellington at a panel discussion sponsored by the Clinton School of Public Service and the Arkansas Times on August 25th: “I haven’t gone through all of the West Memphis Police file.” Ellington was not “well briefed” on this case. He didn’t even take the time to read the police file before releasing the WM3. Yes, many of us “delusional message boarders” probably do know more than he does. We have actually read the case file.

  4. Just to clarify for someone who finds these posts and doesn’t know much about the case — please spend some time doing research.

    SOURCE FOR ECHOLS OWN ADMISSION THAT HE MADE COMMENTS THAT SUPPORTERS ARE CLAIMING DON’T EXIST:

    http://wm3org.typepad.com/blog/2010/07/echols-17-years-of-pure-hell-1.html

    ACTUAL TEXT AND QUOTE FROM LINKED SOURCE:

    Two girls, Jodee Medford and Christy Van Vickle, testified they heard Echols admit at a softball game weeks after the murders that he killed the boys. Echols said their testimony was key for the prosecution.

    “I might have said it, but it wasn’t because I did it,” he said. “I was a teen-ager. People were saying a lot of stuff about me. But I might have said it joking around.”

    ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF WHY HE MIGHT HAVE SAID WHAT HE DIDN’T SAY:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/02/27/48hours/main6251328_page2.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody

    But the two girls who were at that softball game that Damien attended testified that they overheard him admit to the murders.

    “I don’t remember saying that at the time because to me, it – I didn’t actually do it. It would have been like a joke,” he says.

    “Help me understand why you would think that’s a joke back then,” says Moriarty.

    “It’s the person I was and it’s the way I thought at that time in my life, and I – I can’t make excuses for it.”

    THAT LAST LINE SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT THIS CASE. — “IT’S THE PERSON I WAS AND THAT’S THE WAY I THOUGHT AT THAT TIME IN MY LIFE”

    SO WHO WAS DAMIEN AT THIS POINT IN HIS LIFE?

    READ THIS –> http://callahan.8k.com/images/500/4/490.jpg

    It’s about character.

  5. That’s why Damien hates fat people: He’s a recovering man titted fatty. Like they say, nobody hates addicts more than recovering addicts.

    1. It must make it hard on him to be the west memphis boogey man. I mean how does he sneak up on kids with the sound of his sloshing man tits?

  6. @OJS – So, if he actually killed the kids, you really think he would admit it in public around everyone? Did you read your own link that you posted? http://www.freewestmemphis3.org/download/Habeas%203%20of%203.PDF

    Basically explains that he kept getting taunted by the small town for being the most like a “devil worshiper”, so he may have snarled back at them. Is that so implausible? It was a witch hunt from the beginning, as page 108 of the link you posted above states from the officer that they sent after Echols and Baldwin. You want to talk about folks who should know this case, it is Officer Steve Jones. He was the first on the case and went through the motions of the whole thing. If Jones thinks these guys were unfairly targeted and are innocent, then maybe an injustice was done.

  7. Hmmm. Let’s see.
    1. Three teenagers with NO history of violent behavior (all of them actually has pets they cared for and showed no sign of typically psychotic behavior) who are just weird.
    2. Three 8 year olds are seen here as entirely helpless, and yet they have the nerve to tell off parents, ride all over the wooded areas without fear, one starts fires and has excessive behavior problems, and would clearly not listen to teenagers if they wouldn’t listen to adults.
    3. No physical evidence whatsoever implicating three defendants
    4. Whoever did this crime was wise enough to either have killed all three boys in the water (therefore no blood on ground near scene) or did so in a secluded area and then transported the bodies there. Well planned ending it seems–are these three kids smart enough?
    5. Why would three 8 year olds playing even stop to talk to three weird teenagers? really? Would they really stop to talk to a black man with a cast that they don’t know in an all white neighborhood? And as pointed out, could he really corral all of these boys with one hand? Clearly people don’t know 8 year old self-interest behavior.
    6. But, if an adult, known by the boys, demanded their compliance, they would freeze out of fear–just enough time to take them all out physically and do them horrible harm.

