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Thread: West Memphis Three Get A New Hearing

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default West Memphis Three Get A New Hearing

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The three men convicted in the grisly murders of three West Memphis Cub Scouts won new hearings Thursday to argue their innocence, more than 15 years after they were sent to prison despite scant physical evidence linking them to the crime scene.

    The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the hearings to decide whether new DNA analysis — and other evidence not introduced at the 1994 trials — could lead a reasonable jury to acquit death-row inmate Damien Echols as well as Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, who are serving life sentences.

    The ruling was a major win for Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley, who are known to sympathizers as the West Memphis Three and have gained the support of celebrities as well as legal scholars who say they were wrongfully convicted. Echols has been on Arkansas' death row since 1994, when he was 20, after being convicted in the deaths of 8-year-olds Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. The three boys were found beaten, nude and hog-tied in an area known as Robin Hood Hills in West Memphis.

    "Damien is thrilled with the court's decision," said his wife, Lorri Davis. "It is the best news he has heard in his case in the 17 years he has been on death row."

    Echols' attorneys called Thursday's decision a "landmark victory" and praised the high court for allowing Echols to pursue his claims of innocence. Prosecutors sought to limit what evidence could be introduced under the state's DNA law, which the Legislature passed in 2001 to give inmates an avenue to pursue exoneration.

    "The decision also will affect the case of every wrongly convicted Arkansas prisoner who files a DNA innocence petition in the future," attorneys Dennis Riordan, Donald Horgan and Deborah Sallings said in a statement.

    The Supreme Court rebuked Circuit Court Judge David Burnett for not holding a hearing on the DNA evidence before rejecting Echols' request for a new trial in 2008. Burnett had ruled that the crime-scene DNA evidence — which shows no trace of Echols or the two other men convicted of the murders — was legally inconclusive and not enough to prove innocence.

    While there is a significant dispute in this case as to the legal effects of the DNA test results, it is undisputed that the results conclusively excluded Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley as the source of the DNA evidence tested," the court wrote Thursday.

    Prosecutors maintained that the absence of their DNA wasn't enough to prove the three men are innocent and that a jury convicted them on other evidence.

    "As I've stated before, it is a testament to the fact that our system affords inmates multiple opportunities to be heard that this matter remains in court," Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said. "We respect the decision handed down by the Supreme Court and my office intends to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to defend the jury verdicts in this case."

    The court also said that the new hearings should focus on all evidence that could prove the men's innocence or guilt, not just the DNA results. Echols' lengthy appeal includes affidavits alleging juror misconduct, claiming that the jury considered a confession that Misskelley made to police. That confession was never introduced as evidence at trial because Misskelley recanted it and refused to testify against Echols and Baldwin.

    It was not clear when the new hearings would occur, and the court ordered that a new judge be reassigned to the case because Burnett was elected this year to the state Senate. The district in which the cases will be heard has 11 judges — and two are the original prosecutors in the Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley murder trials.

    Administrative Judge Ralph Wilson's office said Thursday that he was reviewing the order and the judges' schedules before deciding who gets the case.

    Burnett, who was at the Capitol for freshman orientation for state senators, said he had not heard about the ruling Thursday.
    "I made my opinion and they made theirs. That's the way the system works," Burnett said. "I did what I thought was appropriate at the time. Times change and circumstances change, and I guess they had a different view than I did."

    Echols' attorneys also said they would ask the court to bypass the evidentiary hearing and grant a new trial.

    "We would be prepared to present the compelling evidence of Mr. Echols' innocence to the circuit court at the hearing mandated by today's decision," they said. "It is clear, however, that the people of Arkansas will never be satisfied that a correct and just result has been reached in this case unless and until a new trial is granted to Mr. Echols and his codefendants."

    The case has drawn interest far beyond Arkansas. In August, a rally in Little Rock to support Echols' legal fund featured Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, actor Johnny Depp and Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines and drew more than 2,000 people.

    Court orders new hearing for 'West Memphis 3' - U.S. news - Crime & courts - msnbc.com
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    Elite Member Sundance's Avatar
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    About fucking time.
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    Hooooorah!
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    My God, a day I thought I would never see. Those kids got railroaded, and I hope the sc gives this case an honest look this time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by baked_tater View Post
    My God, a day I thought I would never see. Those kids got railroaded, and I hope the sc gives this case an honest look this time.
    Totally agree. Blows my mind it's taken this long.
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    I hope they r released I hope they get some monetary compensation
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    West Memphis, Arkansas is called "West Memphis" because it is just right across the Mississippi bridge from Memphis. I always thought that cute for some reason.

