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Appeal to be filed after judge denies request for DNA testing of West Memphis 3 evidence

Associated Press
Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin embrace alongside Jessie Misskelley Jr. at a press conference on Aug. 19, 2011, the day they were released from prison after agreeing to an Alford Plea.

One of three men convicted and later released for the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old West Memphis boys says an appeal could be filed this week challenging a judge’s decision last month not to allow modern DNA testing of evidence in the case.

Damien Echols said on Twitter Sunday that he and his attorneys are waiting for transcripts to be released from the June 23 hearing conducted by Crittenden County Circuit Judge Tonya Alexander.

“We should have them by the early part of this week at the latest, unless the judge deliberately stalls for time,” Echols said. “Once we have them, we can begin filing an appeal and figuring out the next steps.”

Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were convicted in 1994 of the murders of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. In 2011 – as the three defendants were seeking new trials – the state offered the three a rarely used Alford Plea in which they pleaded guilty, but were allowed to maintain their innocence and were sentenced to time served, which allowed their immediate release from prison.

Echols has long been asking that ligatures used to bind the victims and other evidence be tested using M-Vac technology, which is used to collect DNA. But at the hearing last month, Judge Alexander said since Echols is no longer in prison, he can’t seek habeas relief.

Echols' attorney Lonnie Soury said that was an incorrect interpretation of the law. As Talk Business & Politics reported, he said there are consequences a wrongful conviction can bring to a defendant that go beyond incarceration. Soury also said other people have sought similar relief after being released from prison.

Michael Hibblen is News Director of UA Little Rock Public Radio. A 33-year radio veteran, he oversees the KUAR News staff, plans coverage and edits stories while also anchoring and reporting for the station.
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