Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols (left to right)
LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Lawyers representing the men convicted in the 1993 slayings of three boys in West Memphis say they've reached an agreement on how donations should be funneled to their defense.
Today's announcement comes after another group was formed to raise money for the three men, who sympathizers refer to as the "West Memphis Three."
In a letter to supporters, the lawyers wrote that all have benefited from recent DNA testing done for an appeal on behalf of death-row inmate Damien Echols. A fund accepting donations from a supporters' Web site for the three covered costs of the tests, which the letter said ran to more than a hundred thousand dollars.
The letter said, quote, "We can assure supporters that arrangements are being made to ensure that future contributions will be used to meet the needs of all our clients as they prepare for further legal proceedings in state court."
Echols, now 33 years old, was sentenced to death for the slayings of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. Thirty-year-old Jason Baldwin received a life sentence without parole, while 32-year-old Jessie Misskelley received a life-plus-40-year sentence for the killings.
John Philipsborn, a longtime attorney for Baldwin, previously said he hadn't seen any of the recent large donations that have come into the trust and legal defense fund in Echols' name. The fund is controlled by Echols' wife, Lorri Davis. Today, Philipsborn said lawyers had held several days of productive discussions about the funding before issuing the letter, and he said the process had been improved for all concerned.
Other supporters recently launched a group called The West Memphis Three Innocence Project, aiming to create a nonprofit group to equally fund defense efforts for all three men. Statements attributed to Baldwin and Echols on a Web site about the case said the men wouldn't accept any funds from the new group.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)