Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

West Memphis Three Petition for New Trial

Disputed Evidence

  

Already, questions have been raised about indications that the Arkansas attorney general ordered evidence from the case sent to a laboratory for testing after the agreed-upon tests were completed. Last fall, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel stated publicly that he "gave the instruction to have some items that were not requested to be tested otherwise sent off for DNA testing." A spokesman for Echols said that if that is true, the additional testing was conducted without defense attorneys' knowledge or consent.

A spokesman for Damien Echols said in April that "within the last year," state officials sent a t-shirt that had been found in the home of Jessie Misskelley, Jr. in 1993 to a laboratory for DNA testing. The shirt was reportedly tested after state officials had notified them that all post-conviction DNA testing was complete.

Attorney Lonnie Soury
Attorney Lonnie Soury

Lonnie Soury, the spokesman for Echols, said that the tests reportedly revealed blood on the t-shirt, which had no connection to the crime scene. The tests reportedly determined that the blood was Misskelley's own.

Questions about evidence have persisted in the case since the original trials, when West Memphis police testified that they had lost evidence relating to a man seen with blood and mud on him on the night the children disappeared. That man, who had entered a Bojangles' restaurant near where the boys' bodies were later discovered, was never identified.

Now, almost two decades later, defense attorneys are again questioning the state's handling of evidence. What exactly was collected? What was done with it? Where is it now?

Those questions became particularly relevant when defense attorneys requested new DNA tests in preparation for the December hearing. Attorneys for the state argued that "additional testing should not be permitted to any petitioner," even though the defense had said it would pay for the tests.

The list of what the defense wanted tested has not yet been made public. But as recently as April, Soury said, "We're still looking for the [victims'] clothes and shoes. We assume they exist, but we're not sure where."

At the time, Soury also said defense attorneys want to learn more about items sent to the FBI for analysis prior to the trials. "We believe it was fingerprints and soil samples" he said. "We're not sure when the material was sent off to the FBI. It could have been before the arrests or after. And we don't know what happened to those test results. We have never seen them."

Soury added, "One can assume they found nothing that was of interest to the prosecution. But we don't know if they found something that could be exculpatory today."

 

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