Ignorance, Bigotry, and Apathy May Kill a (Presumedly) Innocent Man

**The first part of my rant:


On May 5th, 1993, three 8 year old boys came home from school and went outside to ride their bicycles together. Later in the evening when they didn’t come home a search was conducted. Their naked and bound bodies were pulled from a creek in a wooded area near their homes the following afternoon.

From minute one, the police fumbled this case. Crucial evidence at the site was missed or contaminated by the police department. Investigators were allowed to wander the crime scene with no regard to preserve evidence. Most of the evidence that was gathered was later lost or thrown away by the police.

From the beginning, in spite of absolutely NO evidence and NO understanding of Satanism, the police chief decided that the killings were so horrific that they must have been the result of a Satanic ritual.

The lack of evidence due to the incompetence of the police and the inadequate investigations of *suspects, kept the police from making any headway in the case. The public outcry for a suspect grew. The only way the police could save face would be to make an arrest, so they went for the only thing left - the Chief’s pulled-from-his-ass belief that kids were killed by Devil Worshipers.

*A muddy, bloody man used a restaurant restroom the day of the murder but the initial police investigation went no deeper than the cops driving through the drive up window. Hours later they finally entered the bloody bathroom only to contaminate it with the mud and grass they carried on their shoes from the murder site. The blood samples taken from the bathroom were lost.

In a town filled with southern Baptists and born again Christians, two teenagers stuck out like sore thumbs. Damien Echols, a Wiccan who wore black clothing and seemed a little odd, and Jason Baldwin, a shy teen who liked to wear t-shirts with pictures of heavy metal bands. The police needed scapegoats and found them in these two teenagers.

A local woman was enticed by the $30,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the murders. After learning the Satanic direction the case was taking, she had her 8 year old son tell the police a story about seeing the murders. His story changed directions a half a dozen times including stories about Damien (after his mother learned that the police were suspecting Damien - because of the Satanic twist and his odd appearance). To help back the story, the woman had another teen, Jessie Misskelley who is borderline mentally retarded, tell police that he witnessed Damien murder the boys.

The police took Jessie in for questioning, without a lawyer, and interviewed him for 12 hours. Less than an hour was recorded by police. What was recorded shows blatant coercion by the police on the many erroneous statements made by Jessie. They more or less put words in his mouth to finally get the facts correct. They also used gruesome photos of the murdered boys as well as a baseball bat (although it isn’t clear how or if it was used, but it was present) to get a confession.

After 11+ hours, metally disabled and without legal representation, Jessie finally confessed and implicated Damien and Jason in the murder.

Travesty after travesty in the justice system, including shoddy investigation, inadequate public defenders, a refusal to try Jason and Damien separately, disallowance of evidence including proof that Jason attended school during the time of the murders, allowed testimony of Satanic “expert” (his “expert” title comes from an online course he took from home), a COMPLETE lack of physical evidence linking the three teens to the murders, massive amounts of uninvestigated evidence that points to Mark Byers, the stepdad of one of the murdered boys (for instance - soon after it was ruled out that the bite marks on one of the victim did NOT match any of the three accused, Mark Byers had all of his teeth pulled).

To make a long story short, three teenagers, two sentenced to life in prison (Jason and Jessie) and one on death row on his last stay of execution have been rotting behind bars (not to mention the confession of another deathrow inmate to continuous rape and battery to Damien) are there because the police needed a scapegoat.

They are there because they looked and acted different than everyone else in the town. Because they like Metallica and Pink Floyd. Because they write dark poetry. Because one practices Wicca - an interesting statement made by Damien during his trial is that those who accuse him of Satanic murder are the people who believe in Satan. As a Wiccan, he does not believe in Satan. Because one was coerced by the police into a confession. Because the cops were feeling pressure and a woman got greedy for $30,000.

They are not there due to ANY physical evidence, whatsoever.

Rant Part II -

You stupid, incompetent FUCKS! How can you sleep at night!

