October 30, 2007

"The mutilation was actually the work of animals..."

New evidence in the "Paradise Lost" case.


Pogo said...

Paul Johnson once noted the recurrent theme of hysteria in the US, from the Salem witch trials to the McCarthy hearings. He mentioned the Satanic Ritual Abuse prosecutions as another such example. It slowly dissolved by the mid 1990s.

Terribly sad to think they may actually be innocent. One would think that any prior successful SRA prosecutions should now be automatically reviewed.

I wonder if our current hysteria involves fear of men in general. Some very real crimes, pedophilia and rape, have morphed into assuming most men are potential perpetrators, suspicion of men who volunteer to work with children, suspicion of men who hug their own kids, and false accusations against which (like the SRA claims) you are largely defenseless and instead demanded to prove yourself innocent.

The Drill SGT said...

I skimmed it.

So the defendants were just guilty of killing 3 small boys?

probation candidates?

parole them now!

(jk folks)

MadisonMan said...

Drill, I also skimmed the article. There's no evidence, other than a very dodgy confession, linking them to the crime.

knoxwhirled said...

I saw the documentary, and the stepfather's behavior was quite bizarre, and very suspicious.

peter hoh said...

Beware your idiot friends. A neighbor kid got sucked into a smallish vortex because another kid said something off the wall about him at school. There were no charges, but he and his dad had to spend a significant amount of time dealing with the mess.

John said...

Drill SGT,

You need to read the damn article. I say this as a former prosecutor and a card carrying member of the vast right wing conspiracy, the lack of mutilation is a big deal. The prosecutions case was that the defendants were Satanists who killed and mutilated the three boys. If the boys weren't mutilated, then the prosecution's theory takes a huge hit. The biggest problem the Prosecution had in these cases was coming up with a motivation for why three teenagers would kill three small children at random. There was no physical evidence in the case. Their motive was Satanism and without the mutilation, that doesn't stand up.

Richard Fagin said...

Now you all know why I do not allow myself to be alone with any child (not even my own stepchildren) without another unrelated adult present.

The "child abuse" witch hunt is over 20 years old, and one particularly tragic case left Gerald Amirault, his wife and mother rotting in Massachusetts prisons for years over crimes that had no physical evidence whatsoever. Not a shred.

If something bad happens to a kid, I want an air-tight alibi. Sometimes that's not even enough in the current climate.

bearbee said...

Pam Hobbs pointing finger at former husband implying revenge as motive

The attorneys are now pointing the finger at Pam Hobbs' ex-husband. They claim hair found at the crime scene belongs to him and one of his friends. Pam admits she had an extramarital affair just months before her son died and thinks he could have had something to do with her son's death.

"By him always telling me 'I don't get mad; I get even,' that's playing in my mind," she said. "Did he not get mad when he walked in on me kissing this guy? Did he not get even with me by taking my baby?"


Bissage said...

(1) Generally speaking, upon appellate review, the absence of a defendant’s biological material doesn’t count for squat.

(2) I’m hard pressed to see how after-discovered physical evidence could prove the dog ate the homework. I suspect there’s really an after-discovered forensic expert. Big difference.

(3) So what if a person unknown was at the crime scene? How does that tend to prove the three defendants were not?

(4) Regarding the link provided by bearbee, I find it very hard to believe that defense counsel did not or could not reasonably have known about Pam Hobbs' ex-husband.

Robert Cook said...

Bissage said:

(3) So what if a person unknown was at the crime scene? How does that tend to prove the three defendants were not?

Of more moment is that there is no evidence proving the three defendants were at the crime scene.

These three boys were railroaded into prison by an opportunistic prosecutor and facts in the case which led to inflammatory suppositions.

Luckyoldson said...

I've followed this case for some time, via the documentary and various articles, and I've never been able to understand how they convicted these three.

I realize prosecutors can be downright brutal, and that the defense can be limited by funding, etc., but now, with this (especially the lack of any DNA and another person's being found), they have to re-tried.

I lived in L.A. during the McMartin debacle and anybody who followed that case closely can see what happens when the public gets the scent of anything they don't fully understand. (I actually visited the school and was shocked to see the layout and found it impossible to believe anything could take place without damn near everybody knowing about it.)

*The original accuser, the crazy mother of one of the supposed victims, actually said her kid told her they were riding on elephants while being attacked by tigers.

Luckyoldson said...


Bissage said...

I’ll keep this short.

