The Robin Hood Hills murderer(s)
The Trials. Media support of the accused
On 1994-JAN-19, Jessie Misskelley was placed on trial. The prosecution's case was built
solely upon his confession, since there was no evidence linking him to the crime. Jessie
claimed that he was pressured into giving a false confession because of during an lengthy
and exhausting interrogation. An expert testified at the trial that Jessie was a prime
candidate for a false confession. One element was his below-average IQ, having been rated
at 72. (100 is average); another was his age. Many inconsistencies in the confession were
pointed out during the trial. Jessie was offered a reduced sentence if he testified
against his two acquaintances; he refused. Jessie was found guilty of 1 count of murder in
the first degree, and guilty of 2 counts of murder in the second degree. He received a
sentence of life plus 40 years in prison.
On FEB-22 the trial of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin began. Much of the prosecution's case concentrated on
Damien's interests in heavy metal rock music, the Neo-Pagan religion of Wicca, his long
black hair and his T-shirts with various occult themes. Testimony was given of a funeral
register found in Echols' room on which a pentagram and upside-down crosses had been
drawn, and spells had been written. His journal contained morbid images and references to
dead children. A book on the history of witchcraft, and Anton LaVey's "Satanic
Bible" was also found. [LaVey's book is extremely popular among teenagers;
hundreds of thousands of copies have been sold]. This probably convinced the jury that
Damien was involved in the occult. The jurors probably believed (incorrectly) that many
occultists sacrifice children. They would thus be led to the conclusion that Echols and
Baldwin were guilty.
The prosecution called Dr. Dale Griffis as an expert in "occult killings". We
believe that he poisoned the minds of the jurors against the defendants by combining religious prejudice with ancient fables from the Witch
burning times. According to the review of the movie "Paradise Lost"
by Roger Ebert: "At the trial of Damien and Jason, evidence of the
satanic orientation of the murders is supplied by a state 'expert occultist' who turns out to have his degrees from a mail-order university that did not
require any classes or schoolwork. For the defense, a pathologist testifies that
it would be so difficult to carry out the precise mutilations on one of the boys
that he couldn't do it himself--not without the right scalpel, and certainly not
in the dark or in muddy water." 1
There were some indicators of their guilt, although there is no real evidence that
placed either at the scene of the crime:
||Two friends testified that they saw Echols and his girlfriend walking near the Robin
Hood woods on the evening of the murders. They mentioned that his clothes were dirty.
||Two girls, aged 12 and 15, testified that they heard Echols admit to killing the three
boys. Damien has said that "it would have been impossible for me to have done what
they testified because police records show that I was already in jail during the timeframe
brought up in that testimony."
||When asked by the police how he thought the children had been killed, Echols said that
at least one was cut up more than the others. At the time he was questioned, the fact that
one child was mutilated more than the others had not been released to the public. However,
many rumors had been circulating among the public about the crime scene.
||Fibers similar to some on the victims' clothing were found on clothing in Echols's home.
||A hunting knife that could have been the murder weapon was found in a lake behind Jason
On APR-18 they were found guilty of three counts of capital murder. On APR-19, Damien
Echols was sentenced to death by lethal injection; Jason Baldwin, who was barely 16 years
of age at the time of the murders, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
One major factor in Damien's conviction is believed to be his mood of defiance during
the trial. He claims that he: "knew that no matter what everyone else believed or
thought, I knew I was innocent. I knew the truth and I refused to allow anyone to degrade
for something I knew wasn't true. The public opinion didn't matter to me because I knew
the truth. It wouldn't have mattered how I acted because the public had already convicted
me before the trial even started."
Much controversy exists over these convictions. A movie called "Paradise Lost,
The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" was released in early 1997. It was written
and directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. Like their earlier film, Brother's
Keeper, this movie was described as "a doorway into a kind of social
investigation of a community under siege." The movie was aired on 1997-MAR-13
on HBO .2 It should be available at most local video rental stores via the Cabin
Fever distributors. The movie was rebroadcast in 1998-AUG.
A West Memphis Three Support Fund has been established to promote public
awareness of this case. 3
Roger Ebert, review of "Paradise Lost," at: http://www.suntimes.com/
A home page by the writers and directors of the movie Paradise Lost: The Child
Murderers at Robin Hood Hills was at: http://www.gothamcity.com/
It is now a broken link.
Free the West Memphis Three has a web site at: http://www.wm3.org
Copyright © 1997 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on
Last updated: 2007-NOV-07
Author: B.A. Robinson