Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Opinion: West Memphis Three, Outrage in Arkansas

Call for a New Trial

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mara Leveritt. Also please see out feature story on the case: The West Memphis Three

John Mark Byers
John Mark Byers

For years, Pamela Hobbs was vehement in her belief that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were guilty. Now she's not sure. She now says she wants the men in prison to be given a fair trial, something she does not believe they've gotten.

John Mark Byers, the stepfather of Christopher Byers, another of the victims, goes further. Once hateful in his denunciations of the West Memphis Three, Byers recently said: "I was fooled for 14 years. But now I know an injustice was dealt upon these boys by the State of Arkansas."

Rick Murray, Christopher's biological father, doubts the convictions. "I want to know who murdered my son," Murray said. "I don't want three innocent people to suffer for something they didn't do.

For reasons peculiar to Arkansas law, several of the appeals brought by the West Memphis Three in the years since their convictions were heard by Judge Burnett. The state supreme court even allowed Burnett to rule on the case after he'd announced his retirement from the bench and his candidacy for the Arkansas legislature.

From left: Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley, recent
From left: Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley, recent

If necessary, that mixing of roles—judicial and political—may be added to any new appeals, on top of everything else.

In spring 2010, though, former prosecutor Fogleman, who has served as a circuit judge since shortly after the 1994 trials, campaigned for a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court. He lost to an inexperienced candidate, despite having the backing of prominent members of the state's judiciary. Maybe his opponent spent more on her campaign. Maybe she worked harder at it. Or maybe—one dares hope—voters in this state have gotten fed up with what, after all these years, still passes for justice in this case.

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