Columns by Todd Moore and Terry Hobbs

Todd Moore (father of murder victim Michael Moore) and Terry Hobbs (stepfather of murder victim Steve Branch) have both written guest columns for the Jonesboro Sun this summer.

On June 6, the Sun published a willfully ignorant editorial titled “Justice Unserved”. Todd Moore’s guest column ran on June 12.

Father of WM3 murder victim certain who killed 3 boys
by Todd Moore

I am the father of West Memphis triple murder victim Michael Moore. I am writing this in response to your editorial in the June 6 edition of The Sun titled “Justice Unserved.” It has always been my opinion that justice was served when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were convicted in 1994 for the brutal murder of my son and his friends.

The three men who slaughtered my son were convicted by two juries that found them guilty in 1994. Despite this, the Arkansas Supreme Court generously granted the murderers the opportunity for a new evidentiary hearing to be held Dec, 5, 2011, to show evidence they claimed proved their innocence. They could have been granted a new trial to prove these claims of innocence. Instead of presenting their “new evidence” in open court last December, they opted to plead guilty to the murders in August 2011 in exchange for time served.

Second District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington agreed to accept the defense’s plea offer for vague reasons we still don’t understand. Family members learned of the deal only at the last minute. The district attorney was new to the case. But whatever the rational, this continued to make the convicts guilty as a matter of law.

The defense team avoided sharing the results of the tests of everything with us by preemptively entering a guilty plea for their clients. Thanks to the plea deal, we may never know exactly what the defense found when the evidence was retested. Absence of DNA evidence does not prove the West Memphis Three (WM3) are innocent. The killers washed most of the evidence away in the water- filled ditch where they drowned my son. There was plenty of other evidence to convict them in 1994 without positive DNA. Most murderers are convicted without DNA evidence.

The defense attorneys for the WM3 had nearly 20 years to find “the real killer” and failed to do so. After nearly two decades and untold millions in donated funds spent, the best they could do was find a hair that may or may not have belonged to Terry Hobbs, step- father of victim Stevie Branch. It was allegedly found on a shoelace used to tie my son. It has never been proven to actually belong to Terry Hobbs.

Even if it was Terry Hobbs’ hair, that fact would prove nothing. Our sons were best friends, and my child spent considerable time in Terry Hobbs’s home and could have picked up the hair on his shoe. This would be “secondary transfer” and makes the hair of no probative value. The defense has even admitted as much. Terry Hobbs did not murder my son. No credible law enforcement official believes so. Neither did Mark Byers, Mr. Bojangles nor any of the other defense red herrings.

Contrary to your editorial, it is not up to police or the prosecutor to continue to look for “the real killer.” The real killers were arrested and charged back in 1993, were found guilty in 1994 and then admitted their guilt in 2011 after getting a lucky break. To his credit, Prosecutor Ellington has stated many times that his door is open to any new leads and evidence presented to him by the WM3 defense teams.

So far, nothing compelling enough to reopen the case has been presented to him. District Attorney Ellington stated as much the day your editorial appeared. This means despite the defense’s grandiose claims prior to the pleas, not one iota of credible evidence has been presented to show their clients’ innocence or even to view the convicted as anything less than what they are as a matter of law and as a matter of fact: guilty.

The WM3 defense team has been well-funded by numerous celebrities who were misinformed by the biased “Paradise Lost” documentaries. These one-sided films left out nearly all of the evidence that demonstrated the guilt of the WM3. They caused thousands of people to support the release of the convicted child killers with a very limited unndcrstanding of the actual facts of the case.

Mr. Wessel, it appears that you, like so many others, got most of your misinformation about this case from these inaccurate documentaries. If you would take the time to dig a little deeper and actually read the case file documents, you would know that there was ample evidence to convict these three men for murdering my son. These documents are readily available on websites such as www.callahan.8k.com.

Here are just a few examples of what was omitted from the documentaries:

• Jessie Misskelley confessed to the crime at least five times to police, prosecutors, even his own attorneys with his hand on a Bible. Misskelley confessed the first time after less than four hours of police questioning. That questioning was done with permission from his father. He continued to repeatedly confess in the year that followed.

• Damien Echols amassed a mental health record 500 pages long in the years immediately prior to the murders. In his own handwriting, he classified himself as a “homicidal, suicidal, schizophrenic, sociopath” just a months before he brutally murdered my son.

• Read Damien Echols’ current Twitter account to discover his deep-seated interest in skulls and the occult. There he also recently described artwork depicting a man sawing off his own arm as “breathtaking.” In addition, Echols is obscenely profiting off the death of my son by selling his narcissistic books, promoting his self-serving movie, and tattooing murder groupies with his “mark.” For two hundred dollars, you can have this sociopath tattoo an “X” on your arm. These Twitter posts and money-making schemes are a slap in the face to me, my family and my dead son.

• The movies omit the fact that these three men had no alibis. Damien Echols’ and Jessie Misskelley’s alibis completely fell apart on the stand in the 1994 trials. Jason Baldwin’s attorneys didn’t even bother to present an alibi.

• Fibers consistent with a robe in Jason Baldwin’s home and a shirt in Damien Echols’ home were found on the victims. Blue candle wax found on Chris Byers’ shirt was consistent with candle wax found in Damien Echols bedroom.

• The crime lab found that three different knots were used to hogtie the three victims with their own shoelaces. This points toward multiple killers rather than one killer. Witnesses say that Mr. Bojangles, the disoriented man near the crime scene that night, had a cast on one arm. No one person could have subdued and hogtied three energetic young boys–not Terry Hobbs and certainly not the one-armed Mr. Bojangles.

• A knife that could have been used in the murders was found in a lake behind Baldwin’s home. It was a unique knife with a place hold a compass on the end that witnesses described as similar to one owned by Echols.

• A car full of eyewitnesses placed Echols near the crime scene, covered with dirt, on the night of the murders.

• Numerous friends, acquaintances and cell-mates came forward with tales of confessions from all three defendants.