    Anyway, here is what folks from that neck of the woods have reported. The comments area might be interesting to some of you guys who have followed the case...

    In bid for new trial, West Memphis Three granted rare new hearing » The Commercial Appeal

    It took a small, dedicated army to get Arkansas death row inmate Damien Echols a rare second chance.

    The Arkansas Supreme Court announced its decision Thursday to grant an evidentiary hearing, or mini-trial before a judge, to the infamous West Memphis Three of Echols and his friends, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr.

    All three have been imprisoned for 17 years for the murders of three 8-year-old West Memphis boys.

    "It's very unusual," Arkansas legal expert John Plegge, a retired Circuit Court judge from Pulaski County, said of the decision.

    Echols' wife, Lorri Davis, watched the court's announcement live via Internet video streaming on her home computer in Little Rock.

    "I'm pretty happy," she said. "We're excited."

    She later issued a statement for Echols, saying: "It is the best news he has heard in his case in the 17 years he has been on death row."

    John Mark Byers, adopted father of victim Christopher Byers, said he also was elated while watching the hearing online from his Millington home.

    "It's a very positive move toward what I hope will be justice for three children ... that the guilty parties are found and punished," Byers said.

    Byers once danced on mock graves for the three defendants, but now is convinced they're innocent based on new DNA evidence.

    The high court ruled that Echols and his co-defendants will get to lobby a local Circuit Court judge for a new trial based on new DNA evidence on human hairs that don't belong to the defendants. They will appear before a new judge because the initial trial judge now is a state legislator.

    "Now we have seven justices saying: 'This case needs to be looked at,'" Byers said. "I feel that today the scales of justice began tilting in the correct direction."

    The defendants will also get the chance to test more DNA evidence, fibers and animal hairs, which they asked to test years ago.

    In a surprise move, Chief Supreme Court Justice Jim Hannah wrote that the issue of jury bias also can be considered.

    Legal observers predicted the high court would stay clear of the issue of jury misconduct because jury deliberations are considered secret.

    "They don't typically go behind a jury verdict to determine why the jury got there," said Debra Reece, an adjunct law professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

    Lloyd Warford, the jury foreman's family attorney, has filed an affidavit with the high court, alleging that the foreman talked at length about questionable jury conduct.

    Defense attorneys used the affidavit to charge that the foreman, Jonesboro real estate developer Kent Arnold, manipulated his way onto the jury, improperly discussed the case before jury deliberations had begun and persuaded other jurors to convict on inadmissible evidence.

    That evidence was the confession of Misskelley, who has been described as borderline mentally retarded. Misskelley was interrogated for 12 hours and later recanted and refused to testify against Echols and Baldwin.

    Reece, a former Arkansas Supreme Court law clerk, said the jury misconduct issue alone should be enough for a Circuit Court judge to grant a new trial.

    "This jury foreman has revealed that Damien Echols was convicted on evidence never presented at trial," the professor said. "That's the troubling thing about all of this."

    The justices made it clear that Echols and his friends don't have to prove their innocence. Prosecutors carry the burden of proving guilt.

    "The question is whether a new jury would find Echols guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Justice Ronald L. Sheffield wrote.

    Defense attorneys Dennis Riordan and Donald Horgan issued a joint statement urging state prosecutors to stipulate to unresolved issues, such as the new DNA, and join them in asking a judge for a new trial without an evidentiary hearing.

    The San Francisco-based defense attorneys wrote: "We look forward to entering into good faith discussions with the Arkansas authorities to achieve that end."

    In his own statement, Atty. Gen. Dustin McDaniel said, in part: "My office intends to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to defend the jury verdicts in this case."

    A date for the hearing has not yet been set.

    During a recent interview from death row, Echols said he feels sure he would have already been executed if not for an HBO documentary about the case.

    "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" inspired a legion of supporters who have signed a petition for a new trial and have contributed money to help with legal expenses, including investigators who have discovered new evidence.

    Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, two documentary filmmakers from New York, headed to West Memphis in 1993 after hearing that three teens were charged with killing the three boys in a satanic ritual.

    "We came down here thinking we were doing a story on rotten teenagers accused of devil-worshipping murders," Berlinger said.

    But soon the filmmakers began to doubt the teens' guilt, he said.

    "There were so many holes in this case."

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    Elite Member Serendipity's Avatar
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    ^^There was also bite mark evidence that didn't match the boys' (I should say men now) teeth.

