Free Essay

Fight for Innocence


Submitted By supersam24
Words 1998
Pages 8
One afternoon, in West Memphis, Arkansas, on May 6, 1993 three eight year boys’ bodies were found. The boys’ bodies were found hogtied, mutilated, and sexually assaulted. As the whole town was rocked by this discovery, the police decided they had to find the killer immediately. They automatically turned to their first suspect, Damien Echols, an eighteen-year-old boy who was known around town for dressing in all black and listening to rock music. The next arrest was made on Jessie Misskelley, a friend Echols, who was coerced into falsely confessing his guilt. The final arrest was made with Jason Baldwin, yet another associate of Echols. The three boys became known nationally as the West Memphis Three (WM3). The boys had rumors around town saying that they participated in Wiccan circles and Satanic rituals. Many believed that the murder of the three eight year olds’ was for a Satanic ritual that Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin were participating in. Even with a complete lack of circumstantial evidence from police, Jessie MIsskelley, at the age of just 17, was found guilty on one count of first degree capital murder and two counts of second degree murder and was sentenced to life in imprisonment without parole. Jason Baldwin was found guilty on three counts of capital murder. The 16 year old was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 40 years. Damien Echols was found guilty on three counts of capital murder and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. (Steel, “The West Memphis Three”). The town was convinced they had found and put away the killers, but the rest of the world was not so sure. Many people protested against the boys containment, including famous musicians from around the world. In 2007, with new technology, DNA evidence was recovered that showed the boys had no link to the case whatsoever. (Weinstein, “Lawyers file DNA motion in Cub Scout murder case”) .With an already faulty case, this new evidence caused the three men to be offered Alfred Pleas in exchange for their freedom.(Roberts, “Deal Frees ‘West Memphis Three’ in Arkansas). So what can be blamed for the nearly two decades imprisonment of these three innocent men? Is it faulty police work, or just plain ignorance? Biased-based policing has threatened our criminal justice system for years, police use faulty evidence and coerced confessions to accuse the teens of a crime they didn’t commit just because they had a negative stereotype surrounding themselves. This topic is important and interesting because society rarely wants to admit when something has gone wrong and prefers to turn the other cheek. Rather than working for a better place, society has become lazy and looks for the fastest way out, even though that may ruin someone’s life.
William Blackstone once said "Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." The police began setting up their case by using a witness, Aaron Hutchinson, a young a boy who claimed he witnessed the murders. The boy told several different stories, none of which added up and none of which pointed in the direction of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley. Aaron was not even able to identify Baldwin or Echols in a lineup, but still the police pressured him into trying to accuse the three young men. Other witnesses they interrogated all had faulty stories, inconsistent timelines, and one was even a drug addict (although the defense would not allow this information to be shared with the jury). Although the West Memphis Police Department (WMPD). had countless pieces of evidence against other suspects including the stepfather of one the murdered boys, they still decided to pursue Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley. In June of 1993 Jessie Misskelley was unconstitutionally question by the WMPD. During this time the WMPD intensely interrogated the teenage boy until he was coerced into giving a false confession. (Steel, “The West Memphis Three”). This confession, although should have been considered inadmissible for being illegally obtained and against his basic due process right “guaranteed by the Fifth and the Fourteenth amendment that laws and processes be fair.” (SBCC, 259). was still used in Jessie Misskelley’s trial. Other faulty information provided against the three boys included fibers from a t-shirt that were only microscopically similar to fibers matched on the victim, although during cross-examination the defense showed that these fibers could belong to any number of shirts. If this same case happened today, the West Memphis Three would have had a better chance of remaining innocent men. Firstly, since 1993 DNA testing has had tremendous improvements since the 90’s. According to the Innocence Project, since 2000 there have been 249 exonerations in the United States. Secondly, social media has grown vastly. The spread of news can happen in a matter of seconds these days and anyone with a basic computer or cell phone can access information, more easily than ever before. Thirdly, the criminal justice system has been working harder to eliminate discrimination to people who are in one way or another considered ‘different’. If this case had gone to trial in 2014 rather than 1993 it is strongly believed that the WM3 would have been able to pull together a stronger case. It is very important for Police Officers and other Criminal Justice employees to put forth the effort into efficiently and correctly solving a case rather than trying to finish it in a quick amount of time that has no durable evidence. Not only is morally important but legally. If an officer doesn’t give a defendant basic access to their due process rights it can result in major consequences for both the police officer and the defendant. As for the case of the WM3, Jessie Misskelley although interrogated against his rights was not allowed to recant his