Throw out one or even several of those facts, and there would still be enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

I sat through those trials. The basic facts need to be put out there. Otherwise, it makes a mockery of my son’s short life.

Then on July 15, the Jonesboro Sun ran a letter from Capi Peck called “Investigate Hobbs”. The Sun published Terry Hobbs’ response on July 26.

Stepfather of WM3 victim says attacks unconscionable
By Terry Wayne Hobbs

The numerous falsehoods and distortions contained in Capi Peck’s letter of July 15 make it is difficult to decide where to begin. I’ll just start with her most outrageous implication. I obviously had nothing to do with the murders of my beautiful stepson, Stevie Branch Jr., and his beloved friends Christopher Byers and Micheal Moore. No legitimate law enforcement officer ever has made this unconscionable claim.

Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin always have been guilty of those gut-wrenching atrocities. Two juries convicted Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin in 1994. Last August, those convicts stood before the world and, despite whatever spin is put on it, conceded they slaughtered these precious children. Yet, Ms. Peck considers the convicted child killers worthy of her friendship and support.

I can’t tell whether Ms. Peck’s next major falsehood is an outright lie or a simple ignorance of the law. Judge Laser did not “let the WM3 out of prison because a jury hearing all the evidence available would acquit them.” It was the exact opposite. Judge Laser allowed the three killers to enter pleas after he was convinced there was a factual basis to do so. In other words, quite contrary to what Ms. Peck wrote, the judge took the Alford pleas only because he felt the murderers could be found guilty again if their cases went to trial.

Ms. Peck’s version of the events of May 5, 1993, is a complete distortion of what actually happened. The West Memphis Police Department did not consider me a suspect for a very good reason — there was absolutely no basis for them to do so. Further, the police located and arrested the actual murderers. Juries convicted the reasonable parties. The killers later entered pleas that made them guilty as a matter of law. These facts are incontrovertible to anyone but a conspiracy theorist.

Ms. Peck was a cog in the West Memphis Three propaganda machine that generated millions of dollars purportedly to fund the defense. By some estimates, as much as $10 million to $20 million was raised. Ultimately, the money simply reaffirmed the three child murderers are indeed the guilty parties, yet let them walk out of prison.

Prosecutor Scott Ellington recently said the defense has not brought forward a single shred of evidence that would justify the reopening of this case. That must be difficult to explain to gullible donors who were told new evidence would be presented at hearings and would result in new trials. Instead, millions of dollars reportedly spent to investigate and develop new evidence led to three pleas. A year after these plea bargains, the killers remain just as they have been since the day they butchered Stevie, Michael and Christopher.

Most legal observers agree Misskelley wouldn’t have been granted a new trial due to his multiple confessions. Echols and Baldwin would have faced uphill battles due to the evidence against them, including their own admissions of guilt. This is likely why all three decided to plea out rather than go forward with the evidentiary hearings. From news accounts, the defense team subsequently sent Prosecutor Ellingon a “West of Memphis” DVD and unsworn hearsay declarations that would be inadmissible in an Iranian court of law. Apparently $20 million won’t buy as much as in the past.

I previously have been held to be a public figure and therefore am somewhat vulnerable to libelous attacks such as the one Ms. Peck launched on your editorial page. Let me suggest in closing that if anything should be investigated, it isn’t me as the defense’s latest (and probably not last) red herring suspect. No, the focus should be on what actually happened to the millions raised that allowed the murderers to roam the streets but in the process didn’t purchase one iota of exculpatory evidence. That is the true scandal here. There never will be an exoneration because the actual killers were investigated, arrested, convicted and finally conceded they did it. No governor in his or her right mind would issue pardons either.

I understand Capi Peck is a wonderful baker. She should stick to pastries and leave law enforcement, legal proceedings and fundraising for legitimate causes to those more capable and skilled than she is. Ms. Peck, please allow those of us who truly mourn for the actual three victims, some closure. Stevie’s horrific murder devastated me, my ex-wife and our daughter. We deserve peace no matter how much additional money can be generated exploiting this precious boy’s death. That is a matter of simple decency and actual justice. If you have any sense of shame at all you will come to realize as much.

It is the right thing to do — even if it requires someone to bake more after murder groupies no longer blindly throw money into the bill.

Note: the Jonesboro Sun put both these guest columns behind a pay wall. This site does not have permission to reprint them. If the Sun asks me to remove them, I will.

Annals of WM3 Supporter Creepiness: The 2003 Art Show

In September 2003, a Los Angeles art gallery hosted a two-week show entitled “Cruel and Unusual: An Exhibition To Benefit the West Memphis Three”. Marilyn Manson, Exene Cervenka and Shepard Fairey were among the artists. Winona Ryder hosted the opening party, where Jello Biafra gave a spoken-word performance and Mara Leveritt signed copies of her book.

LA Weekly ran a long feature article by Stephen Lemons about the exhibition and the movement. The web version no longer displays photos of the artworks, but you can still read the gushing descriptions. For example:

Two thousand miles west, in an especially funky little cranny of Los Angeles’ Lincoln Heights, artist Emmeric James Konrad is hard at work on a giant crucifix in the studio of his townhouse apartment. Actually, the crucifix is still mostly in his mind and in his sketchbook: stark black-and-white images of three murdered 8-year-olds that will form the head and arms of a colossal 8-by-10-foot cross.

“I’ve already told them I want an entire wall,” says Konrad, excitedly. “I’m going to spray-paint a black outline around it. In the center will be the dead kid with the bite marks, on the bottom will be the stepfather, and below him will be the initials of the three kids, a line of red going through them, with the stepdad’s initials below. You know, like a gangbanger’s tags.”

Konrad’s creepy conception incorporates three famous photos of Christopher Byers, Stevie Branch and Michael Moore, as they were in life before their bodies were pulled from the muddy water of a drainage ditch running through a spooky patch of woods known as the Robin Hood Hills in West Memphis, Arkansas. They were found there May 6, 1993, a day after they had been reported missing, naked and tied ankle to wrist with their own shoelaces, like deer after the kill. The “stepfather” Konrad refers to is John Mark Byers, known to the viewers of the award-winning HBO documentaries Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations as the belligerent, mullet-headed oaf whose comic self-incriminations are lost on the Keystone Kops at the West Memphis Police Department.