Misskelley confessed. That confession was not admitted against the other two. Two witnesses testified Nichols admitted his participation.

Nichols admitted to a detective he knew the bodies were mutilated -- one more than the others – at a time when only a participant could have known that. Nichols took the stand and explained that he learned of the mutilation from newspapers. On cross-examination, it was proven the newspapers never reported that one victim was mutilated more than the others.

The victims were beaten by sticks of a type customarily carried by Nichols and Baldwin, left on display at the scene. One of the victims was drowned and Nichols had mud on his clothes. There was candle wax on one of the victim’s clothes.

A knife like that used on the victims was found discarded behind Baldwin’s house.

There’s much, much more, but those interested will have to read the reported cases for themselves.

My point is this: It is simply wrong to say there was no evidence sufficient to support the convictions. One can in good faith argue over weight and credibility, but the law leaves that to the jury, for the most part.

What's the matter?

Don't you all trust the government?

Revenant said...

Misskelley confessed. That confession was not admitted against the other two. Two witnesses testified Nichols admitted his participation.

Er, your knowledge of this case would be a little less suspect if you could remember the name of the defendant. There was no "Nichols" involved in the trial. The primary defendant was named Echols,

As for Misskelley's "confession" -- where is it? Oh, that's right, the cops forgot to record it. Apparently a confession to triple-homicide didn't merit a tape recorder. But that's ok, because the cops were nice enough to remember what the kid told them. Of course, what they remember he told them doesn't actually bear much resemblance to the actual murders, but that's ok because it *does* bear an absolutely perfect resemblance to the cops' understanding, at the time of the "confession", of how the murders had happened.

Sarcasm aside, Bissage, they questioned a borderline-retarded kid for twelve hours without either the permission or the presence of his parents. At the end of that they got a "confession" that the kid immediately retracted, but which in any case was completely wrong about key elements of the crime (e.g., he claimed Echols sodomized the kids -- which at the time police thought he had -- despite the fact that the kids were, in fact, not sodomized).

As for Echols, yes, there were "witnesses" who claimed to have heard him confess. The first, Vicki Hutchenson, was being investigated for larceny when she agreed to try and get Echols to confess on tape. When that plan failed, she informed police that she had heard Echols confess to the murder at a Wiccan gathering in two weeks after the murder. She was unable to say where the gathering had been or who else had been there, and in fact no evidence of any such gathering was ever found. In exchange for her testimony, the investigation against her was dropped. Hutchinson has since admitted what was obvious to begin with -- that she made up the story to get out of the larceny investigation.

The other two "witnesses" to Echols' "confessions" were two girls, ages 12 and 15, who claimed to have heard Echols say that he'd killed the three boys. They couldn't remember anything else about their encounter -- not who Echols had been with, not anything else he'd said, nothing. In fact, they claimed they hadn't even heard him say *anything*, besides his one-sentence confession. Thank goodness teenagers never make up stories about unpopular weirdo kids, or there might be reason to suspect the girls were being less than truthful.

Oh, and as for your claim that the bullshit "confession" of Misskelley wasn't admitted at Echols' trial, several of the Echols jurors later admitted they were aware of the confession and had lied about it during jury selection.

A knife like that used on the victims was found discarded behind Baldwin’s house.

It was found in a lake behind his house, yes. Testimony was that the wounds were "consistent with" wounds that would be caused by the knife. By the way, the knife wasn't the one Misskelly had confessed to seeing used.

My point is this: It is simply wrong to say there was no evidence sufficient to support the convictions.

There is no evidence against Misskelley at all.

The "evidence" against Echols consists of a pair of teenaged girls who claimed they heard him confess.

The evidence against Baldwin consists of the fact that a knife that *could* have caused the wounds, but which was not found TO have caused the wounds, was fished out of a lake behind his house.

None of the accused left a single hair or fingerprint at the scene. None of the accused -- let alone all three of them -- had a motive for murdering the kids.

That's it. That's the whole story.

If you think that's sufficient evidence to send two people to prison for life and a third person to death row, you need to have your head examined. Maybe we can't know for sure that they're innocent, but we damned sure know that no reasonable person could think that there isn't a reasonable doubt as to their guilt.

Revenant said...

Oh, and one more thing:

The victims were beaten by sticks of a type customarily carried by Nichols and Baldwin, left on display at the scene.

