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The West Memphis Three
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    Born in West Memphis, Arkansas
    Damien Wayne Echols (December 11, 1974- ), birth name was Michael Wayne Hutchison
    Charles Jason Baldwin (April 11, 1977- )
    Jessie Misskelley, Jr. (July 10, 1975- )
    Accused of the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old boys: Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers
    Convicted in two trials (1994)
    Echols sentenced to death, Misskelley to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, Baldwin to life imprisonment
    Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a lower court to consider whether new DNA evidence might exonerate the three (November 4, 2010)
    The three entered an 'Alford plea' in which they maintained their innocence while conceding prosecutors have sufficient evidence to secure a conviction (August 19, 2011)
    Were then re-sentenced to time served and released from prison
    Subject of the 'Paradise Lost' series of documentaries (1996-2011)
    Before the murders, Baldwin had been arrested for vandalism and Echols had been arrested for burglary and shoplifting.
    Echols had a history of depression, self-mutilation and suicide attempts.
    During a psychiatric evaluation, Echols admitted he had once tried to gouge out a classmate's eye.
    In the months before the murders, Echols claimed to have obtained super powers by drinking human blood.
    Misskelley confessed to the murders and implicated Baldwin and Echols.
    West Memphis police early on decided the crime had to have been committed by a satanic cult (despite no evidence for it) and ignored any lead that took the case in a different direction.
    For example, the police never followed up two teenagers who abruptly left West Memphis after the murders, one of whom, following an arrest in California, told police there that he 'might have' committed the murders during a drug blackout.
    An expert on false confessions described Misskelley's interrogation -- which lasted 12 hours, but with only 46 minutes of it recorded -- a 'classic example' of police coercion.
    Misskelley's confession was self-contradictory and was frequently inconsistent with the evidence. (For example: he claimed the murders occurred at the place where the bodies were found, but a lack of blood indicated the killings had happened elsewhere; he said the victims were bound with rope when they were actually tied up with their own shoelaces; etc.)
    The prosecution povided almost no evidence linking Echols and Baldwin to the crime.
    It did however show that Echols owned a lot of black shirts and thus was obviously a satanist.
    Parents of two of the victims have questioned the convictions.
    A re-analysis of evidence found that there was DNA at the crime scene that matched none of the victims and none of the West Memphis Three (2007).

Credit: C. Fishel

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