Creepy is right. Creepier than the Lord of the Rings/West Memphis Three crossover fan fiction? Tough call. Both are breathtaking in their way.

Nearly every major alt-weekly has run a pro-WM3 feature at some point. This one is par for the course — dripping with righteous indignation, but totally devoid of skepticism or fact-checking toward the official “Free the West Memphis 3” story.

The art show and LA Weekly puff piece date from the 1996-2007 period, when WM3 supporters and gullible journalists were absolutely 100% positive that John Mark Byers was the real killer. This was based in part on the bogus “human bitemark” evidence hyped in Paradise Lost 2. Four years later, the whole movement switched to accusing Terry Hobbs as the real killer. He’s a belligerent, mullet-headed oaf too, so it’s cool! Did any of the supporters/journalists who accused Byers ever look back and think, “hmmm, Paradise Lost and Paradise Lost 2 and WM3.org and The Devil’s Knot were dead wrong about Byers being the real killer … is it possible they were dead wrong about anything else?”

And what about the sucker who bought Emmeric James Konrad’s masterpiece? Did she ask for her money back? Or did Konrad come by and update the work with Terry Hobbs’s photo and initials?

Was Jessie Misskelley a highly suggestible individual?

Part of the Misskelley defense’s trial strategy was to portray Jessie Misskelley as a highly suggestible person who would falsely confess to anything an authority figure proposed.

Before trial, defense psychologist William Wilkins tested Misskelley’s suggestibility using techniques developed by Icelandic psychologist Gisli Gudjonsson. Wilkins found that Misskelley scored high on the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale. The defense hoped to introduce this finding at trial, but judge Burnett ruled that the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale “does not meet a scientific standard upon which the profession generally relies [and] that Doctor Wilkins’ absence of experience, training and education in the utilization of the test would fatally flaw any results that he might conclude from such test.” (The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld Burnett’s ruling.)

As part of this suggestibility testing, lead defense lawyer Dan Stidham and defense psychologist William Wilkins conducted an experiment on Jessie Misskelley in a videotaped December 10, 1993, meeting. Stidham and Wilkins told Misskelley they had proof that he had robbed a local convenience store at gunpoint. This robbery never occurred; Stidham and Wilkins invented the story in hopes of convincing Misskelley to “confess” to the non-existent crime.

Stidham and Wilkins both later claimed that this experiment had worked. Wilkins slipped this claim into his trial testimony, even though the judge had ruled it inadmissible just minutes earlier.

DAVIS: Any significant changes that we should be aware of in your nine-page report that you made based on those first eleven hours?
WILKINS: Um, one of the sessions with Jessie was, uh, I made up a false story; in about a half an hour got Jessie to confess to a robbery that didn’t occur—
DAVIS: Your Honor, Excuse me, your Honor we’re going to have to approach the bench on that one.

BENCH CONFERENCE

DAVIS: I had never heard this story before, but I think what he’s getting ready—he, it’s some sort of creative test that he came up with where he created a false story and then, as I understand it he’s gonna say that in ten minutes he had Jessie confessing to something in his office regarding some made-up story about—
THE COURT: Well, I’m not gonna allow that.
FOGLEMAN: I think he already testified to it, your Honor, and we’d ask that it be stricken—
(speaking over each other)

RETURN TO OPEN COURT

THE COURT: All right, ladies and gentlemen, the last answer was not responsive to the question asked by the prosecutor; you’re instructed to disregard the last answer of the witness as unresponsive to the question directed to him.

Dan Stidham’s Case Synopsis at wm3.org includes the same claim.

As part of an experiment, Dr. Wilkins and myself were able to get Jessie to confess to committing a robbery that never occurred. This was ruled inadmissible by the Court, and the jury never knew this. I often bragged that I could get Jessie to confess to killing JFK, although he wasn’t even born in 1963. I am still convinced I could get him to confess to almost anything.

Stidham kept the videotape of the December 10, 1993, meeting at which this fake robbery mindfuck experiment occurred. As far as I can tell, he did not make the videotape or a transcript available to prosecutors or outside researchers. Nonetheless, “Free the WM3” partisans took Stidham’s and Wilkins’ account at face value and frequently cited this supposed evidence of Misskelley’s highly suggestible nature.

The Baldwin/Misskelley Rule 37 hearings in 2008-2009 made the 12/10/93 videotape public for the first time. (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.) The Callahan WM3 case archive posted full Baldwin/Misskelley Rule 37 hearings transcripts in April 2012, which included a 70-page transcript of the December 10, 1993, meeting (PDF).

So let’s hear it! How did Stidham and Wilkins convince Misskelley to confess to the fake robbery?

