Attorney General Dustin McDaniel responds to alleged juror misconduct in West Memphis 3 trial

    9:24 AM, May 18, 2011   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The office of the Arkansas Attorney General submitted a brief to the Craighead County Court of Judge David Laser agreeing to the admission of juror misconduct evidence in evidentiary hearings in the West Memphis 3 case.

    The evidence presented by attorneys for the men goes into detail about how police obtained Misskelley's so-called confession during his interrogation, how the prosecution introduced it via news reports prior to the trials, and how the jury came to consider the inadmissible "confession" during its deliberations.

    According to the Attorney General's filing, "The State does not resist admission of the juror misconduct evidence, although the State does not believe it will aid the Court's resolution of the question on remand - whether a new trial would result in acquittal."

    Read the Attorney General's opinion on the WM3 juror misconduct here.

    In the motion for a new trial, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin asked presiding Judge David Laser to admit evidence of juror misconduct at their first trial into this proceeding. They also asked the judge to conduct oral arguments and allow testimony at the hearing scheduled to begin December 5, 2011.

    The filing included shocking evidence that the jury foreman at the Echols/Baldwin trial, Kent Arnold, allegedly lied to the court during jury selection so that he would be sure to be selected and that he allegedly introduced Misskelley's false confession into jury deliberations although it was constitutionally barred from consideration because Misskelley refused to testify. Lloyd Warford, a prominent Arkansas attorney, former prosecutor, and state official, submitted a sworn affidavit detailing a dozen improper conversations that Kent Arnold held with him while the original trial was in progress, clearly violating the law and the rights of Echols and Baldwin to a fair and impartial trial.

    In those conversations, juror Arnold indicates that he had prejudged Echols's guilt and was trying to convince other jurors to convict them based upon news reports of the false confession of Misskelley, portions of which had even been published in newspapers before the trial. During one conversation, Arnold informed attorney Warford that the prosecution had presented a weak case and that the prosecution had better present something powerful the next day (the end of the prosecution's case) or it would be up to him to secure a conviction.

    "We have presented to the court, significant evidence of juror misconduct during the original trial," says Lonnie Soury, spokesperson for Arkansas Take Action.

    Arkansas Take Action is an organization Damien Echols' wife co-founded -- to clear the names of the West Memphis Three.
    The attorney general's office now does not deny evidence of juror misconduct and adds that evidence does need to be admitted at the next hearing.

    "It's a significant step in that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is not opposing that evidence from coming into the hearing," says Professor Felicia Epps.

    But Epps with the UALR school of law says this evidence won't make a difference in the outcome of the trial. "This evidence really doesn't get to whether these individuals are guilty or not guilty. Or whether they should be acquitted or not. This gets to things that happened in the trial."

    The biggest concern centers on Jesse Miskelley's confession being presented to jurors in the Baldwin -- Echols trial.

    "They should not have considered that at all. Under the constitution, that could not come in against these other two defendants," says Epps.

    And Epps says it's important for jurors to take their oaths seriously.

    "Jurors can get lost in a bunch of mish-mash. All this evidence starts to come together in their minds. The way that jury misconduct is really eliminated is that jurors take the instructions of the court seriously."

    Lorri Davis, wife of Damien Echols, provided the following statement to Today's THV.
    "The original convictions were based upon nothing more than Jessie Misskelley's false confession which was illegally brought into deliberations by the jury foreman. Without the confession being introduced I am confident they would have been found innocent. There was little credible evidence presented at the trial linking Damien or Jason to the murder of these poor children. They had strong alibis and there was no DNA, no witnesses, no motive or opportunity. Today we have uncovered important new evidence that we believe would convince a new jury to acquit. "

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