The lawyers for Damien Echols, one of the centerpieces of the “West Memphis Three” case, have filed a motion to have evidence tested after the state of Arkansas previously refused the testing, according to reports.
Echols’ lawyer petitioned for the new DNA by using an MVAC, a wet vacuum system that can find more DNA than older tests, including in hard-to-reach spaces such as on shoelaces and ligatures. The petition was filed at the Circuit Court of Crittenden County in West Memphis, Arkansas.
If the petition is granted, Echols’ defense will be able to choose its own testing company, but they’ll also be footing the bill for it, Fox 13 reports.
The news comes after the state allegedly failed to honor a state order for evidence in the case. In December 2021, Echols’ lawyer, Patrick Benca, reviewed case evidence that was thought to have been lost.
The West Memphis Police Department and other officials are being accused of stonewalling the release of the evidence for around 18 months and informing Echols’ team that the evidence was lost or destroyed.
“After 18 months Echols’ was informed that the evidence was likely not available, but after a state court order, Echols’ team was invited to the West Memphis Police Department to review what evidence remained. What they discovered was a very organized, catalogued and intact body of evidence,” a group working on the case wrote.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Damien Echols was one of three teens convicted of killing three small boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993. Echols was sentenced to death while his co-defendants, Jesse Misskelly and Jason Baldwin, were sentenced to life in prison.
The trio was dubbed the “West Memphis Three” after pervasive controversy surrounding the case spanned across the nation and several countries. The case later became the subject of numerous documentaries, while celebrities such as the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder pushed for the defendants’ prison release.
Misskelly, who has a low IQ, reportedly gave detectives a false confession which helped a jury convict the teens. Misskelly later recanted and claimed he was tired, ready to go home, and said what the detectives wanted him to say.
In 2011, the defendants were released from prison by accepting an Alford Plea, which allowed them to maintain their innocence get out of prison. The plea didn’t clear the convictions and all three men still have a murder charge on their record, despite their release from prison.
Now, Echols says that Crittenden County Prosecutor Keith Chrestman rejected the request for DNA testing, leading to the petition filing.
“The prosecutor in Arkansas has refused to cooperate with new DNA testing,” Echols wrote on Twitter. “He says if we want it done, we’ll have to fight for it in court.”
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[Feature Photo : Chris Byers, Michael Moore & Steven Branch/Handout]