WILKINS: You ever robbed a store, Jessie?
MISSKELLEY: Robbed a store?
WILKINS: Yeah.
MISSKELLEY: I ain’t never robbed nobody.
WILKINS: Strange. Because there’s a report that said you did.
MISSKELLEY: A report?
WILKINS: Yeah.
MISSKELLEY: I ain’t never robbed no store.
WILKINS: Sure?
MISSKELLEY: I’m positive.
STIDHAM: There’s a Flash Market by your house?
MISSKELLEY: Huh?
STIDHAM: There’s a Flash Market by your house?
MISSKELLEY: Flash Market? That’s down the road, by the court- house.
STIDHAM: Yeah, is that the one?
MISSKELLEY: Saying I robbed it?
STIDHAM: Yeah.
MISSKELLEY: They’re lying. I ain’t never robbed nobody.
WILKINS: Have you ever been in there?
MISSKELLEY: Have I been in the Flash Market?
WILKINS: Uh-huh. (Affirmatively indicating.)
MISSKELLEY: Yeah, I’ve been in the Flash Market a bunch of times.
WILKINS: Why?
MISSKELLEY: Been in to get cigarettes, put gas in the car.
WILKINS: Ever been in there with somebody else?
MISSKELLEY: Huh?
WILKINS: Ever been in there with somebody else?
MISSKELLEY: Yeah, with my dad.
WILKINS: Your dad? Anybody else?
MISSKELLEY: My cousin.
WILKINS: Cousin?
STIDHAM: What’s his name?
MISSKELLEY: Bubba.
WILKINS: Bubba?
MISSKELLEY: His name is Charles Ashley.
WILKINS: Bubba is — – yeah, yeah, he’s the other one I was talking about.
STIDHAM: He’s the one that told the police that you did it.
MISSKELLEY: Huh? Huh—uh. (Negatively indicating.)
STIDHAM: He’s the one that told the police you went in there with a gun.
MISSKELLEY: I ain’t got no gun. I don’t even own one.
STIDHAM: Why would he say that?
MISSKELLEY: I don’t know. Ridge and Gitchell told ‘em that he was in on it, too.
WILKINS: He’s “in on” what?
MISSKELLEY: Huh? This stuff, killing and stuff.
WILKINS: He said that Bubba was in on it, too?
MISSKELLEY: They asked me was he on it, in on it, and I don’t know.
WILKINS: They said he was?
MISSKELLEY: Uh-huh. (Affirmatively indicating.) They asked me, “Are you sure?” I said, “I’m positive.” I only been to one store, and we was down the street when somebody was stealing something.
WILKINS: Who was that?
MISSKELLEY: It was me, Richard Lovelace, William Jones and, uh, Scott something.
WILKINS: What’d you steal?
MISSKELLEY: I didn’t steal nothing. We was down the street waiting for them. It was William and Scott is the ones that stole.
STIDHAM: What day was this?
MISSKELLEY: It’s been a while back.
STIDHAM: Did they have a gun?
MISSKELLEY: Huh—uh. (Negatively indicating.) All they did was went in the store, grabbed some – – grabbed a beer.
STIDHAM: Was it the Flash Market?
MISSKELLEY: It was in West Memphis.
STIDHAM: Was it the Flash Market, though?
MISSKELLEY: Huh—uh. (Negatively indicating.)
STIDHAM: Bubba says that you and him went in with a gun and stole some stuff and got some money out of the cash register.
MISSKELLEY: No, I don’t even know about it.
STIDHAM: Why would he say something like that?
MISSKELLEY: I don’t know.
WILKINS: Ever held a gun?
MISSKELLEY: Yeah, I held a gun.
WILKINS: What?
MISSKELLEY: I held a gun before.
WILKINS: Whose?
MISSKELLEY: My dad’s.
WILKINS: What is it?
MISSKELLEY: Well, it was my grandfather’s gun. Somebody sold it for some drugs. And my dad had a .25 when I was little, and I held it. I had a .22 and then I carried it back where I bought it from.
WILKINS: Why did you do that?
MISSKELLEY: It tore up. It wouldn’t eject the shells.
WILKINS: But you didn’t rob anybody?
MISSKELLEY: I would never pull a gun on nobody.
WILKINS: You’ve pulled a knife on people, don’t you?
MISSKELLEY: Huh?
WILKINS: And you’ve pulled a knife on people?
MISSKELLEY: Pulled a knife on people?
WILKINS: Yeah.
MISSKELLEY: (Not answering.)
WILKINS: And a ball bat (inaudible)?
MISSKELLEY: Yeah. If they make me mad enough, I would. Just like Dino, he got me mad one night ‘cause he was drinking. He got me mad. And I pulled a gun on him.
WILKINS: You pulled a gun on him? You don’t have a gun, you said.
MISSKELLEY: I know I don’t, but I pulled one on him.
WILKINS: Where’d you get it?
MISSKELLEY: I took it from my dad.
WILKINS: Is that the same one you robbed the store with?
MISSKELLEY: Hmm. I didn’t rob no store.
WILKINS: Look, Jess, I just, I mean, you said you’d never pulled a gun on anybody, you wouldn’t do that…
MISSKELLEY: …not unless they got me mad enough.
WILKINS: Got you mad. People try to get you mad, it’s all right to pull a gun on them?
MISSKELLEY: Yeah.
WILKINS: Who first started? What got you mad?
MISSKELLEY: Dino’s got me mad before; I pulled a gun on him.
WILKINS: But, but, but people started it, too, then?
MISSKELLEY: Yeah, they start it.
WILKINS: What?
MISSKELLEY: Yeah, they start stuff. That’s why people’s lying now, saying I robbed the store. I hadn’t got a gun to rob a store. See, people lie ‘cause they don’t like me, that’s what it is.
WILKINS: Better than that, let’s step back Jessie. Now you said, okay, you’ve never pulled a gun on anybody; right?
MISSKELLEY: No.
WILKINS: Then you said, “I pulled one on Dino one night because he got – – he pissed me off”?
MISSKELLEY: ‘Cause I won’t — — peop — — people make me mad. I’ll pull a ball bat and I’ll pull a knife on them if they make me mad.
WILKINS: And then you said, “I don’t own a gun”?
MISSKELLEY: I don’t.
WILKINS: Then you said, “I got a gun and pulled it on Dino.” Now you know, this ain’t making sense, Jessie; okay?
MISSKELLEY: You asked me did I pull a gun, uh, pull a knife and a baseball bat on people?
WILKINS: Uh-huh. (Affirmatively indicating.)
MISSKELLEY: Yes, if they make me mad enough. So I, I pulled a gun on Dino, when me made me mad.
STIDHAM: Well, Jessie, did it make you mad when that lady that you robbed at the store, and she called you a little faggot, did that make you mad?
MISSKELLEY: Little lady?
STIDHAM: While you was working at the store at the Flash Market?
MISSKELLEY: I don’t know nobody…
STIDHAM: …she said she called you a little faggot, and you got mad and pulled a gun and you took the money.
MISSKELLEY: No. I don’t know no woman at the Flash Market that’s short; my dad does, but I don’t. I don’t know her. He knows everybody works at the Flash Market. I don’t.
WILKINS: Well, you’ve been in there, haven’t you?
MISSKELLEY: Yeah, I’ve been in there with him.
WILKINS: And so, and so essentially, they know what you look like now, don’t they, in there?
MISSKELLEY: Yeah.
WILKINS: And they know who you are?
MISSKELLEY: Yeah.
WILKINS: Okay. She says…
STIDHAM: …I’m going to get a drink of water.
WILKINS: She says you came in there and was shoplifting shit. And she caught you and called you a little faggot and you got mad at her and pulled out a gun.
MISSKELLEY: People lie.
WILKINS: I’ll be back in a second.
STIDHAM: Well, I’m going to go down the hall and make that phone call again and see if they’ve got that tape.
[Stidham leaves the room; tape still running. Phone rings and Wilkins answers: “Yes. Okay, so it’ll be here when? Okay. Good. Thanks.”]
WILKINS: That tape’s on its way, Jessie. So here we are. Let’s talk about the robbery, Jessie.
MISSKELLEY: Who are you talking to?
WILKINS: You.
MISSKELLEY: You ain’t talking to me.
WILKINS: Yes, I’m talking to you.
MISSKELLEY: No, you ain’t, either.
WILKINS: Why not?
MISSKELLEY: Talk to yourself. I’m not talking.
WILKINS: You’re not talking?
MISSKELLEY: Huh—uh. (Negatively indicating.)
WILKINS: You damn well are now.
MISSKELLEY: (Silent.)
WILKINS: Look, Jess, okay? Let’s quit this shit. You lied to the police; Jess? [Door opens, closes. Telephone rings. Very long pause. Footsteps into the room.]