The kids may have been beaten with sticks, but the sticks purportedly carried by Echols and Baldwin weren't left at the scene and didn't match the wounds. As for them "customarily" carrying such sticks, they had allegedly been seen with them one time, by one witness, half a year before the murder.

Luckyoldson said...

bissages asks: "What's the matter?
Don't you all trust the government?"

Uh...not always.


Bissage said...

(1) Rev, my bad on the name-error. I worked a long time on a murder trial where the leader of a crime gang was named Nichols. I’ve also referred to my wife as Zoe.

(2) At Misskelley v. State, 915 S.W.2d 702, 707 (Ark. 1996) you’ll find the following:

At 2:44 p.m. and again at approximately 5:00 p.m., he gave statements to police in which he confessed his involvement in the murders. Both statements were tape recorded.

The statements were the strongest evidence offered against the appellant at trial. In fact, they were virtually the only evidence, all other testimony and exhibits serving primarily as corroboration.

The statements were obtained in a question and answer format rather than in a narrative form. However, we will set out the substance of the statements in such a way as to reveal with clarity the appellant's description of the crime:

The court’s description of those two statements that follows is about three pages.

(3) Regarding the inconsistencies in the confession, the court noted the following, at 708-09 (emphasis in original) (footnote omitted):

The appellant's statements are a confusing amalgam of times and events. Numerous inconsistencies appear, the most obvious being the various times of day the murders took place. Additionally, the boys were not tied with rope, but with black and white shoe laces. It was also revealed that the victims had not skipped school on May 5. However, there were portions of the statements which were consistent with the evidence and were corroborated by the state's testimony and exhibits. The victims had been seen riding their bicycles. The medical examiner testified that the boys had been severely beaten. Two of them had injuries consistent with being hit by a large object. One of the boys had facial lacerations. The Byers boy had indeed been severely mutilated in the genital area. All the boys had injuries which were consistent with rape and forced oral sex. There was evidence that drowning contributed to the deaths of the Moore and Branch boys, but not the Byers boy. This is consistent with the appellant's statement that the Byers boy was already dead when he left the scene. The boys were in fact tied up, albeit with shoe laces rather than rope. Damien Echols was observed near the crime scene at 9:30 p.m. on May 5. He was wearing black pants and a black shirt and his clothes were muddy. A witness testified that she had attended a satanic cult meeting with Echols and the appellant. Christopher Byers' mother testified that, approximately two months before the murders, her son told her that a man dressed all in black had taken his picture. There was evidence that Baldwin owned a shirt and boots of the type described by the appellant. Finally, a witness from the State Crime Lab testified that she found fibers on the victims' clothing which were microscopically similar to items in the Baldwin and Echols residences.

(4) You can argue credibility and weight all you want. Go ahead. Knock yourself out. Go for it. Have fun.

(5) The confession was not admitted against the other two defendants who were tried separately. That said, I’m not competent to speak to the jury-taint claim.

(6) Regarding Misskelley, a confession is evidence.

(7) Regarding the others, there was much more than that.

(8) Regarding my head, thanks for the advice, rev. I’ll have it examined.

(9) Regarding the sticks, that’s not the way I remember it.

Bissage said...

Yes Lucky, I trust the government. In all ways. Regarding everything. All the time.

It's true.

Because it makes me feel good.

Luckyoldson said...

And that's exactly why I keep telling you that you're a frigging moron.


Revenant said...

You can argue credibility and weight all you want. Go ahead. Knock yourself out. Go for it. Have fun

I'll pass. You've made it clear that your approach is to mindlessly accept what the government says even when there is no rational reason to. Your opinion on this matter is therefore beneath my notice.

tjl said...

"And that's exactly why I keep telling you that you're a frigging moron"

Here we have an absolutely characteristic comment by LOS, hurling childish insults in place of any effort to engage in reasoned argument. What a contrast with the lucid, sensibly argued comment earlier in the thread by some unknown person posting under LOS' name.

Bissage said...

(1) Rev, you misunderstand me. That wasn’t snark and it wasn’t an offer to argue over weight and credibility. Please recall that in my 3:49 I said, “One can in good faith argue over weight and credibility, but the law leaves that to the jury, for the most part.”

Arguing over such matters at Althouse is not my thing but I respect your desire to do so. As I said, not my thing. But go for it.

(2) And go ahead and do the superiority dance if you like. But if you think my “approach is to mindlessly accept what the government says even when there is no rational reason to” then you don’t know me at all.

