Daily Archives: August 19, 2011
Huffington Post - After serving 17 years behind bars for the brutal murder of three children in eastern Arkansas, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin — dubbed the “West Memphis Three” — have been released from prison.
“They will be free men … on suspended sentence,” prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington told reporters during a Friday press conference.
“Only time will tell as to whether this was the right decision.”
All three men had been imprisoned since 1994, when they were convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys: Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers.
Prosecutors alleged the trio killed the children in Robin Hood Hills on the morning of May 6, 1993, as part of a satanic ritual. According to police, the boys’ bodies were mutilated and left in a ditch. Each had been hogtied with his own shoelaces.
At the time of their arrests, Baldwin was 16. Misskelley was 17, and Echols was 18.
Echols was sentenced to death, Misskelley was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 40 years, and Baldwin was sentenced to life.
DNA testing was not available at the time of the defendants’ trials. In 2007, it was found that DNA collected at the crime scene did not match that belonging to any of the three men. In November 2010, the state Supreme Court ruled that all three could present new evidence in court.
A new court date had been set for December, but on Thursday Judge David Laser ordered all three men transported to Jonesboro for today’s surprise hearing. In a brief statement released to the press, Laser only said that the hearing was to “take up certain matters pertaining to the cases” of the three defendants.
Experts believe both sides have entered into a complex legal agreement, in which the three men have entered into so-called Alford pleas.
“The plea means that you maintain your innocence but you believe there is a substantial likelihood that a jury will find you guilty so you are pleading guilty per State v. Alford,” Anne Bremner, a Seattle attorney and legal analyst, told The Huffington Post. “The effect of the corresponding finding of guilt by the court is the same as with a straight guilty plea.”
Such pleas could make it more difficult for the men to sue the state over their imprisonment.
“It’s not perfect,” Echols said in a press conference following the hearing. “It’s not perfect by any means but at least it brings closure to some areas and some aspects.”
Echols added that he was “still very much in shock [and] still overwhelmed.”
“We can still bring up new evidence; we can still continue the investigations we [have] been doing,” said Echols. “We can still try to clear our names. The only difference is now we can do it from the outside instead of having to sit in prison and do it.”
After fighting for so many years, Echols said it wasn’t difficult for him to come to the decision to agree to the plea deal.
But Baldwin said he only took the deal to rescue Echols from death row.
“This was not justice,” Baldwin said. “In the beginning we told nothing but the truth — that we were innocent and they sent us to prison for the rest of our lives for it. We had to come here and the only thing the state would do for us is say, ‘Hey we will let you go only if you admit guilt,’ and that is not justice anyway you look it. They’re not out there trying to find who really murdered those boys, and I did not want to take the deal from the get-go. However, they are trying to kill Damien, and sometimes you just got to bite the gun to save somebody.”
When sharing his opinion on the pleas with reporters outside the courtroom this morning. John Mark Byers, the father of one of the children killed in 1993, said he believes Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley are innocent, adding that he is angry with the way the pleas are being handled.
“This is not right, and the people of Arkansas need to stand up and raise hell. … Just because they admit to this today, it’s not over,” Byers said.
Since their incarceration, the trio has been the subject of three documentaries, one of which is scheduled to be released in November. The men have also had a long list of celebrity supporters, including the Dixie Chicks, Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp and Metallica.
After the city of New Bedford, Massachusetts was alerted that there were roosters in the basement of a local barbershop; no one expected that they would be dealing with a religious barber, who had an explanation.
Owner William Camacho, 41, was one of three men in the city who practiced a religion known as Palo Mayombe, which is an Afro-Carribean religion that is often compared to Santeria. Although it is more accurately described as the world’s most powerful and feared form of black magic, to those who are interested. Either way, Camacho did admit that he was involved in animal sacrificing, specifically, that of birds.
While fessing up to his religious hobbies, he explained that he did not partake in any of these activities in the actual barbershop. In fact, he was in the middle of moving and needed a place to bring the birds. Ironically, the dead rooster that was found in the basement had died of natural causes.
Camacho had said that he took the birds to countryside to commit the sacrifices. He believes that these birds allow him to communicate with Spirits and Gods and has even said, “These birds are sacred; they’re basically saints.’’ When attempting to justify hiding the birds at his shop, he asked what he was “supposed to do while (he) moved? Take (his) saints and throw them in a storage unit?’’
Along with the rooster that had been dead for two days, there were the other birds that were being held at the shop, Bad Boyz Cutz, which included: five caged birds and two pigeons. There was also an alter with an array of hacksaws.
Mayor Scott W. Lang had made a point of assuring everyone that Bad Boyz Cutz was not shut down due to Mr. Camacho’s religious beliefs, but rather the health and safety of his current or potential clients. They still are not fully confident in the fact that the sacrifices were occurring outside of the business and need to ensure this is not happening before the business can be re-opened.
In the meantime, the body of the rooster will be sent to Tufts University to be examined. Based on the results of the necropsy, they will decide whether they need to to move forward with an animal cruelty case, which could be big trouble for Camacho. Frankly, right now he’s in enough trouble as it is.
He seems to not be aware that as of now his shop has been closed and will be waiting on his actions to be re-opened. In fact, he’s planning on suing the city because he feels that his civil rights have been violated. Right now he should focus more attention on getting his shop in good enough condition to pass a health examination. They would like Camacho to clean the basement and keep birds out of it, for good.
Even after Camacho makes the necessary changes, it will still be up to the state Division of Professional License whether Mr. Camacho’s barber license will be suspended.