After the very long pause, the conversation turned to the events of June 3, 1993. The fake robbery store never came back up.

After this videotape was played in court at the Rule 37 hearing on November 19, 2008, the lawyers discussed its contents.

THE COURT: Was that the end of it? Is that kind of like the Nixon tapes? Is that it?
[Prosecutor Brent] DAVIS: Since I have never seen the original and I just saw this, part of this just last night and never got that far, I don’t know it ended prematurely or if that is the end.
STIDHAM: Your Honor, if I may elaborate for purposes of the record, I, I think that somehow during the transmission from VHS to digital format, that there may be some parts of the interview that, that are missing.
THE COURT: Where is the VHS tape?
[Misskelley’s appeals lawyer Jeff] ROSENZWEIG: We have the original, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Is it the same?
ROSENZWEIG: I’ve not compared it, but we have the original.
STIDHAM: There are gaps in this one, and then there wasn’t any gaps in the original VHS tape, as I recall.
THE COURT: Well, you better take a look at it.
STIDHAM: Since it appears that I will be making an appearance again in the morning, Your Honor, I will be happy to, uh, uh, review the VHS tape this evening and report, uh, back to the lawyers.
THE COURT: I’m going to let the lawyers do it.

CROSS-EXAMINATION, continuing:

DAVIS: Dan, you’ve had an opportunity to listen to the video of December 10, ’93, uh, made between yourself and Dr. Wilkins and also Jessie Misskelley?
STIDHAM: Yes.
DAVIS: Okay. And you heard him, you heard the description of Jessie Misskelley as to the circumstances that surrounded the taking of his statement and the polygraph exam, where it occurred, the details of that; you heard him describe that?
STIDHAM: I did.
DAVIS: Okay. Was it, I mean, did you find that lacking in details and lacking in description of what had occurred?
STIDHAM: I found it to be dramatically different than all of the other times that I had talked to him and didn’t bother to record the, uh, interviews. Each time that I would talk to him, it would be different. And that’s why I stated earlier that a lot of times it was almost as if I didn’t have a client, because — – I made some notes, uh, there were a couple of times when I would say, “was it Ridge, or was it Gitchell that told you about the circle?” And he would say, “Ridge.” And I would say, “Are you sure?” And when he realized that that wasn’t the answer that I was ask- ing for, he would quickly change his answer to an attempt to, uh, uh, comply with what he thought was the correct answer. And, and that goes to, uh, Mr. Misskelley’s suggestibility, which we tried without success in introducing it in trial.
DAVIS: And all of this stuff of the tape about the Flash Market and everything, that was a little ploy that Dr. Wilkins and yourself were using to try to concoct some sort of fabricated criminal act and accuse him of having done it, and to see what his reactions would be?
STIDHAM: It was an experiment based on, uh, Dr. Gudjonsson’s suggestibility scale that again, we attempted to try to introduce at the time of trial, and when it got to the point to where Mr. Misskelley got angry and walked out, there was a gap, uh, so that’s why I suspect that there may be a difference between the digital format and the VHS format, because my recollection of the events is that Mr- Misskelley came back in the room and, uh, uh, Dr. Wilkins and I, uh, proceeded to tell him that there was a video tape of the armed robbery, uh, that was taken by the security cameras. And, uh, he said, “0kay, I did it.” And that’s not on the DVD that we just watched.
DAVIS: So that would have been the gap of the whole purpose of you being there, and that part of it is off the tape?
STIDHAM: It appears to be. And sometimes when you — — these machines that they make that transfer tapes to digital, some- times they, they make skips and jumps and, uh, also this tape that I discovered last night in my vault, I noticed that when I put it in the tape recorder, the first part of the tape had deteriorated, uh, I guess just because of age, uh, it’s been nfifteen years, and uh, after it got past a certain part then you could understand it better and it wasn’t near as staticy, so that’s why I think that there is a discrepancy. Also, I clearly. remember, and I was looking through the trial transcripts, uh, while the DVD was playing, uh, we attempted to introduce that, uh, experiment into evidence which, uh, I believe, uh, John Fogleman objected to and the Court sustained the motion, uh, stating that since Mr. Misskelley has not, hadn’t testified, that it was hearsay, I believe was the Court’s ruling. Uh, I haven’t had a chance to finish reading the transcript, but we did attempt to offer that as part of the suggestibility scale. Uh, but it’s clear that Mr. Misskelley, as you, as everyone in the courtroom saw, uh, is, you can pretty much lead him anywhere you want to lead him as far as asking him questions and putting pressure on him.