    7. Our only physical evidence? A wisely cleaned body dumping area. A belt mark or a bite mark on each child. A removed set of teeth in a step-parent. Confirmed beating of one child earlier that day by parent with a belt for his behavior. Skin removed from a boy’s penis intentionally. A step-parent who (instead of thinking of how his son suffered) says he is reminded by this of memories when he was tortured by five people when young. Hogtying of children and torture (which implies true heinous behavior being somewhat inherent in the murderer, not just a supposed “satanic” ritual) done with shoelaces wrapped with one step-parent’s hair.

    8. Our players? A judge with political aspirations. A police department with a public in fear who need a fall guy. A dumb kid who will say anything to get himself out of trouble and too stupid to realize it got himself into deeper trouble. A dumb kid who dresses and speaks in such a way to get attention because he’s so insecure, and disrespects all authority and believes arrogantly that he can ride out this case with sarcasm because he knows he didn’t do anything wrong. A dumb kid who made friends with the last dumb kid. An arrogant defense attorney who shows his disdain for the community with as much contempt as Nichols and therefore can’t move a jury toward reasonable doubt. A proven abusive husband & stepfather (who shot his brother-in-law) whose wife “kissed a Mexican” and wanted revenge to inflict pain somehow on her (“he doesn’t get mad he gets even” wife said). A neighbor that saw 3 boys being called by Hobbs to his house at the time of disappearance. A mother who left this husband (Hobbs) and now for some reason thinks the boys are innocent. Another wife (Byers) whose death is still in question. A dead child (Byers) who needed Ritalin and exhibited clinical behavior typical of an abused child, and yet behaved as though he wasn’t receiving his medication according to doctors. Another step-father (Byers) who acknowledges beating his child and is later convicted of selling prescription drugs. And finally, a jury foreman who brags about knowing their guilt and introduces Misskelly’s testimony direct to the jury without legal permission.

    Kids with alibis, however lame, and adults with none…And to the idiot who thinks above that a new trial would take 4 months? Really? LOL. Try years…I’d take the plea and leave prison now as well. And the State, and Burnett’s political career, doesn’t favor another trial.

  8. Why would they have taken the deal knowing they are innocent? Do you even understand an Alford Plea? If not, lemme put it in simple language. “Your Honor, while i maintain MY INNOCENCE in this case, I understand that it is in my best interest AS WELL AS THE STATE’S best interest to submit a plea of guilty to…” fill in the blank. Jason Baldwin has said multiple time he did not want to take the deal from the get go because he did NOT commit these tragic crimes, however, the state of Arkansas (my home state) was trying to kill Damien Echols, and new trial or not, they could have done that at any time of their choosing. Now, what kind of murderer would deliberately save the life of another man, who it could be said ruined his life? Given the nature of the killings, a profile of a “psycopathic, personal connection killer” has been established. What Jason Baldwin did requires compassion and a willingness to concede your personal beliefs for the benefit of another human. A psychopath is incapable of such compassion. Terry Hobbs however, has the dimeanor, the criminal background, the lack of remorse or compassion, and lo and behold, DNA evidence against him, David Jackoby, and an unknown black male. If i remember correctly those aren’t the names of the men convicted, nor are any of them black.

  9. @ Billy Bob Is that about byers kid is that another kid or is that talking about chris being on meds? I just don’t see that the wm3 did it. there is no dna but there is dna pointing at somebody else and the black male at bojangles may have been in on it or maybe tried to stop something also what about the two guys that took off to Ca 4 days after the murders Chris and Brian i believe is their names one of them failed the polygraph not sure what they were stopped for but one failed the poly graph when asked if he had info about the murders and he actually said I might have done them they sent urin and blood samples to WMPD and guess what they never did anything about it. And people say mark byers did it well that makes me wonder why would he be supporting them now if he did it he would not want the case reopened and are people really going to say he did it bc he had a tooth pulled somebody explain that one to me please

  10. Wow, BillyBob, your synopsis is completely wrong, and kind of evil. What do the victim’s slight behavioral problems have to do with anything? Why blame them?