Chief Gitchell, who instead of taking blame for his failure to adequately secure a murder scene and subsequently ruining and losing all evidence and in an attempt to save face felt no remorse at picking the most likely scapegoat.

Byrn Ridge, who along with Gitchell knowingly coerced a mentally retarded teen into saying what you needed him to say. What about the evidence you admittedly lost? Evidence that would have cleared the teens?

Judge Burnett, for allowing asinine testimony from self proclaimed “exports”. By being too fucking stupid to realize the importance of trying Damien and Jason separately. For disallowing the testimony by experts on forensic odontology and pathology in regards to the bite marks. You, yourself, decided that the wounds were NOT bite marks even after you admitted on record that you had never even heard of forensic odontology, and disallowed that testimony that might have cleared the boys.

To the town of West Memphis, Arkansas, for going out for blood for the sake of blood and not for the sake of justice. For letting emotions and false rumors drive you to a sense of satisfaction knowing that someone is behind bars. For throwing rocks and cursing Henry Rollins during his fundraising tour and for being too caught up in your blind hate and stupidity to realize that this money will be used to clear these boys (we hope), or to confirm their guilt and (again, hopefully) place the guilt elsewhere (I have my ideas where it should be placed).

And for the last part of my rant and the real reason for this thread:

I understand that we all have causes, that we can’t protest or raise funds for every single cause out there, and that so many people are still unaware of this case. That’s understood.

However -

Fuck you to the apathetic assholes who don’t give a shit that the murderer of three little boys may still be walking free. That unless DNA and other testing can be funded, justice may never be served, or depending on the results, justice verified.

Fuck you to those who roll their eyes and look at us like we are some equivalent to Charlie’s family when we handed out fliers again this past weekend.

And a BIG fuck you to those who see nothing wrong with a possibly innocent man being put to death within the next year for the incompetence of the police and a town lynch mob and who had the audacity :rolleyes: to look different. Time is quickly running out.

To those who don’t give a shit how the case turns out as long as they are sitting happily in the sweet confined safely of their own homes.

Eat my ass for not caring.

With rancid ketchup.

I’m with you on people who don’t care.

I cannot fathom people who look at this case and say, “Meh…stuff like this happens all the time.”

Apathy kills.

This case is infuriating to anyone who bothers to even glance at the facts. And there are plenty of them available.

I’m at work so I can’t really get into this–it pisses me off.

Holy shit… that’s vile. I’d read something about the two teens being most likely railroaded in as suspects, but that’s a damned good (read: scary) summary. Thank you to Henry Rollins, Diane, and everyone else who believes in and works for justice in this case.

While eating your ass might not be the worst of fates, I’d rather care.

I’ve never even heard of this case until now. And all I have is your word. Got some links so I can decide for myself (both pro and con)? Got a link that lists some ways I might be able to help? Even if all I can do is contribute $20 to a defense fund, it’s something.

In a pathetically futile attempt to spread the word I have been wearing the bracelet everywhere and making sure people see it and ask about it.

The more people who know, the better.


Thanks. That helps a lot.

When I read the OP, I was under the impression that these were recent events, and I couldn’t help but think “Oh, satanic panic is so 80s.” Putting it in historical perspective makes it make a bit more sense, though no better.

Thank you Strainger. I had intended on posting a link and then forgot.

That is the best website out there for the WM3. It gives instructions on how to write letters, fund the case, and buy merchandise to show support.

I would also suggest that you rent the documentaries “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Lost 2 - Revelations” and read the book Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt.

Whether or not you believe in their innocence, it is important to find the truth. This can’t be done without financial, government, and media support.

I feel that it makes it even worse if they are found innocent considering the years these boys have spent behind bars and the things they have had to endure including beating and rape.

Great post, Diane.
Thanks to you and other people like you, the word is getting out and hopefully the tide will turn soon.
The sad thing is–Damien is running out of time. :frowning:

I feel so strongly about the WM3–I try and spread the word whenever I can. What I find most horrifying about the whole thing is just what you said, how apathetic people are about it.
A lot of times the reaction is shrug or “Oh, that’s terrible…” and then changing the subject. Some people just can’t be bothered to be bothered.

