Raining On The West Memphis Parade: Fundamental Fairness Denied

The West Memphis 3 are free!! Yea!

Three men convicted in the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, were ordered released after entering new pleas following a court hearing, prosecutor Scott Ellington said Friday.

Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 18 years in prison with credit for time served, a prosecutor said. They were to be released on Friday.

The three entered what is known as an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to maintain innocence while simultaneously acknowledging that the state has evidence to convict, Ellington said.

Cause for celebration, right?

Not here; I feel nothing but sweet sorrow because, while Damien Echols (who had actually been on death row most all of the intervening time), Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin are free, a solid little chunk of the American justice system, due process and fundamental fairness was sacrificed in the process.

Let one of the three, Mr. Baldwin, speak for himself and me here:

This was NOT justice. I did not want to take this deal, but they were going to kill Damien an I couldn’t let that happen.

And therein lies the huge rub. The facts had never been particularly solid against these three once young men. They were brow beaten by avaricious prosecutors, sought to be lynched by a southern community ginned up on fear, horror and emotion and poorly served by their attorneys at the original trial level. In short, every facet of the American system of due process was compromised and tainted, and they have sat convicted, one on death row, ever since as a result.

Thanks to a litany of friends, motivated activist celebrities like Johnnie Depp, Natalie Maines and Eddie Vedder, and documentary filmmakers the cause of the West Memphis Three has never died. And, in fact, I would love to say that all that sweat, love and belief was vindicated today. But, sadly, that is simply not the case.

Yes, it is good, and truly heartwarming, to see “The Three” in sunshine. That said, justice and the rule of law are a little more dead for the effort if they are truly innocent. And the facts, including the key absence, indeed exclusion, of DNA evidence, now known – almost unequivocally – militate to a conclusion of innocence. While people should be happy, no thrilled, they are out of custody, I cannot believe there is not concurrent shrieking at the highest levels as to how exactly that has transpired.

Let’s be honest, no prosecutor in his right mind walks these three men out the front door of the courthouse if he truly believes they are guilty and there is even the slightest chance in hell he can make the charges stand up in a retrial. And no prosecutor lets them do it through Alford pleas. I do not care what kind of happy pablum they spew to the television cameras and press, it is really just that simple.

So, what we have here is nothing but a reaffirmation, ratification and craven ass covering of the original miscarriage of justice that railroaded the West Memphis Three. There will be no words of commendation here for the prosecutors, nor for Judge David Laser for giving the court’s imprimatur of propriety to this; in fact, they should all be questioned as to their ethics and morals.

This is nothing short of Mike Nifong making the Duke lacrosse players take misdemeanor pleas and register as sex offenders in order to save his precious reputation and job, and stop civil damage suits. Nifong did not get away with such depravity in Durham, and the prosecutors in Jonesboro Arkansas should not either.

Somewhere a gold lady with a set of scales weeps because another pint of her lifeblood has been spilled in Jonesboro Arkansas in the name of prosecutorial malice, vanity and civil damage mitigation. So many people have put their souls into this case, but the work is not over and the job not done yet. Because until the names of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin are cleared in full, due process has been denied and fundamental fairness refused.

17 replies
  1. Teddy Partridge says:

    Does this mean there will be no investigation into finding the real killer(s)? How can a justice system rest with THAT outcome?

  2. Jim White says:

    “Somewhere a gold lady with a set of scales weeps because another pint of her lifeblood has been spilled in Jonesboro Arkansas in the name of prosecutorial malice, vanity and civil damage mitigation.”

    That was awesome, bmaz. Thanks for calling out those who would hide behind what they spin as good news.

  3. new world order says:

    The next step ought to be a claim for compensation under CCPR Article 9(5) (Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.) Justice, State and the judiciary have fought for two decades to suppress this binding obligation of the state, and the courts need to have their noses rubbed in state failure and the standards of the civilized world.

  4. DWBartoo says:

    Thank you, bmaz, I was hoping you might weigh in on this sorry and self-serving punking of Lady Justice.

    “Disgusting”, doesn’t begin …


  5. phred says:

    Amen, bmaz.

    I am so fed up with corruption absolutely every freakin’ where you look in our government institutions. It is infuriating. How hard is it to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong”. Damn near impossible, apparently. Grrrr…

    • bmaz says:

      Alright now. Here I am, just a lonely pitiful soul, out trying to carry forth the message of the degradation, if not gutting, of the rule of law and due process.

      But you people – YOU – I know what you want. The same thing as that Wheeler woman when I told her I was finally gonna get off my ass and write a substantive post…..”Wellllll, when are you gonna start on Trash, Hmmmmmmm”. Well. I have to tell you. It is an extra fine Howda You Do.

      Soooooo, I am a gonna write up some Trash. Just as soon as I can decide on the right anti-freeze to protect me from the elements here at Casa de Bmaz. Cause this fierce creature apparently has no intentions of protecting me. If I don’t, I will get kilt by some kinda rugby strong headed prop or something.

      Oh, did you know the Cardinals are playing the Cheeseheads tonight??? Spidey v. Aaron!!

    • bmaz says:

      Sorry chaps and chappettes, I was slightly delayed; give me 30 minutes and Trash will be up. Let loose right here and now if the spirit so moves you.

  6. tejanarusa says:

    Omigod – is it football season already?
    Once nice thing about being divorced – I no longer have to pay any attention to football season.

    On the substantive post – very nice piece, bmaz; well-justified outrage. Alford pleas; of course, of course.
    Do you suppose the three will ever actually be cleared?
    Oh, never mind, a rhetorical question, I suppose.

  7. Bob Schacht says:

    “Somewhere a gold lady with a set of scales weeps because another pint of her lifeblood has been spilled in Jonesboro Arkansas in the name of prosecutorial malice, vanity and civil damage mitigation.”

    Unfortunately, the good lady has just about been bled dry, not only in Jonesboro, but by the U.S. Department of Justice (which is looking forward, not backward). If one were to compile a list of the injustices, non-justices, mis-justices, malfeasences, etc. done by the Obama DOJ, it would be a long list. It might even begin to rival Bush’s DOJ.

    Bob in AZ

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