Dan Stidham did return to testify the following day, November 20, 2008. Neither Stidham nor Misskelley’s appeals lawyers brought the alleged missing portions of the December 10, 1993, videotape to court. The subject never came up. (See ADDENDUM below; this matter came up during Tim Derning’s testimony on 11/20/2008.)

So there are two possibilities: (1) the fake robbery mindfuck experiment worked, Misskelley false-confessed to the fake robbery, Stidham got it on tape; but that portion of the tape accidentally got deleted in the VHS->DVD transfer, and no one caught this mistake before court; Misskelley’s appeals lawyers had the missing portion on VHS, the judge offered to let them bring the missing portion to court and play it, but the appeals lawyers didn’t bother … or (2) the fake robbery mindfuck experiment failed, Misskelley continually denied committing the fake robbery despite Stidham and Wilkins’ efforts, Stidham got it on tape; Stidham and Wilkins then lied and claimed that the experiment did work; the Rule 37 hearing required Stidham to make the videotape public, which revealed that Stidham and Wilkins had been lying all along; Stidham chose to brazen it out and pull the legal equivalent of “the dog ate my homework” and keep lying.

The existing transcript shows Misskelley resisting the fake robbery scenario consistently and firmly. If the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale is legitimate science (of which I’m not convinced) and the fake robbery scenario is a legitimate way to evaluate suggestibility, then Misskelley comes across as highly NON-suggestible and non-submissive to authority figures. If anything, he gets downright surly and combative toward Stidham and Wilkins as they push the fake robbery story. Misskelley frequently lies of his own accord in these 1993-94 interviews, but there’s no evidence of him being easily manipulated into repeating lies suggested by others.

JULY 20 ADDENDUM: Reading further in the Rule 37 hearing transcript, I found this exchange between Brent Davis (prosecutor) and Tim Derning (psychologist hired by Misskelley legal team to evaluate Misskelley around 2004) on the day after the 12/10/93 videotape was played in court.

DAVIS: Okay. Did you ever see anything on that DVD, because there was some testimony to it, on what you were provided, did you see anything on there where a, uh, the defendant was presented with a scenario of a, of being falsely accused of robbing the Flash Market and that he broke down and confessed to it on video?
DERNING: Uh, no, I was told that that was missing, uh, from the video that I was watching. There was forty minutes…
DAVIS: …did you later learn that forty minutes…
DERNING: …forty minutes: that’s correct, that’s missing from that. Elt was described as like the Nixon’s Rosemary Woods where the tape’s deleted. So I couldn’t see it; it wasn’t there.
DAVIS: Did they inform you that after they went back and actually checked the original, it’s not on the original either?
DERNING: Uh, no, I didn’t know that.
DAVIS: Okay?
DERNING: I didn’t think that it was chicanery; it would have been something probably helpful to the defense, but it just wasn’t there. I don*t know why not or what happened to it or anything like that.
DAVIS: The part you observed is when they’re telling about there is a false charge of the deal at the Flash Market, and he’s looking at them like that are crazy: right?
DERNING: Uh-huh. Yes.
DAVIS: Okay. Looking at Dr. Wilkins kind of like “what in the world are you talking about — — I ain’t done nothing”?
DERNING: Correct.
DAVIS: And that would be consistent with somebody who when presented with false information, holds his own; right?
DERNING: For that moment; yes.

So they did check the original videotape overnight, and the alleged missing portion where Misskelley confessed to the fake robbery was not there. It never happened. Wilkins and Stidham both lied under oath.

Trench Reynolds Talks Back to Murder Groupies

Crime blogger Trench Reynolds has answered letters from WM3 groupies in several recent posts. Great stuff.

June 10, 2012: We get letters: Stop hating on damien
June 2, 2012: We Get Letters: The garbage u write
March 20, 2012: We get letters: Ignorant MFer
March 14, 2012: We get letters: I am ignorant and closed-minded
February 19, 2012: We get letters: the facts…ie…DNA!

Jailhouse letters of Damien Echols

The psychiatric records for Damien Echols collected in Exhibit 500 cover the period from spring 1992 to May 5, 1993. The Damien Echols profile in this site’s case history section likewise ends on the day of the murders. But what about after the murders? After the arrests?

No psych records from that period are publicly available, as far as I know. The Callahan case archive does contain a collection of letters from Damien Echols to Glori Shettles, written in jail while he awaited trial. (Shettles was an employee of Inquisitor, Incorporated, the private investigation firm owned by Ron Lax working for the Echols defense.) The centerpiece is a long letter dated August 27, 1993, spanning pages 7-13, 15-16. It’s a fascinating glimpse into Echols’ mindset after his arrest.