The police, judges, and prosecutors in this and other “witch hunt” cases abused the power vested in them in the most heinous way possible. Morally bankrupt doesn’t even begin to describe them. It saddens me that these corrupt thugs will never face the justice their actions so richly deserve. Every time I hear about these cases, I start to fantasize about acts of reverse-vigilantism that would punish those responsible.

This case is ignorance in its lowest form. Thanks for exposing it to more light, Diane.

Roger Ebert’s reviews of Paradise Lost and its sequel., for those who are interested. Ebert references these films frequently in other reviews.

After seeing the first movie, I couldn’t believe there was still a need to make a second. How these kids are still in prison is a mystery to me, this is such a transparent miscarriage of justice. It’s heartbreaking to see how much Damien Echols has grown up in prison between the two films.

And Mark Byers, the stepdad? What a fucking piece of work. Watching his little bonfire of the vanities act in the woods, where he come this close to out-and-out confessing that he did it, was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen.

I haven’t read through the entire site yet, but one question keeps haunting me – did these kids even have a defense lawyer? Was he a public defender? Did he get his law degree by internet?

I mean, really, this case is a textbook example of reasonable doubt. A half-ass lawyer could not only build a closing argument around it, he could set it to music and get Twyla Tharp to choreograph it.

I wonder if our esteemed C in C feels that justice has run its due course here.

There’s an excellent discussion of the case at the Religious Tolerance website here.

I think the most crucial thing to note is that Damien Echols has 58 days as of this post to prove his innocence or be granted a stay. His best bet is DNA testing, which is very expensive, which the state of Arkansas will not fund. Information about financial support for Damien’s defense can be found here. (Note that the defense fund and the web site fund are two different, but crucial, things)

Correction, this is his final stay. I meant 58 days to be granted clemency or a pardon, or found innocent.

Good GOD, that’s fucked up.

So THAT’S what the West Memphis Three refers to.


“People usually destroy what they don’t understand…” Damien Echols

Watching him do that just gave me chills. Truly bizarre. It was almost as if he was confessing in third-person.
And then there’s that small matter of him having his entire set of teeth pulled after the defense team finds evidence of a bite mark on his son’s forehead! He couldn’t get more blatantly obvious than that.

This case gives a whole new meaning to the saying, “Justice is blind”.

A petition from one of Strainger’s links, which coincidentally includes my favorite quote by Damien that I just posted above.

I just entered my name to the petition and urge the rest of you to do the same. They need help fast! Damien doesn’t have another chance without the completed DNA results (testing has started, but there is still a long way to go).

If in fact the boys are granted clemency or pardon or whether their guilt is confirmed, solid answers are needed in this case.

I’m so with you I’m practically standing right beside you, Diane. As I mentioned in the MPSISM thread, I grew up not an hour from WM, and this sounds like exactly the sort of thing that goes on there. Not that it’s right or that it excuses the police, town, or prosecutors’ behavior in the least. In fact, it reminds me of a similar miscarriage of justice.

More than ten years ago, a woman who married into the richest family in town was murdered not 15 minutes away from where I lived. She was stabbed with a butcher knife from her own kitchen 127 times. There was no sign of forced entry and no prints on the knife. She was in the process of divorcing her husband, who was the prime suspect. There was a media-circus trial (well, for that town, anyway) and he was acquitted. There were no other suspects in the case and no one else would have a reason to kill her. In other words, his family bought his freedom.

Back to the OP. This is a travesty on a grand scale. The stepfather is so obviously guilty he might as well be wearing a sign that says, “I Did It! It Was Me! With the Knife!” And poor Damien, being subjected to that treament for a crime he didn’t commit. I’m surprised the kid’s still alive. And what about his child?

And the mother seeking the $30,000 reward deserves a spot right next to Sociopath Stepdad in prison, where they receive the very treatment Damien has received.

FWIW, Diane, you’re not the only one who cares. There are a lot of us with you.