Religious Tolerance logo

The Robin Hood Hills murderer(s)

The Trials. Media support of the accused

horizontal rule

Sponsored link.

horizontal rule

The Trials:

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:

bullet 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.
bullet 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."
bullet 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.
bullet Fibers similar to some on the victims' clothing were found on clothing in Echols's home.
bullet A hunting knife that could have been the murder weapon was found in a lake behind Jason Baldwin's house.

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."

horizontal rule

Sponsored link:

horizontal rule

In Support of the Accused:

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

horizontal rule


  1. Roger Ebert, review of "Paradise Lost," at:
  2. A home page by the writers and directors of the movie Paradise Lost: The Child Murderers at Robin Hood Hills was at: It is now a broken link.
  3. Free the West Memphis Three has a web site at:

horizontal rule

Copyright 1997 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated: 2007-NOV-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)

horizontal rule

Go to the previous page, or to the "Robin Hills murders" menu, or choose:


Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

GooglePage Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.