AR Supreme Court Grants WM3 a New Hearing - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

AR Supreme Court Grants WM3 a New Hearing

Posted: Updated:

Major developments in the West Memphis Three case. The Arkansas Supreme Court has ordered that all three men convicted of the 1993 murders of three second graders get a new hearing. It's the biggest development in the case in its 17 year history. The ruling means the defense can now present evidence not presented at trial, including DNA evidence defense attorneys say exonerates the defendants.


The ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court comes five weeks after the court heard oral arguments in death row inmate Damien Echols' case.


The ruling read in court Thursday morning  "CR-081493 Damien Wayne Echols versus the state of Arkansas from Craighead Circuit Western District reversed and remanded."


In a unanimous decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting a new evidentiary hearing for death row inmate Damien Echols, and Jason  Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley who are serving life sentences.  Known around the world as the West Memphis Three they were convicted of murdering three eight year old boys in West Memphis in the early 90s.


Lorri Davis, Echols' wife says, "For me it's been 14 years of my life working for this and for Damien, Jason and Jessie, it's been 17 almost 18 years, so it's a lot to take in in one moment."


Capi Peck, co-founder of Arkansas Take Action says, "Finally the Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. We could not be more excited. It was unanimous. I have to say I had lost faith in our judicial system but it has been restored  today.. We're also very pleased this just does not address Damien Echols it has major implications for Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley and for every falsely accused and incarcerated person in the Arkansas prison system. This is huge for Arkansas."


Stunned and thrilled Echols' wife says she shared the news with her husband by phone.


Davis says, "I told him well this is the beginning and he said no quite frankly Lorri this is the end. and he's right it is."


In addition to DNA evidence defense attorneys plan to present forensic evidence they say disproves the state's theory that the killings were part of a satanic ritual, and they also plan to present evidence of juror misconduct.


Judge David Burnett, a newly elected state senator who has presided over the case from the start will no longer be involved with the case.



Defense attorneys are now asking the Attorney General's Office and the Prosecuting Attorney for the Second Judicial District to join with them to seek a stipulated order skipping the evidentiary hearing and granting them a new trial.


Davis says, "….because an evidentiary hearing is going to cost the state of Arkansas a substantial amount of funding and to have that step when we are going to get a new trial anyway, it's absolutely the case, we will so let's just move this along."


The Prosecuting Attorney, Mike Walden says he plans to follow the Arkansas Supreme Court's order and move forward expeditiously with an evidentiary hearing.  He said a new judge will likely be assigned to case within a matter or weeks and then that judge would decide where the hearing would be and if all three men would have a joint hearing.


Meantime, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says he'll continue defending the guilty verdicts of the West Memphis Three. McDaniel says he's in the process of reviewing the court's ruling and says in a statement says, "we respect the decision handed down by the supreme court and my office intends to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to defend the jury verdicts in this case."