New evidence might finally shed light on the truth behind the infamous West Memphis Three murder case from 1993. The case is heading to 30 years of intrigue for those following the case. The tragic slaying of Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore led to the arrest of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley. The three suspects were convicted of the murders and sent behind bars for life, with Echols also receiving the death penalty.
The three men were finally released in 2012 following two decades of efforts by activists, celebrities and the HBO documentary series that pushed the story into headlines for years. Despite their release and claim to innocence, the three were forced to sign an Alford plea deal with prosecutors. So while they still officially pleaded guilty, they were released from jail.
A story from the local news in Memphis about the prosecutor – a guy named Chrestman – refusing to allow the DNA from the crime scene to be tested.https://t.co/vXmCQrR7G0
— Damien Echols (@damienechols) January 20, 2022
Now the discovery of evidence once thought missing has stirred up thoughts that the trio may be exonerated. According to WREG CBS in Memphis, the evidence had been reported missing, lost or damaged. But attorney for Damian Echols, Patrick Benca, was allowed into the West Memphis Police Department and discovered the evidence organized and intact.
“We are pleased that the evidence is intact. We are planning to move ahead and test this evidence using the latest DNA technology available to hopefully identify the real killer(s) of the three children in 1993, and exonerate Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley,” Benca said in a statement.
The rumored lost evidence had raised eyebrows for many, like Lonnie Soury of Arkansas Take Action. “What even worried us more was we started hearing from these officials that the evidence had been destroyed, lost or mishandled,” Soury said.” “Rumors that it had been lost in a fire. It was very confusing and a very sad state of development.”
According to Fox 13, Echols and his legal team are petitioning the courts to allow the DNA testing of the evidence. According to the outlet, Echols’ petition seeks to test shoestrings used to bind the victims under “M-Vac wet vacuum system testing.” It is a type of DNA testing unavailable during the trial in 1993.
West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon and Police Chief Michael Pope were blamed for the delay, though McClendon denied the accusation. “I have no vested interest in trying to withhold any evidence from anyone on either side. We want to make sure that they get to the bottom of what they’re trying to figure out,” McClendon said. Pop resigned from his position suddenly after the discovery went public.