Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols (left to right)
Without comment, the Supreme Court denied the petitions from convicted killers Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley. But the ruling allows the defense to renew the requests later.
Baldwin, Misskelley, and Damien Echols were teenagers when the 8-year-old boys were found dead in a ditch near their neighborhood a day after they went missing May 5, 1993.
Circuit Judge David Burnett, the original trial judge, plans to review claims by the defense in September of new evidence that they say exonerates their clients. Burnett has ordered lawyers in the case not to talk about it to the public.
In the rulings Thursday, the Supreme Court denied two similar petitions from lawyers for Baldwin and Misskelley, asking that the court allow Burnett to consider evidence that they say was kept from trial lawyers and the jury.
Among that information, they say, is evidence that the police and possibly the prosecution considered that animals caused the injuries found on the victims' bodies that the prosecution says was caused by a knife; and that at least two witnesses told police the likely murder weapon was thrown into a lake before the murders -- not afterward as presented at trial.
Also, the defense says, there was information that would have raised doubts about testimony from the prosecution's DNA expert, Michael Deguglielmo, but trial lawyers did not have that information. In addition, the DNA testing 15 years ago could not have produced the details needed to support the state's case against their clients, the defense lawyers said.
In responding to the petitions, Senior Assistant Attorney General David R. Raupp characterized the requests as "a fishing expedition" and said the defense had no proof but only "tentative allegations" that evidence was withheld from the trial lawyers.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)