Well, now I’m sitting in jail waiting for my trial. So I thought I would write my life story or as much of it as I can remember. I remember bits and pieces of my early childhood but not all. I will put the parts I can remember in spots where they seem appropriate. I always knew I was different from all other children. I could always tell that my thought process was different. I always thought other children were crazy or stupid. I was always content just to watch people. The things that they did sometimes just kept me amazed for hours. Even all the way up until now, I still like to just watch people. I knew ever since I was really young that I was destined for greatness. At first I thought maybe I was an alien. I don’t know why it just seemed natural. I had a very sad and deppresing childhood. I was always sad for no apparent reason. I cried constantly. I was always scared of everything. I tried to follow every rule exactly. When I would do something that didn’t turn out exactly right I would be horrified. Sometimes I would be so upset I would make myself sick. I was always sick with something or other. I was always completely serious and thought everyone else was better than me. I would never stand up for myself. No one paid a lot of attention to things I said because they would all just say oh, that’s just Michael be nice to him, he has problems. They acted like I didn’t know what they meant or something. Even my mother thought that sometimes. I remember when I was very young one night I woke up and there was someone in my bed. It scared me so bad I couldn’t even move. When I snapped out of it, I jumped out of bed and ran to my mother’s room. I told her and she went to my room and looked. She said there was nobody there. She said there was no way someone could have gotten in without her knowing it. I still wouldn’t go back to bed so she got mad and made me sit on the sofa and just stare at the wall. Finally I agreed to go back to bed because I didn’t want her to get any more angry. I didn’t go to sleep all night. I just laid in bed scared stiff. I can remember one night when I was a little older and I woke up to see a man standing in my room. It paralyzed me. I wouldn’t even blink because I knew as soon as I opened my eyes he would be right in my face. I guess later I must have passed out because the next thing I knew it was the next morning. Anyway as you can probably figure no one believed me. These things always happened at night. For awhile I thought people may be right. But I changed my mind one night when there was an old man in my room. I thought if I just ignored him he would go away. But when I looked again he was right in front of me. He licked my hand and said “Does that feel like a dream to you?” He talked for awhile of things that aren’t important yet. Anyway. I have been in three “mental health hospitals” (hell) and later finally fell in love and found out I was a father. I finally thought my life was going to change for the good. Things were finally starting to look better. Then one night while sitting at home watching T.V. the police came and arrested me for something I did not do. I listened for the first time to the sound of my surroundings. I saw the truth for the first time. I opened my eyes to see a discovery. I was the God of the New Eon, the Beast of the Apocalypse. Everyone saw it before me. I was the last to know. Now I know these idiots can never touch me. I will not stop until they have all paid for this. I did absolutely nothing. Now I’ve decided to prove myself to everyone. I will slay myself. But I will be back, I will rise again in three days, just like the first God. Only my message won’t be of peace. It will be of war. It will be a time when everyone must pay for their mistakes. It will be the Armageddon. Well, the first thing that comes to mind to talk about is when my mom and dad got divorced. I guess I should have been sad but I wasn’t. At the time I really didn’t even really care. Me and my mother and sister moved in with my grandparents. My father came to visit for awhile but then he just disapeared. I didn’t really care about that either. Then my mother started seeing a man named Jack Echols. He was really nice at first untill him and my mother got married. Then he changed. He got very, very angry over the smallest things. I think he hated me. I could not stand him. I hated him more than anything on this Earth. No matter how I tried, it was like I could never get away from him. Around this time my grandfather died. I guess that’s another time I should have been sad, but I wasn’t. Me and him were never really close. I think he hated me also. I didn’t care. I never could get along with him. He was an asshole. Jack always made me go to church every fucking sunday. I hated it there, every one stared at me like I was some kind of freak. Some times I expected them to throw peanuts. Everyone knew I didn’t belong there. They all called me Jack’s boy. I was not his boy and I hated to be called that. He was a sorry cheap bastard. He always bought shitty little car and waited untill they completely broke down to find another one. I never could figure out how he could be a christian and still hate me. Now I have finnaly figured it out. Just now. I can finnally understand. It’s because of the same reason all christians hate me, the reason they put me here. Because they hate me because God hates me. Because he knows I can beat him so he tries to kill me. Every chance he gets. They all wear their little mask and pretend their good people and are here to help. Unmask, Unmask …. and the Red Death held sway over all. She finnally divorced him when she found out he had been abusing my sister. Around this time I got put in the hospital. By the time I got out my mother and real father got back together. We moved straight to Portland, Oregon. I became really depressed and suicidal. They put me in another hospital. Wheneve I got cut I came back to Arkansas where I fell in love and found out I was a father. It was the happiest I had ever been in my life. Then this shit happened. They don’t understand. They can’t beat me and God still tried everything he can to kill me but he can’t. Death can’t stop me. I would be only the third person in history to raise from the dead. Lazarus, Jesus Christ, Damien. I will prove it very soon. Afterwards I will come to power and nothing will stop me. I wrote all this down because it is easier than trying to tell people who wouldn’t believe it anyway. They will all believe it very soon. Unmask, Unmask …. And the Red Death held sway over all. Now they take their medicine. They’ll take it and they’ll like it, the stupid little shits, or they’ll have their brains bashed the fuck out. The fucking idiots, they think we’re out to get them all. They peek through the cracks in the doors and act superior. They think we want them all. Well they’ll take their medicine now. They think I don’t know they’re watching me. They think I don’t know about the spies and bugs. I do goddamn it. Believe me I’ll know. I’ve got spies too. I can end all of you anytime now, you stupid fucks. I can see physical changes happening in my body. I can tell it’s getting ready. The abonations have already begun to be spit forth from the Earth. I have seen some of them. I will become one soon. I will be the king of freaks. I see a perfect explosion, God’s amunition dump going up in the flames of righteousness, Satan storming heaven, his artillery captain a fiercely grinning fool with red flayed cheeks, Damien by name, never to be Michael Hutchison again. The end is here. Kiss your ass goodbye. People could see if they would open their eyes and see. There are many similarities in the First and now the Second Coming. Jesus was imprisoned and executed for nothing. People even accused him of being Satanic. When he was praying for a man and the people said he cast out devils because he was the prince of devils. Look people, it’s time to pay up. Now is the Judgement. I am the Judge.

If you notice any mistakes in my transcription, please point them out in the comment thread.

More new documents at Callahan

Callahan added several more documents this week. I’m guessing that these were drawn from exhibits at the Rule 37 hearings.

These documents have all been discussed on message boards for years, but have never been available to read in full until now.

See last week’s New Documents at Callahan post for more recent additions.

You can always see the latest additions to Callahan on their Site Changes page.

Jessie Misskelley’s confession to defense lawyer – June 11, 1993

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?

HOLT] Yes?

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?

STIDHAM] C?

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.

Did Jessie Misskelley think his defense lawyers were cops?

After Jessie Misskelley confessed to West Memphis police on June 3, 1993, he continued telling his defense lawyers the same story for the next 16 weeks. In late September 1993, Misskelley switched gears, claimed that he was innocent and that his confession was false. After his conviction in February 1994, Misskelley returned to his original story and gave several more detailed confessions.