confession and it ended up landing himself and his two friends in federal prison. This case does not utilize the law. The WM3 were not awarded their rights throughout the Criminal Justice process. While Jessie Misskelley was being interrogated the police did not obtain the parental consent to interview him there, or give him his right to fair and equitable treatment. The WMPD used intimidating methods, held him for long periods of time, lost nearly three hours of his interview footage, and used Misskelley’s confession even though it was extremely inconsistant. When an expert social psychologist came in to prove that Misskelley’s confession was coerced. However the evidence was ignored, and forbidden from letting the jury know. The jury was also not allowed to know that one of the witnesses brought the stand was an LSD addict whom had been in and out of rehabilitation and prison facilities. The courts brought witnesses who they believed would tell the people of the jury would believe. A change of venue could have almost guaranteed unbiased perspective as the people of West Memphis had constantly been spewed with anti-satanic magazine and newspaper article. The media fueled the flame of the biased ideas towards the WM3. There were several amendments that were violated during this case. The 5th amendment states “...nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..” these rights were violated when Misskelley was held for question without parental consent and when he was coerced into confessing to a crime he did not commit. In the 6th amendment it says “...the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury….” this right was infringed upon when they were in a town that had a bias against them because of media outlets, gossip and negative stereotyping. The WM3 were not treated fairly, not being allowed to show in court the only evidence that would prove them innocent. Several years later when DNA was shown that linked none of the WM3 to the crime scene, a request for new trial began. The three men were offered what is know as an ‘Alford Plea’. An Alford Plea is defined as “a guilty plea entered as part of a plea bargain by a criminal defendant who denies committing the crime or who does not actually admit his guilt.” While Jason Baldwin was hesitant to take plea, wanting to be an innocent man not a guilty one, he took it for the sake of his friend Damien Echols. Damien was facing death row and if this DNA evidence had not come up an innocent man could have been put to death. August 19, 2011, the three men know as the West Memphis Three stood pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder, and were released from prison. Many were outraged by the release of these three but many rejoiced. Many big names such as Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks spoke out their beliefs in the WM3’s innocence and they both attended the final trial for the three. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley spent eighteen years and seventy-eight days in prison. Based upon the research of this topic. A conclusion could be made that this case was purely made up of faulty policing, and a faulty justice system. Everyone from the police responsible for the arrest, to the judges, to the jury had an extreme biased. In the United States of America people are supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty” but in this case these boys never stood a chance. “Damien Echols claims that he was found guilty long before the trial began because he was considered weird by many in the community…”(Steel, “The West Memphis Three”). This is true, from the beginning police had always tried to pin this on the WM3. Even with no direct or circumstantial evidence WMPD were still trying to pin the tragic deaths of the three boys on the WM3. Many parts of this case can be taken and used for examples for what not to do when running a case. Police Officers and Attorneys around the US should study this case to learn from it the many ways that they can create stronger cases etc. This case is also important to help learn the importance and significance of letting innocent defends go free. Eighteen years is a long time, being in prison for eighteen years leads to missing out on a life. This case could help exonerate and prove the innocence of hundreds of other inmates being held in prisons across the countries. Although there is a lot of joy in the release of these men, and the saving of a life. It is important to remember as well for the three young boys who were murdered justice has still not been served.
Works Cited
30, October. "Lawyers File DNA Motion in Cub Scout Murder Case." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 30 Oct. 2007. Web. 08 May 2014. .
"False & Coerced Confessions Lead to Wrongful Convictions in California." False & Coerced Confessions Lead to Wrongful Convictions in California. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2014. .
"The Innocence Project - DNA Exonerations Nationwide." The Innocence Project - DNA Exonerations Nationwide. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2014. .
Masters, Ruth E., Ed. D, Lori Beth Way, Ph. D., Bernadette T. Muscat, Ph.D, Michael Hooper, Ph.D, John P.J. Dussich, Ph.D, Lester Pincu, and Candice A. Skrapec, Ph.D. Intro Administration of Justice. N.p.: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.
Mezzaroba, Isabella. "Science Leadership Academy Learn · Create · Lead." The West Memphis Three — Science Leadership Academy. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 May 2014. .
Robertson, Campbell. "Rare Deal Frees 3 in '93 Arkansas Child Killings." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Aug. 2011. Web. 08 May 2014. .
Steel, Fiona. "A Most Heinous Crime." The West Memphis Three — — Crime Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2014. .
Wild, Susan Ellis. Webster's New World Law Dictionary. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2006. Print.