    I bet there are a lot of nervous police officers right now who pushed for the conviction, basing it all on satanism and nothing else. I heard they all were promoted one way or another due to this case. It's been a long time since I read about it, but this case has always intrigued me. I hope they're finally freed and given a hefty sum of money to help rebuild their lost lives.
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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    I remember reading about this before and I have to say that I am very pleased that there will be a new hearing. The whole case stunk like a barrel of week old fish. Wasn't there something odd about someone connected to one of the murdered children?
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    Elite Member Lobelia's Avatar
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    John Mark Byers has always been more than odd, as the documentary Paradise Lost showcases beautifully. It has always been tempting to suspect him for lots of reasons. However, some crime scene DNA was tested a few years ago & found to be a match with a different victim's stepfather. I'm really glad this is happening. About fucking time is exactly right.
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    Elite Member Novice's Avatar
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    I guess that the prosecutors saying that the DNA isn't enough to prove innocent are missing the irony that it could be not enough to prove guilt either... I'll be hoping that they get the peeps that did this.
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    Silver Member LucreziaBorgia's Avatar
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    Its been a long time in the coming, that's for sure.

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    Elite Member Lobelia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Novice View Post
    I guess that the prosecutors saying that the DNA isn't enough to prove innocent are missing the irony that it could be not enough to prove guilt either... I'll be hoping that they get the peeps that did this.
    Yeah, and they based a chunk of their case on supposedly matching up a few clothing fibers which is less helpful and accurate but it played a big part in the conviction.
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    Gold Member philbert_wormly's Avatar
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    Cool Professional profiler convinced of innocence of West Memphis Three

    This was in the Sunday paper.

    It is from The Commercial Appeal, which is the newspaper of Memphis, TN.

    I am linking to the printer friendly version because I do not understand how to cut and paste and all of that from the actual site for this newspaper itself all too very neatly!

    Professional profiler convinced of innocence of West Memphis Three : Memphis Commercial Appeal


    Professional profiler convinced of innocence of West Memphis Three
    John Douglas has crawled inside the minds of some of the nation's most notorious murderers, but he says the West Memphis Three aren't among them.

    By Beth Warren

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    John Douglas doesn't get paid to be popular.

    Good thing.

    He riles police and unnerves communities -- among them West Memphis.

    A national pioneer in criminal profiling, the former FBI supervisor says his only loyalty is to the truth.

    For a quarter of a century, when police across the nation encountered hard-to-solve murders, he was the go-to guy. As the first full-time profiler at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., his mission was to get inside the minds of killers to determine who they were and why they took lives.

    He has his own theory about the motive and type of person who killed three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis in 1993. Hint: He says it's not the West Memphis Three.

    Douglas is the inspiration for the character Jack Crawford, the sage sleuth who teaches Clarice Starling and other new FBI profilers techniques to hunt serial killers in "Silence of the Lambs."

    He turned down a role in the movie, but in real life he's accepted as many invitations as possible to help track some of the nation's most menacing and elusive predators.

    He developed the psychological profile that ultimately helped nab the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, though his fellow agents were initially skeptical of his unorthodox methods.

    Douglas discovered that by analyzing crime scenes, reports and autopsy photos, he could decipher personality traits of the criminal and predict the type of victim the killer would be hunting next.

    He also tries to get into the minds of the victims, including reliving their final moments.

    He even works in his sleep, trying to dream about cases in hopes that some clue might pop up in his subconscious mind. He keeps a notepad by his bed in case he jolts awake with ideas.

    That often leads to sleepless nights and horrifying nightmares. For Douglas, it's part of the job of hunting the most savage among us.

    Douglas said other agents, trained to gather facts through traditional interviews, viewed his mind-probing techniques as "voodoo science" or "BS." When he was promoted to take over the operational side of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime's Behavioral Science Unit, he changed the name to the Investigative Support Unit, to remove the initials "BS."

    Retired FBI agent Bob Campbell, a polygraph expert, said he was among those leery of profiling to get into the mind of a killer.

    "The sociopath is really hard to get a grip on," said Campbell, who worked in New York and in the Southeast. "If you're depending on your instincts, they're probably going to beat you most of the time because they're reading you better than you're reading them."

    "Investigation is really the only go-to standard that we have. I mean, facts are facts."

    Campbell, an agent for 33 years, pointed to the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing case in Atlanta. Investigators labeled security guard Richard Jewell a suspect, based on his matching a criminal profile by an FBI agent other than Douglas.

    "The profilers were saying: 'You got the guy,' " Campbell said of Jewell. "That's a good example of rushing to judgment."

