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Freed: The West Memphis Three 2011/08/20

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Information Technology (IT), Privacy & Security, Records Management.
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Jason Baldwin, left, Damien Echols, center, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., right, served nearly two decades in prison.

For the last 18 years, many artists, musicians, filmmakers and people of conscience have been concerned about the Robin Hood Hills killers, three teenagers falsely accused of killing three young boys , in Arkansas.  Well, now there’s closure.  As yesterday’s NYTimes put it: “The end, if it can be called that, came all of a sudden.  After nearly two decades in prison for the murder of three young boys, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., commonly known as the West Memphis Three, stood up in a courtroom here on Friday, proclaimed their innocence even as they pleaded guilty, and, minutes later, walked out as free men.

So I did a little research and found that there’s some relevance to records management.  As per Wikipedia: “According to Mara Leveritt, investigative journalist and author of Devil’s Knot, “Police records were a mess. To call them disorderly would be putting it mildly.”[10] Leveritt speculated that the small local police force was overwhelmed by the crime, which was unlike any they had ever investigated. Police refused an unsolicited offer of aid and consultation from the violent crimes experts of the Arkansas State Police, and critics suggested this was due to the WMPD being investigated by the Arkansas State Police for suspected theft from the Crittenden County drug task force.[10] Leveritt further noted that some of the physical evidence was stored in paper sacks obtained from a supermarket (with the supermarket’s name pre-printed on the bags) rather than in containers of known and controlled origin.

Free the West Memphis Three

Hmm.   So I was interested to learn about the specific maneuver which allows a man on death row to go free.  From the Times: “

Under the seemingly contradictory deal, Judge David Laser vacated the previous convictions, including the capital murder convictions for Mr. Echols and Mr. Baldwin. After doing so, he ordered a new trial, something the prosecutors agreed to if the men would enter so-called Alford guilty pleas. These pleas allow people to maintain their innocence and admit frankly that they are pleading guilty because they consider it in their best interest.  The three men did just that, standing in court and quietly proclaiming their innocence but at the same time pleading guilty to charges of first- and second-degree murder. The judge then sentenced them to 18 years and 78 days, the amount of time they had served, and also levied a suspended sentence of 10 years.”

So for future confusion, court record has them admitting guilt.


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