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

A Long Way Gone Lord Of The Flies Analysis

...Hundreds of thousand of children have been forced to become child soldiers. A Long Way Gone and Lord of the Flies both share an essence of innocence that they are forced to let go of. A Long Way Gone portrait Ishmael Beah’s young life in Africa as a child soldier. Ishmael, while away from his village he learns it had been attacked by rebels and cannot return home. When the rebels arrive at the village Ismael has been staying in, he and manages to evade the rebels but must be nomadic. However, when he seems to find peace in a military occupied village, the rebels arrive and Ismael joins the fight to protect himself, becoming a child soldier. After a couple more battles UNICEF comes to take the boys to Freetown in order to be rehabilitated and educated. Esther serves as a role model for...

Words: 994 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Vcgkhgc where to go. He now dreams of one day opening his own gym to help the at-risk children. He also dreamed of getting a professional fight. He got his chance to box in a professional fight and he won. The Innocence Project has a hard time freeing the innocent because evidence is often destroyed, eye-witnesses are unreliable, and DNA testing was not always available. After a case is finished and someone is in prison, evidence gets destroyed to make room for more evidence in other cases. This makes it impossible to retrieve to help prove the innocence of some of the wrongfully convicted. Eye-witnesses are often wrong in giving descriptions and choosing out of a line up. They say when an eye-witness identifies the suspect in a line-up where all the people are revealed to the witness at once, the witness is often overwhelmed and chooses the wrong one. The way to solve this problem would be to have the suspects walk out one at a time so the eye-witness can take time to see each one alone. They also suggest that the cop that is in the room with the witness should not be aware of who the suspect is because he can give hint to which one if he knows. I think these should be written into laws to help protect people who have been arrested get a fair trial. With DNA testing becoming an option to help free the wrongfully convicted it made the life of Innocence Project workers much easier. They can now go back into cases where DNA test were not done and use the test to prove whether the person...

Words: 682 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Miss Maudie's Childhood In The Kill Of The Mockingbird

...Scott has learned to choose from right from wrong choices of her life, which is in the novel “The Kill of the Mocking Bird,” from her loss of innocence, and maturing, as she has faced different problems through her childhood. For instance, Miss Maudie is one of the adults that watches and cares for her and Jim. She teaches God’s commandments and reminds them that they should not fight. Scott has learned a positive lesson from her brother Jim and her nanny Miss Maudie not to fight even if a bully is bullying her in school. For example, in Chapter 3, Scout was fighting with Walter, and then Jem came over there and told Scott “knock it off and Let him go” (Lee 30). What she learns from this is inviting your enemies to dinner because her brother...

Words: 621 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

The Last Days Of Innocence Analysis

...The Last Days of Innocence: America at War, 1917-1918. Harries, Meirion and Susie Harries. (New York: Random House, 1997. Pp.xi? 573. Illustrated. ) Merion and Susie Harries in The Last Days of Innocence are husband and wife historians from England who used their overseas perspective to fashion a detailed account of America’s efforts in World War I. The Harries provide a refreshing look at the country’s role in the war. America’s effort in World War I illustrates how ill-prepared the United States was in the early twentieth-century as the country entered and directed itself in a large-scale war. The Harries link account, anecdote, and examination providing a well-written account of the U. S. experience in the Great War. Although, the United States contributed to the victory, the country suffered humiliation at home and abroad resulting in the loss of the peace in spite of all America’s industrial capacity despite President Wilson’s grand design to export democracy. In America a few groups longed to enter the war, most of the country dragged their heals to the fight. The Harries effectively used French reports to illuminate the operational strengths and weaknesses of an American military fighting...

Words: 453 - Pages: 2

Free Essay


...Carlton Andrew Mann ENG2D June 7th 2014 A Fight That Can Never Be Won Macbeth and Atticus illustrate a commitment to the Common Good as seen through how they chose to deal with the conflict that arose in their respective worlds. In the books To Kill a Mocking bird by Harper Lee and the Shakespearean play Macbeth. The reader soon realizes the contrast of the two characters that are both alike but due to the events in their respective worlds, choose different paths that do not exemplify a commitment to the common good. The reader is introduced to Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mocking Bird, who is the father of Scout finch and Jem Finch he is lawyer who represents the less fortunate. In the play Macbeth, Macbeth is the main character and a valiant warrior. In the beginning, they both began as characters that cared about the common good of their people. Both characters were similar in the sense that they showed traits of a leader who fights for justice and show that they care about the good of their people. Soon both stories begin to unfold and we begin to see how malicious Macbeth is, Macbeth shows the reader that he put his own priorities before the people of Scotland by murdering the beloved king Duncan and in this case left the kingdom in jeopardy. Atticus is different because he is willing to put his family in danger to defend a innocent man and look past his skin color. He put Tom Robinson’s priorities before...