    Years later, Jewell was vindicated with the confession of Eric Robert Rudolph. But Jewell's reputation was damaged, while Rudolph had time to kill a police officer and injure six more victims.

    Investigations consultant Vernon Geberth, a retired NYPD homicide commander, said he trains officers from all over the country to be skeptical of profiles.

    "It's a tool, but there have been profiles that have been absolutely wrong," said Geberth, who spent 23 years with New York's police force.

    "I'm a real murder cop," said Geberth, who oversaw thousands of homicide investigations in the Bronx. "When you're actually standing at a homicide scene, talking to victims' families and suspects, it's a helluva lot different than analyzing photos after the fact."

    Douglas has heard it before. His techniques and conclusions, heralded by some, have long angered many prosecutors and his brethren in blue. His findings can shatter confidence in an arrest or conviction.

    Atlanta police who were hunting a serial killer of children thought Douglas was way off base. And, Douglas said, his opinions on the JonBenet Ramsey murder case made him "the most hated man in America."

    Still, he doesn't waver.

    When defense attorneys for Arkansas death row inmate Damien Echols asked Douglas, now a private consultant, to analyze the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old West Memphis boys, he put them on notice. He would accept a consultation fee, but his opinion couldn't be bought. He would be blunt and unyielding -- even if he concluded that Echols and his co-defendants, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., are appropriately behind bars.

    Ultimately, Douglas became convinced of the innocence of the so-called West Memphis Three, all teenagers when convicted in 1994.

    "What I do know is that there are three teens who are now in their 30s sitting in prison who don't belong there," Douglas said during a recent interview. "It really disturbs me."

    He said he has several reasons for believing a lone killer has gotten away with murder.

    In 2007, he trekked through the crime scene, examined police and autopsy reports and crime scene photos, and interviewed several people, including relatives of all three victims.

    He had dreaded approaching the parents. As he drove across the bridge from Memphis toward West Memphis, he remembers thinking: "They're going to kick me in the pants and kick me off the porch."

    One victim's parent, John Mark Byers, restricted Douglas to the porch for hours before trusting him enough to allow him inside. Byers now admits he didn't want to believe the real killer was still at large.

    Douglas went over all of the evidence and his findings, and now Byers, who once shouted for Echols to go to hell, is one of Echols' supporters.

    Prosecutors still contend that Echols, then 18, Baldwin, then 16, and Misskelley, then 17, teamed to sexually abuse, beat and mutilate the boys, whom they didn't know, in a planned satanic ritual. The medical examiner has testified that Christopher Byers bled to death after being sexually mutilated, while Stevie Branch and Michael Moore drowned.

    Defense attorneys have since consulted with five medical experts who say the boys were not sodomized or stabbed and, instead, animals had torn at their bodies after they were tossed into a muddy reservoir. They say all three boys were struck in the head, causing lethal skull fractures, and two of the victims drowned.

    The victims were naked and their wrists were tied to their ankles with their shoe laces. Their clothes were hidden in the muddy water, wrapped at the end of large sticks -- something Douglas believes shows criminal sophistication, not teenage impulse.

    Douglas believes a lone killer -- someone the boys knew -- attacked them in a fit of rage.

    He believes the murders were unplanned. His theory is that the killer didn't feel respected by his boss, his co-workers, his wife or his children, and then the victims didn't respond to his orders -- unleashing a mounting and powerful rage.

    "I think the anger was from the kids not following instructions," Douglas said.

    The afternoon of the murders, Christopher was supposed to be at home picking up trash in the yard. Michael was due at home for supper at 6 p.m. Stevie was told he would be grounded if he wasn't home at 4:30 p.m. But all three were seen riding their bicycles as late as 6:30 p.m.

    "This is not a sexually motivated crime," Douglas said. "This was more of a punishment, a degrading act to teach a lesson."

    He believes it would have been easy for an adult, a figure of authority, to control three kids. Once they were made to strip, they would be reluctant to run.

    And once they were tied up, there would be no escape.

    He believes the killer used the butt of a gun or end of a closed knife to strike the boys in the head.

    "Perhaps one of the kids was struck too hard and would go home and tell," he said. "Now you've gotten to the point of no return."

    Douglas thinks the killer has a violent history and likely feels no remorse. According to Douglas, he is a skilled liar, who has justified the killings in his own mind and would pass a lie detector test with ease.

    Douglas has a suspect in mind whom he believes merits further investigation.

    "I feel certain" that it isn't Echols, he said. "That's the easy part. The hard part is getting the perpetrator, getting the evidence and convicting them."

