Dan Stidham’s testimony at the Baldwin/Misskelley Rule 37 Hearing included an exchange about his meeting with Jessie Misskelley on June 11, 1993. This was one of Stidham’s earliest meetings with his client, eight days after Misskelley’s original confession to West Memphis police, eight days after the “West Memphis Three” were arrested.
(In the Rule 37 appeal, Misskelley and Baldwin were basically arguing that they deserved new trials because their original lawyers had been incompetent. Stidham and the other original defense lawyers were required to turn over their case files. This revealed a great deal of previously confidential information to prosecutors, and much of that information ended up in the trial record.)
WM3 supporters claim that the West Memphis police coerced Jessie Misskelley into a false confession on June 3. So what did Misskelley tell his defense lawyer on June 11, in a private meeting with no law enforcement officials present?
Stidham did not tape-record this meeting, but he kept a legal pad with handwritten notes. At the hearing, Kent Holt (Arkansas Assistant Attorney General) asked Stidham to read those notes. Here’s that testimony, with quotations from Stidham’s 6/11/93 notes bolded.
HOLT] Okay. I show you what’s been marked as State’s Exhibit 12E and ask if you can identify that document?
STIDHAM] (Witness examining same.) Yes, sir.
HOLT] What is that?
STIDHAM] That appears to be my notes from an interview with Mr. Misskelley on June 11, 1993.
HOLT] And we are back to where I wanted to get with the time records. On page three of the time records you have June 11, 1993 “conference with client.” Would this in fact be the notes that you made during that conference?
STIDHAM] Yes, it would.
HOLT] Okay. And do you know when this got put in the file?
STIDHAM] I assume as soon as I got back to the office.
HOLT] So did you ever take it with you back to the jail?
STIDHAM] This particular statement?
STIDHAM] I have no idea. I just don’t know.
HOLT] Okay. Do you know if that statement was ever reduced, uh, was ever put into a printed-type document?
STIDHAM] Not unless it’s in that folder.
HOLT] I haven’t been able to locate it.
STIDHAM] Then it wasn’t, then.
HOLT] Okay. I can’t really, uh, if you would, read what the I notes that you made with regard to that meeting that you had in those two and half hours with Mr. Misskelley?
STIDHAM] Do you want me to read the entire document?
HOLT] Yes, I do. Just to make sure —— you have good handwriting, but I can’t make out every point.
STIDHAM] It’ ll take a little time, but I’ll see what I can do here. I made notes in paragraph form and paragraph one states that “seen picture of three b’s,” which was an abbreviation for boys.
HOLT] What was “C” in abbreviation?
HOLT] Was that your client?
STIDHAM] I’m not sure what “C” is — I’m sorry.
HOLT] Well, you started off, it says — seen pictures of three b’s – oh, “seen picture of three b’s about one week before murder” for instance, down on paragraph 3, I thought you were – we’ll get to that.
STIDHAM] Okay. I’m sorry. I obviously wasn’t speaking clearly enough.
Paragraph one: “Seen picture of three b’s,” which means 3 boys, “one week before murder at cult meeting.”
Paragraph two: “At cult meeting he recognized three boys, but couldn’t remember where he,” horrible grammar, “where he seen them until the picture was in paper.”
HOLT] Are you dictating this?
STIDHAM] No, I’m writing it as he is telling me.
HOLT] I mean, exactly, you’re writing it as he is telling you.
STIDHAM] Well, to the best I can.
HOLT] Well, you wouldn’t necessarily say “seen”?
STIDHAM] I don’t have the best grammar in the world, so it’s possible that that’s my word instead of his.
HOLT] It’s more likely that he in fact used the words “I seen”? That’s common parlance among people who don’t speak good English?
STIDHAM] It’s possible. I think that says “three teens were in water. Damien hollered at three boys, client,” C,, which is short for client, “and Jason hid in weeds. Damien hit blonde-headed boy and then other two started hitting Damien.” And the other two would be reference to other victims. “C, ” being client, Mr. Misskelley, “and Jason came out and all started fighting.”
Paragraph 4 states that: “C,” again referring to Mr. Misskelley, “started hitting boy in Scout uniform. J,” which would be, uh, stand for Jason, “started hitting the other boy.”
Paragraph 5: “Damien hit the blonde-headed boy with stick, unconscious, bleeding a little bit.”
Paragraph 6: “Damien then went to Jason and other kid. Damien started hitting this boy and Jason went over to the blonde-headed boy and stuck his dick into the boy’s mouth.”
Paragraph 7: “Client,” it actually says ‘C,’ but it’s obviously reference to the client, “kept hitting boy Scout and knocked him out unconscious, still breathing. C,” being client, “was sure he was still breathing.”
Paragraph 8: “The C,” client, “went on to Damien and helped Damien hit the other boy.”
And then it goes to page two. Paragraph 9: “Damien went to Boy Scout, pulled his pants down and screwed him in the ass.”
Paragraph 10: “After Jason screwed blonde boy in the mouth, he screwed him in the butt. After he screwed him in the butt, he cut off blonde-headed boy’s penis.”
Paragraph 11: “After that, client realized it was time to stop. Client stopped hitting other kid. Client went over to Boy Scout, he was saying ‘help us, help us.'”
Paragraph 12: “Client told Damien ‘it’s time to stop.’ Damien said, ‘No, we’re going to,’ —— I can’t read my own writing.
HOLT] You’re taking it down pretty fast weren’t you?
STIDHAM] Yes, and of course, my handwriting is not the best. It says, ‘No, we’re going to hide this,’ or ‘We’re going to like this,’ I think, is actually what it says. “Client helped Boy Scout up, Damien knocked client and boy down. Client told Damien and Jason to stop hurting boys.”
Paragraph 13: “Client walked away ten to fifteen feet and then came back.”
Paragraph 14: “Damien screwed Boy Scout again. Jason stabbed one of the little boys in the face.”
Paragraph 15: “Client and Damien and Jason tied all boys up with their own shoestrings. Client choked Boy Scout until he quit moving.
Paragraph 16: “All but the blonde was still alive. Client didn’t choke blonde.”
Paragraph 17: “Damien and Jason threw them in water. Saw boys kicking around in water.”
Paragraph 18: “Client was afraid to go back and help, so he left.”
And then the final page doesn’t have any numbers with a paragraph. “No one ever mentioned killing anybody in cult. Damien would try to say voodoo stuff and try to,” it says, “try to dogs, cats and snakes from the dead.” I’m not sure exactly what that means. “Damien stuck his tongue in the skull of a bird.” And that’s the end of my notes.
HOLT] And you did, according to your practice, you testified the date — — what is the date on that?
STIDHAM] June 11, 1993.
For case junkies who have downloaded the full Baldwin/Misskelley Rule 37 Hearing transcripts, this exchange appears in volume 6, beginning at BMHR 1504.