Damien Echols told an especially bizarre and preposterous lie in a recent interview with some dimwit named Brian Tallerico at Hollywood Chicago.
This particular lie deals with the origin of Exhibit 500, a compendium of Echols’ psychiatric records from the period leading up to the murders. Here is Echols’ version of events:
ECHOLS: When you have to fight against the other lawyers as hard or harder as you do against the state. Jason [Baldwin]’s lawyers. Their entire agenda was to make me look as guilty as possible, thinking somehow it was going to help him. The number one thing that people quote is Exhibit 500, a mental health report, that comes from the fact that, one day, Jason’s attorneys contacted me and said they had this idea that would be really helpful and great. I was naive. It was years ago. OK, sure, let’s do it. This woman comes and writes up this report that diagnoses me with every single mental illness known to mankind. She can’t even file it herself because she’s already perjured herself and so she takes it to another doctor to file. The number one piece of evidence that people use to try and hurt me wasn’t even filed by the state. It was filed by Jason Baldwin’s attorneys.
HOLLYWOODCHICAGO.COM: You’re fighting people who you think should be on your side.
Like most journalists covering this case, Brian Tallerico displays no skepticism whatsoever even when faced with ridiculous stream-of-bullshit statements like this. So here’s a little free fact-checking.
The dossier which came to be known as Exhibit 500 was compiled by Inquisitor, Inc., a private investigation company owned by Ron Lax. In June 1993, soon after the arrests, Ron Lax volunteered his company’s services for the Echols defense pro bono. Lax also worked with the Misskelley defense team over the next nine months, but had little contact with the Baldwin defense team.
Preparing for the original trial (which took place from February 28 to March 19, 1994), Echols’ defense lawyers had to consider the likelihood of a guilty verdict and to make preparations for the penalty phase. If it reached that point, the defense lawyers hoped to spare their client the death penalty by showing mitigating factors. This is standard practice for a death penalty case.
One of Inquisitor, Inc.’s projects was to compile Echols’ psychiatric records in one big file. Inquisitor employee Glori Shettles did much of this work. She acquired documents from Echols’ three 1992 court-ordered institutionalizations, his 1993 counseling sessions and his Social Security disability application. This file was then provided to psychologist James Moneypenny, who examined Echols before trial and reviewed his psychiatric records.
The jury found Echols guilty on March 18. The penalty phase took place on March 19, and the defense called Moneypenny to testify about Echols’ troubled childhood and recent psychiatric problems. It was not an “insanity defense”, just an attempt to evoke enough pity to keep Echols off death row.
The complete trial transcript is online, including James Moneypenny’s testimony. Moneypenny carried a copy of the Inquisitor-compiled dossier to the witness stand and consulted it during his testimony. During cross-examination, prosecutor John Fogleman asked Moneypenny about specific documents and eventually requested that the full dossier be submitted into evidence.
FOGLEMAN: And in regard — back to the East Arkansas Mental Health Center — you’re familiar with Doctor Irby’s report where he visited with Damien Echols on January 5, 1993?
MONEYPENNY: I can’t recall the specific content of that.
FOGLEMAN: Let me show it to you. And if you would, read the part that I have highlighted in pink. This page has the date. It is on the next page.
And I need you to speak up if you could.
MONEYPENNY: (READING) Reports that he thinks a lot about life after death. Quote, I want to where the monsters go, end quote. Describes himself as, quote, pretty much hate the human race, end quote. Relates that he feels people are in two classes, sheep and wolves. Wolves eat the sheep.
FOGLEMAN: Thank you, Doctor. That would be he thinks a lot about life after death and he wants to go where the monsters go?
MONEYPENNY: That’s what it says.
FOGLEMAN: And then are you familiar with the report from January 25th, 1993?
MONEYPENNY: Do you want me to read this?
FOGLEMAN: Yes, sir, if you would read the part in pink.
MONEYPENNY: (READING) Damien explains that he obtains his powers by drinking blood of others. He typically drinks the blood of a sexual partner or of a ruling partner. This is achieved by biting or cutting. He said, quote, it makes me feel like a god, end quote.
FOGLEMAN: It makes him feel like what?
MONEYPENNY: A god.
FOGLEMAN: A god. Okay. Go ahead.
MONEYPENNY: (READING) Damien describes drinking blood as giving him more power and strength.
Then later on the page — (READING) He has also agreed to continue to discuss his issues with power and control as related to his practice of rituals.
FOGLEMAN: And then, finally Doctor, are you familiar with the report where he was seen on January 19th, 1993?
MONEYPENNY: Not the specific content.
FOGLEMAN: You reviewed these reports?
FOGLEMAN: If you would read this part?
MONEYPENNY: (READING) Quote, I just put it all inside, end quote.
(READING) Describes this as more than just anger like rage. Sometimes he does, quote, blow up, end quote.
(READING) Relates that when this happens, the only solution is to hurt someone. That’s in quotes.
(READING) Damien reports being told in the hospital that he could be another Charles Manson or Ted Bundy. When questioned on his feelings he states, quote I know I’m going to influence the world. People will remember me, end quote.
FOGLEMAN: We would offer State’s Exhibit 500, these medical records.
[Echols defense lawyer Val] PRICE: We have no objection, your Honor.
THE COURT: All right, without objection, they may be received.
And that’s why we have access to Damien Echols’ psychiatric records for the year before the murders.
Jason Baldwin’s lawyers played absolutely no role in compiling this dossier or in making it part of the trial record.
The notion that one person “wrote up” Exhibit 500 is beyond preposterous. The dossier includes records written by several doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers in Arkansas and Oregon. It includes Social Security application forms filled out by Echols himself. Is Echols claiming that Glori Shettles forged all these documents?
Anyone with an interest in this case should be familiar with Exhibit 500, not every document but at least a general sense of what’s in it and how it became public. This site’s Damien Echols profile page summarizes the contents. For a journalist interviewing Echols to not know this stuff and to accept Echols’ bullshit at face value is unreal.