    Justice hasn't been satisfied yet in one of America's best-known unsolved cases, that of JonBenet Ramsey, killed in the basement of her Colorado home on Christmas, 1996.

    Douglas' conclusions in the case have pitted him against local police and even a fellow former FBI criminal profiler.

    Douglas said others were fixated on the 6-year-old child beauty queen's parents, John and the late Patsy Ramsey, citing the statistical probability that a child, especially a young child, is most likely to be killed by a family member, particularly a parent.

    Attorneys for the victim's father flew Douglas to Boulder, Colo. He concluded that the culprit or culprits were likely seeking revenge on John Ramsey, a wealthy executive.

    One of Douglas' most controversial findings was in Atlanta.

    In the 1980s, young black children and teens were being snatched off streets and even from their homes and strangled, shot or beaten to death. Body after body piled up and Atlanta area police were stymied, sending the community into a panic. Theories began to surface that it was an act of racial hatred by the Ku Klux Klan.

    Not so, according to Douglas.

    Many local cops wanted the Brooklyn-born, big-city federal guy to leave town fast. Few wanted to hear what he had to say: that one of their own was to blame, a cunning but unsuccessful black man from the area, not a white stranger motivated by hatred.

    "It was a case that so engulfed everyone in the community," said Paul Howard, Atlanta's top prosecutor.

    "People, including law enforcement, said he didn't know what he was doing, that he was crazy," Howard, then a fledgling prosecutor, said of Douglas.

    "He was really out on a limb when he released his findings."

    Police eventually took Douglas' advice to stake out area bridges, anticipating the killer would start tossing bodies in water. That's how police nabbed Wayne Williams, an intelligent but unsuccessful local black man -- as Douglas had predicted.

    The veteran prosecutor credits Douglas with helping to stop a serial killer whom he blames for at least 30 murders, though Williams was only prosecuted for two.

    Williams, serving back-to-back life sentences, insists he is innocent and still has many followers.

    That doesn't faze Douglas.

    In one of his books, "The Cases That Haunt Us," he wrote: "A criminal investigator has only one responsibility.... It has only to do with the silent pledge made by the investigator to the victim ... that he or she will do everything within his or her power to uncover the truth of what happened and bring the offender to the gates of earthly justice."

    So when Echols' attorneys recently lobbied the Arkansas Supreme Court for a new trial, they got a new ally. Douglas, who spent the majority of his career aiding police and prosecutors, joined the defense team.

    Echols' lead attorney, Dennis Riordan, argued that he has new DNA evidence and witnesses -- and Douglas' 19-page analysis.

    In a rare move Thursday, the high court ordered an evidentiary hearing, a mini-trial, for Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley. Douglas could be one of the witnesses.

    Douglas retired in 1995 after 25 years with the FBI. He was the unit chief for the operational side of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, overseeing more than 40 agents, including a dozen profilers.

    Annually, Douglas was supervising profiles in about 1,000 major crimes, including dozens of child murders.

    By comparison, West Memphis police had investigated six homicides in 1992, the year before the boys died.

    At Echols' new hearing, defense attorneys are hoping Douglas' extensive experience will be a trump card.

    Beth Warren is a reporter for The Commercial Appeal. Contact her at 529-2383.

    ---------------------------------------------

    Who is John Douglas?

    As a pioneering FBI criminal profiler, John Douglas has overseen thousands of kidnappings, serial rapes, bombings and murders -- including the 1982 Tylenol poisoning deaths.

    His profile helped nab Sedley Alley, executed in 2006 for the 1985 beating, rape and strangulation of Suzanne Marie Collins, a 19-year-old Marine lance corporal stationed at Millington.

    He has interviewed Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Ed Gein, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz and James Earl Ray.

    He helped Scotland Yard track a London serial killer.

    He will soon travel to Italy to assist attorneys who are fighting to free Amanda Knox, an American student convicted of helping to kill her roommate.

    Douglas has written many books, including true crimes.

    He also has served as a technical adviser for actress Jody Foster in the movie "Silence of the Lambs" and Stanley Tucci for "The Lovely Bones."

    Producers are now working on a possible TV series based on his life.

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    Elite Member Karistiona's Avatar
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    Bumping to say that the West Memphis 3 are finally free this afternoon. There was something called an Alford Plea offered by the Defense which is basically where they maintain their innocence, but acknowledge that the State has enough evidence to possibly convict them. It's a piece of shit deal for these three men, they are now unable to sue the state of Arkansas, but at least they'll be home tonight.
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