The effort to exonerate the West Memphis Three continues with a complaint that the West Memphis police have not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request for evidence gathered in the case.
Previous accounts have indicated that the evidence sought for advanced DNA testing has been lost. It is not clear why West Memphis police would not acknowledge the FOI request, which the law requires.
From a news release on the development:
Discovering that evidence in the West Memphis 3 case had been inexplicably lost or destroyed, Damien Echols, who was freed from Death row ten years ago and was seeking to perform new DNA tests on the evidence, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Crittenden County asking the court to “declare that the WMPD violated its statutory obligation to respond to the FOIA request” and “direct the WMPD to respond to the FOIA request within three days.”
Damien Echols said, “Ten years ago I had no choice but to take an Alford plea to get off death row. I needed to fight for my innocence, and that of Jason [Baldwin] and Jessie [Misskelley], outside of the prison walls. And that is why I sought to test the evidence in the case to exonerate us and lead to the real killer(s). Once we made inquiries to the West Memphis Police to turn over the evidence in the case for advanced testing, the evidence disappeared.
“We will not give up until we find whatever evidence exists. We will find out who destroyed the evidence and why the legal authorities lied. We want a hearing to get to the bottom of this.”
In an effort to find out what happened to the body of evidence that could potentially contain exculpatory forensics exonerating the three and leading to the real killer(s), Little Rock attorney Patrick Benca, of McDaniel Wolff & Benca, submitted a FOIA request months ago seeking all records relating to the missing evidence in the WM3 case. That FOIA request has gone unanswered in violation of Arkansas state law.
Echols’ attorneys have also filed a Motion for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in the Circuit Court of Crittenden County First Division, as well as seeking an expedited hearing.
“Having recently learned of the West Memphis Police Department’s (“WMPD”) spoliation of evidence in his case, apparently both before and after his Alford plea, Damien Echols moves this Court to exercise its continuing supervisory jurisdiction over this case…”
Although there has been absolutely no response from the West Memphis Police to Echols’ FOIA, Crittenden County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Chrestman has responded with shocking disregard to the facts in the case and opposing any further court action to uncover what happened to the evidence.
In a reply memo filed with the Crittenden County Court today, (Sunday, August 2, 2021), Echols’ attorneys allege Chrestman is “playing dodgeball with the facts.”
Since the release 10 years ago of the three in the 1993 slayings of three West Memphis children, no alternative suspects have been developed for the slayings.