    -You’re wrong about the 3 having no violent history. Damien tried to stab a kid’s eyes out and threatened to kill multiple children and adults. He also probably tortured and/or killed one or more animals.

    -The 3 weren’t just weird kids. Damien was officially, clinically sociopathic, obsessed with evil and violence, suicidal, a bully, and delusional. The others also have psych profiles consistent with the crime.

    -The victims were from the neighborhood and knew the 3. The 3 were not total strangers leaping out and attacking. They could easily have engaged the kids. I find it harder to believe that one adult could subdue, tie up and kill three 8-year olds without one or more escaping. And the idea that the killer somehow got an unidentified one-armed black guy to help him makes even less sense, besides being kinda racisty.

    -You don’t have to be smart at all to know not to leave blood and bodies around at a place where you just killed someone. Put the bodies under water, splash water over the blood on the bank until it’s gone, get rid of the murder weapon. A teen could easily do it. Teens probably did.

    -Blood probably from one of the victims was identified on one of the teens’ necklace. That is physical evidence.
    -Luminol sprayed on the bank showed blood splatters consistent with Jessie’s confessions.
    -Jessie continued to make his confessions long past the point that there was anything to be gained by them.
    -Jessie recants once the trial is over, he is no longer under oath, and there is a lot to be gained by recanting.
    -Jessie’s confessions reveal things not known by the public, such as which kid was mutilated and which was scarred in the face.
    -Jessie’s confessions were not even solicited or expected by the police when he was first brought in for questioning. He was only heavily interrogated once it became clear that he was involved and knew what happened.
    -Jessie’s confessions are reasonably mistake-filled (given his dimwittedness and motivation to avoid harsher punishment), but keep to a very consistent core narrative. Just what you would expect if he were in fact a party to the murders. Also, witnesses do tend to remember things more accurately over time, which is what happened.
    -Lots and lots of witnesses hear Damien boast of the murders, which is very much in character for him. Multiple different witnesses on different occasions hear him brag that he will kill 2 more people. Did dozens of people conspire to frame him, and collaborate beforehand about their stories?
    -Only some of the witnesses recant, most of them after the WM3-support movement becomes an aggressive, celebrity-fueled campaign. Witnesses recanting (for reasons other than the truth) is a fairly common thing, even when millions of people and movie stars aren’t aligned against you. More tellingly, plenty of witnesses don’t recant at all.
    -Hobbs calls the boys to come into the house but they run off. That explains why he went out after them, and stayed out all night searching for them when they vanished. It doesn’t do a thing to explain how/why he could corner, successfully corral and catch all three of them, tie them up with 3 different knots, sexually mutilate them and kill them.
    -The 3 have NO alibi. What alibis are offered are irreconcilable, and clearly lies. This is important. If you are innocent (and have lawyers), you will recall what actually happened and stick to that. No need to lie. Of course, the truth doesn’t work if all 3 teens are out, in the crime scene area, with no one else around, at the time of the murders.
    -Jessie was at the crime scene, the night of the murders. He proved it himself by giving the prosecutors the proof of his broken bottle. He was evasive and dishonest about the time of day at first, obviously, because he wanted the cops to believe that he was gone by the time things got really bad. Thus, when cornered by the cops, he lied that the kids must have skipped school. Only when forced did he admit that he was there at nightfall, when the victims died.
    -The “new evidence” doesn’t change anything. Hairs are not the same as semen or blood-they travel and stick to everything, especially shoelaces. Hair from my cat is all over 3 countries. The hair in the shoe has nothing to do with the 3, but it also does nothing to clear them. It just shoes that the kid was at that house, which everyone already knew. Anyone who thinks that “new evidence” freed these guys is uninformed. They are out of jail because of a media circus and bad publicity for the town.

  11. All you idiotic wannabe Sherlock Holmes face if these 3 guys are innocent or guilty we’ll probably never know… Stop guessing

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