Words: 939 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

What Does Nature's First Green Is Gold Mean

...“Natures first green is gold, then leaf subsides to leaf, so Eden sank to grief, nothing gold can stay.” This poem written by Robert frost is like a parallel to the novel “The Outsiders”. The poem has a deeper meaning than what the words say, which basically tells the story of Pony and Johnny. “Nature’s first green is gold” goes along perfectly with the first scene of the novel. The line in the poem literally means that it’s springtime and growth flourishes, but figuratively it means that humans are all born with innocence. In the first scene, Pony walks out of a movie theater not worrying about anything besides Paul Newman and a ride home. This shows that Pony still has his innocence. While pony may have his innocence, Johnny is already starting...

Words: 385 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Literary Analysis Of Catcher In The Rye

...Holden would fear entering the adult world because he got in many fights. When he gets in a fight with stradlater and maurice then he puts the hat on. Then he gives phoebe (his little sister) the hat so she has protection. Then holden goes to get a record for his sister and that then symbolizes his innocence. That is his childhood. Then when the record breaks that's his innocence and childhood breaking. Holden doesn't want to enter a world where he doesn't have his brother. He said in the book that he would talk to Alle sometimes in bed. He's just so stuck to Allie and his...

Words: 855 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Innocence to Experience

...Innocence Essay By Kori Duperron “That’s what it takes to be a hero, a little gem of innocence inside you that makes you want to believe that there still exists a right and wrong, that decency will somehow triumph in the end.” Harper Lee's novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” shows how courage can be shown in different ways and that even the most subtle act of courage makes a difference. According to Atticus Finch, an honest lawyer in Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" teaches the children that courage can be portrayed as both physical bravery and strength, but fighting for what is right regardless of whether you win or lose takes more strength in character, and that is ultimately more courageous. Many characters show real courage in Maycomb, such as Scout, Atticus, and Tom Robinson. Courage is shown in different ways. Early in the novel, Scout illustrates the courage she is full with. On her first day of school, Scout acts as a leader for the entire class and takes the duty of informing Miss Caroline of Walter Cunningham's situation. Miss Caroline had just scolded Scout for her ability to read, however, Scout still feels the class is in need of leadership. This is courageous because most children at her age would fear speaking to the teacher is such a bold fashion. A very good example of courage is when Atticus asked Scout not to fight anymore. "When I committed myself to a policy of cowardice. Word got around that Scout Finch wouldn't fight anymore, her daddy wouldn't...

Words: 1131 - Pages: 5

Free Essay

All Quiet on the Western Front Review

...Written by Erich Remarque, this novel is set in the early 1900’s during World War 1. It is told in the voice of Paul Baumer, a young German soldier who joins the war to fight on the French front. We follow the events of Paul’s life during the war as well as his group of comrades with whom he lives and learns. While Paul and his friends once entered the war with a child-like innocence, they are quickly shaken with the realistic and painful lives that they are living. They learn to understand the brutality of the war that they are in and that maybe “to die for one’s country” is not as sweet an honorable as they once thought. Throughout the book, there is a constant theme of war and the difficulties of it. It is up to the reader to decipher if they consider the novel to be pro- or anti-war. The book begins at suppertime after coming back from the front lines. Out of their company of 150 men to have gone with them, only 80 returned. Paul and his comrades believed that the extra rations that had been prepared should be dispersed among the remaining men. It is here that we first meet some of Paul’s comrades in war. There is Mueller, Kropp, and Katczinsky. Mueller is said to have been the more realistic one of the group. He sees the war for what it really is and his observance seems to foreshadow the loss of innocence among his friends as they progress through their life in the war. He is only 20 years old but he feels as if he is an old man saying that this youth was stolen by the war...

