Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols (left to right)
Christopher Byers, Michael Moore, Stevie Branch (left to right)
He says he's innocent and is appealing his conviction. Echols' legal team presented oral arguments before the Arkansas State Supreme Court at 9 a.m. Thursday.
More than two hours before Echols appeal hearing, a line started forming outside the Arkansas Supreme Court building. It was a crowd of about 200, most of them West Memphis Three supporters.
Stewart Faulks came all the way from Australia. He says, "I am not only here to raise awareness but to see justice finally served."
Attorney Dennis Riordan told the high court Thursday that Damien Echols' case should be sent back to a circuit court for an evidentiary hearing.
However, Senior Assistant Attorney General David Raupp argues that Echols has not proven that there was a constitutional flaw in his trial or an error relating to the evidence.
Thursday's Statement from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel:
"Today, attorneys from our office appeared before the Arkansas Supreme Court to again address the post-trial motions filed in this case. It is a testament to the fact that our system affords inmates multiple opportunities to be heard that this matter remains in court more than a decade after the jury rendered its verdict.
"Our priority in this case is the same as it is in every case: To pursue justice and fairness with integrity and professionalism. The trial-court judge ruled that the standard to invalidate the jury's verdict and retry this case has not been met. Our lawyers defended that ruling today in reliance upon solid precedent.
"Our justice system affords safeguards to protect the rights of all. That includes not only defendants, but also, in this case, the three innocent little boys who were viciously murdered in 1993."
According to a Supreme Court spokesperson, the justices normally take two to three weeks to make a decision, but there is no time limit.
This case has received world wide attention, so Arkansas Supreme Court officials are bracing themselves for a large crowd. Echols tells Today's THV people were expected from as far away as California and South Carolina.
Echols' lawyers and the state each got 20 minutes to argue their case before the seven Supreme Court Justices. The time limit may seem short. However, Echols says they are quite familiar with this case. They've been reviewing the briefs and new evidence for two years now, according to Echols.
Cameras were recently installed in the court, so proceedings were streamed live online. It's a first in state history. The video of the oral arguments made for Damien Echols is archived on the Arkansas Supreme Court website and can be watched at any time.
Today's THV spoke to Damien Echols from death row. He says, "I have more hope about the Arkansas State Supreme Court hearings than I did six months or a year ago. I am not exactly sure why. Maybe it's because they are going to have cameras in the court room where people can actually see what's going on. I think that has been a lot of the problem with this case from the very beginning is the lack of transparency. I know that I don't have anything to hide. I'm not covering anything up."
Echols argues for a new trial because DNA found at the scene doesn't match the three men but rather one of the victim's stepfather, Terry Hobbs. Plus, there are three witnesses claiming they saw Hobbs with the boys shortly before they disappeared. Finally, there's a sworn affidavit that the original jury foreman engaged in juror misconduct.
Riodran says, "Obviously we would like to get to a new trial as quickly as possible but there are sound legal reasons that the court may feel like the appropriate remedy is in the evidentiary hearing."
Until then, Echols' wife Lorri Davis will keep working. She explains, "I think you continue to look for evidence. You continue to work for justice and I think that we want to see, to find out who actually committed these murders and I am hoping everyone involved works to that end."
Echols adds, "I can wait. I have time. I have done it for 17.5 years. Another year or so, I take naps longer than that now."
His attorneys argue he deserves a new trial because he's innocent and that DNA evidence showed no trace of him at the crime scene. Attorneys for the state say Echols received a fair trial and that the jury's verdict should stand.
The victims are Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers.
Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were also convicted. They are serving life sentences.
(Source: Today's THV and The Associated Press)