The transcript (PDF) of Misskelley’s August 19, 1993, meeting with defense lawyer Dan Stidham — published this week at Callahan — offers rare direct evidence of Misskelley’s mindset during this 16-week period following his confession and arrest. Part of the meeting covered the events of May 5, 1993, and Misskelley clearly had not recanted. He told Stidham the same story he told the police 11 weeks earlier.

So how do WM3 supporters explain Misskelley’s continued confessions to his defense lawyers for 16 weeks after his original confession?

One tactic is to pretend it never happened. That’s how the Paradise Lost filmmakers handled it. That’s how virtually every professional journalist has handled it too.

In Devil’s Knot, Mara Leveritt acknowledged Misskelley’s continued confession (pp 107-109) and quoted Dan Stidham’s explanation from an interview many years later. Stidham framed Misskelley’s continued confession in private meetings as “he’d try to recite what he’d told the police”. From Stidham’s account of Misskelley’s eventual recantation:

And that’s when I began to realize that he didn’t understand what a lawyer was. He had no idea what a defense attorney was. He didn’t understand the concept. To him, a lawyer was just a person who was part of the justice system. He thought we were detectives.

That’s an extraordinary claim, with no evidence but Stidham’s say-so, but Leveritt presented it as truth and pro-WM3 supporters have repeated it ever since. Jessie was so dumb, he thought his defense lawyers were working for the cops. That’s the only reason he stuck to his story.

Was this really true? Misskelley had had several run-ins with the law before the murders. His father and three other relatives had been convicted for selling pot in the late 1980s, and his father did prison time. And Misskelley was not nearly as dumb as WM3 supporters make him out to be. It beggars belief that Misskelley “didn’t understand what a lawyer was [and] had no idea what a defense attorney was”, and WM3 supporters have never offered the slightest evidence for this claim.

The August 19, 1993, meeting transcript undermines this claim thoroughly.

Stidham made several references to “the police”, things that various witnessed “told the police”, etc, throughout the meeting. They walked through the events of June 3 and Misskelley’s interaction with various WMPD officials that day. Misskelley referred to specific cops by name, or the cops in general as “they”. There’s no indication whatsoever that Misskelley didn’t understand Stidham’s role as defense lawyer or believed Stidham was working for the police.

Towards the end of the meeting, Stidham talked about his negotiations with the prosecutor. He explained to Misskelley the option of going to trial vs. taking a plea bargain. He outlined the different sentences Misskelley might face. Misskelley appeared to grasp the legal options, and Stidham’s role in the process, perfectly well.

And toward the end of the meeting, Misskelley referred to Stidham as “an attorney”, which would indicate that he understood what “an attorney” was.

After this meeting, Misskelley continued telling his defense lawyers he was guilty for another five weeks. The only explanation WM3 supporters have ever offered — Misskelley was so dumb, he thought his defense lawyers were cops, that’s why he continued confessing — is thoroughly contradicted by the evidence.

New documents at Callahan

The Callahan case archive posted many new documents yesterday.

Baldwin’s Habeas and Rule 37 Petitions and Exhibits includes many witness statements and forensic reports previously unavailable online.

Also included are three previously unavailable transcripts of Jessie Misskelley tape-recordings from 1993-1994:

  • August 19, 1993 (PDF) – Jessie Misskelley meeting with defense lawyer Dan Stidham
  • December 10, 1993 (PDF) – Misskelley interviewed by defense psychologist William Wilkins and Stidham
  • February 21, 1994 (PDF) – Misskelley phone call with defense lawyer Greg Crow

That’s a lot to wade through. I’ll post about specific documents at some point. Kudos to Christian (the guy who runs Callahan) and everyone else who helped track down and publish these documents.

Update (April 6, 2012): Another huge addition to the Callahan case archive today, the complete transcripts of Baldwin & Misskelley’s Rule 37 hearings from 2008-09. 3000+ pages, divided into eleven big downloadable PDF files.

Johnny Depp options movie rights to Damien Echols’ memoir

Since the surprise August 2011 release of the West Memphis Three, there have been rumors that Johnny Depp was no longer a WM3 supporter. I couldn’t find any confirmation of this rumor either way.

Today’s news should put that rumor to rest. Johnny Depp’s Infinitum Nihil Options Forthcoming Memoir By West Memphis Three’s Damien Echols.

Johnny Depp and his producing partner Christi Dembrowski and their Infinitum Nihil production shingle have yet another interesting project in development. They’ve optioned film rights to the soon-to-be-published and as-yet-untitled book by Damien Echols which reveals his experiences on death row after his wrongful conviction and subsequent wrongful 18-year imprisonment for the 1993 murder of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The memoir will be published in September 2012 by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Books. … The actor and his producing partner have long been wanting and waiting to explore this story and will develop the narrative as a feature film with Echols and his wife Lorri Davis, who will be executive producers.

The Deadline article is written by Nikki Finke, one of the most prominent and powerful journalists covering the entertainment industry. Like most professional journalists covering the case, Finke has no clue what she’s talking about and can’t be bothered to do the slightest bit of research or fact-checking. So much easier to just take what celebrities and mass murderers’ PR reps say as gospel truth.

UPDATE: On February 8, I left a comment on this post at Deadline.com. It was civil, short and on-point. As of the morning of February 9, Deadline.com had deleted my comment. There are other anti-WM3 comments left up, so I’m not sure what that site’s admin found especially offensive about my comment.

Here’s my best recollection of what I wrote:

The West Memphis 3 were not wrongly convicted. The evidence is overwhelming that they were guilty as charged. The only injustice is that they were released.

Echols’ memoir will no doubt be a fascinating read. Anyone who wants to know what Damien Echols was really like around the time of the murders, as documented by psychiatric records and statements by people who knew him, should read this first:

http://wm3truth.com/damien-echols-profile/

Is that so bad? Their comment policy states, “Comments On Deadline Hollywood are monitored. So don’t go off topic, don’t impersonate anyone, don’t get your facts wrong, and don’t bore me.” Maybe I bored her, otherwise I’m stumped.