Words: 1477 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

Holden Caulfield: Protector of Innocence

...Caulfield: Protector of Innocence The novel The Catcher in the Rye is a coming of age tale of a teenager’s journey into a mental breakdown. The main character, Holden Caulfield, sees the world as an extremely phony, cynical place that he wishes to escape from. As a result of this, he forms the idea that the only way to be free of the hypocrisy and cynicism of society is to maintain one’s childlike immaturity and innocence. Because of this idea, throughout the novel, Holden is trying desperately to hold on the shreds of innocence that he has left, all while trying to protect the innocence of those around him as well. Two minor characters mentioned in the novel that Holden tries to protect, Sunny and Phoebe, both display to the reader signs of developing maturity. Holden’s interactions with both Sunny and Phoebe provide prime examples of how even though Holden tries desperately to protect their innocence, growing up cannot be prevented. One of Holden’s most prominent traits throughout the novel is that he is has this urgent need to protect the people around him from losing their innocence like he did when his brother passed. Even though he constantly drinks, smokes, and curses, Holden’s main goal throughout the text is to make sure that innocence is maintained as long as possible before a person grows up and matures. “He struggles to preserve his own tenuous hold on youthful innocence-or as he sometimes puts it, ‘niceness’-and despairs when he finds that innocence lost or threatened...

Words: 1343 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

Tom's Innocence In To Kill A Mockingbird

...Robinson is, because he is optimistic and saw Tom´s innocence. In Chapter ten Mrs. Maudie, Scout and Jem´s neighbor/friend, tells them that Atticus is defending Tom because, he knows he's innocent. ¨Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens. They don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That´s why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.¨ (119) says Mrs. Maudie. The children didn't know at the time, but Mrs. Maudie was telling them that Tom was innocent and Atticus knew it. In chapter eleven, Atticus is telling his children what true courage is. He says ¨It´s when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyways and you see it through no matter what.¨”(149) Although Atticus is talking about Mrs...

Words: 826 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Film Critique

...Film Critique: The Education of Shelby Knox Destiny Matvenko-Barbini AP/HREQ 1800 Veronika Novoselova York University Film Critique: The Education of Shelby Knox The film The Education of Shelby Knox is a documentary that tells a story of a girl named Shelby, who tries to fight to have sex education put into public schools of Lubbock, Texas by joining a youth commission. By joining the youth commission and trying to campaign the right to get sex education, there were a few bumps in the road, like having the campaign also fight for gay rights. But nothing stopped her and she kept fighting. The central theme of this film is the lack of sex education, and not having it in public schools. This theme is important because Shelby thinks it would be a good idea to add it so more people to have a better understanding of what sex really is. Throughout the film, the lack of sex education can be analyzed by what social issues it causes and why the issues are important, how sex education challenges the notion of child innocence, the sociological concepts that are helpful in understanding the film’s message and what king of social impact the film seeks to achieve and examine what questions for further discussions it rises. By analyzing this, it will give us an indication on why sex education should be put into the schools of Lubbock. In the film, according to Shelby, “one in fourteen teenage girls getting pregnant” (The Education of Shelby Knox), in Lubbock, Texas, which leads to...

Words: 1127 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Loss Of Innocence In To Kill A Mockingbird

...We Can Change “Dreams of innocence are just that; they usually depend on the denial of reality that can be its own form of hubris” - Michael Pollan. In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, innocence plays a very big part during the novel. Its story is told in the eyes of a six year old girl, Jean Louise, who calls herself Scout in the town of Maycomb during the 1930’s. Along Scout’s journey is her brother, Jem, and her summer lover, Dill, who try to face a supposed psychotic neighbor, a crazy dog, an old rude lady, and a life changing trial in the span of three years. To Kill A Mockingbird is Scout growing up and experiencing the loss of innocence while seeing it happen among Jem and her father, Atticus. Although Atticus is an adult, he experiences the loss of innocence just like any growing...

Words: 1353 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

Atticus Shows Courage In To Kill A Mockingbird

...In the novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, a character that shows true courage during the trial is Atticus Finch, lawyer and loving father to Jem and Scout. True courage is being able to defend and fight for something despite the circumstances.Numerous times Atticus shows courage in the story which all relates to the theme, having to be faced with the harsh reality of the world which ruins your innocence. Atticus Finch stays strong and practical during the trial, defending Tom Robinson with his life. Atticus’s effort during the trial shows his courage because, despite it being tricky to get the judge and people of the racist South to side with Tom Robinson, compared to Mayella, who claims to be the victim. Atticus does not give up and continues to fight for Tom Robinson’s justice. Atticus shows courage through logical...

Words: 1076 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Innocence And Sin In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

...displays both innocence and sin as he battles between believing in the overall goodness of the people in his town and life, and believing that the devil is responsible for taking over the people around him and their minds. Throughout the story it is shown that the people Goodman Brown loved may not be as innocent as he originally thought, he is shown that people can easily be corrupted and that his sense of right and wrong might not always be correct. He faces many conflicts in this tale and often chooses between good and evil, not always picking the same side. Through the use of symbolism, Nathaniel Hawthorne develops...

Words: 506 - Pages: 3