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.