I’ve come to expect that sort of derision from Luckyoldson. But I thought you were more astute. Looks like I was wrong.

(3) But you’re right about the fact that you’ll never change my mind about the sufficiency of the evidence. That’s because neither one of us has or will read the notes of testimony. Similarly, neither one of has or will have the resources to make the case. And even if we did, so what? It would change nothing in the real world.

(4) But yeah, when it comes to deference to authority, I’ll choose the reported decisions of the courts of law, over you and your secondary sources, every time.

(5) And in your heart of hearts, you know that's the way things ought to be.

(6) Best wishes.

andjusticeforall said...

Bissage, you present your arguments in an eloquent and articulate manner. I suspect you are somehow associated with the legal community. In the interest of unbiased justic, may I respectfully offer you some further information?

I was closely involved with this case. I'm not sure if I am permitted to reveal how, but I'll check. I was privy to all records, statements, photos and reports from the very beginning of all this. I also met with several witnesses and attended the trials.

The defense began work on this case in the firm belief the three were guilty. During the course of the case, no direct or credible evidence could be found to indicate guilt. The attorneys appointed by the court were carefully selected due to their inexperience in criminal or murder cases (one was a tax attorney).

You have taken the time to read the court decisions and seem content with what the courts have to say. Will you at least take the time to read the neutral findings of nationally recognized experts before making up your mind? While these experts were approached by the defense, experts such as Dr. Michael Baden, etal are known for reporting only facts. None of them would be what some people considered "hired guns." All post-trial experts are unanimous in their opinion the crime did not occur as the prosecution claimed.

The defense had no access to the Hobbses. The police actively and zealously discouraged anyone from talking to the defense team and the Hobbses were understandably antagonistic toward the defense. The police did not take witness statements from either the Hobbses or the Moores. When everyone with a TV knows the first step in investigating a murder is to look at home, the police did not deem it necessary.

Echols became a person of interest when a probation officer assisting at the scene made an off-handed comment about it looking like something Echols could have done. He has since expressed regret about making this comment. Echols had no police record at the time, so it's unclear how he knew of Echols. In that backwoods community, Echols was regarded as a Marilyn Manson type. Turns out, his demeanor was developed in order to protect himself from getting his ass kicked by the locals.

Misskelley was borderline retarded and a chronic paint sniffer. While all the defendants were familiar with each other, Misskelley had never spent any time with Echols or Baldwin socially. If you really believe in the confession, please review it yourself. I believe Richard Ofshe has made it available. In it, it is clear Misskelley had no knowledge related to the crime. There was no reason for him to implicate the other two, other than at the urging of the police. He continually asked to go home. He was told if he told them "what they wanted to know," he could go home. They coached his answers with a great deal of difficulty (after all, Misskelley's IQ is 72).


POLICE: And what was used to tie up the boys?


The police would shake their heads and point to their feet.


After the confession, poor Misskelley asked, "Can I go home, now?" (This is stated in WM police records)

Information about this confession was made available to the jury pool through the media. Several members of the jury have submitted sworn affidavits to the fact they lied during voir dire about being aware of it and further state that it influenced their decision.

The police admitted leaking information about the mutilation to the step-father of one of the victims. As you might expect, this was THE hot topic of the time and Byers admitted passing this information along. As it turns out, there was NO mutilation; therefore, a suspect describing such mutilation clearly has no guilty knowledge. The mutilation was determined to have been posthumous animal predation.

The medical examiner is, in the opinion of most people in field, incompetent. Controversy surrounds a few of his other cases as well. There were NO knife wounds (animal predation). The staffs once seen in the possession of Echols & Baldwin were inconsistent with the injuries.

A bunch of kids gossiped that they overheard Echols confess. The ones available to the defense before trial readily admitted they just "heard" that he confessed. Let's say for argument sake that the two little girls DID overhear Echols admit killing the boys. Do you find that sufficient evidence for a conviction and death sentence?

I can tell you first hand the prosecution deliberately contrived the satanic angle. I was even accused by the lead prosecutor of being satanic because I was wearing a black jacket and shoes one day.

The wax on the Byers boys was found to be jewelers wax, not candle wax. Byers' step-father was a jeweler.

Evidence of sexual abuse has been shown to be nonexistent. Said examiner based this finding on anal dilation alone, which is a natural process of death.

The appellate brief you cite is further proof there should be a new trial at the very least. All the facts used to support their findings have since been refuted or reasonably called into question.

I hope you'll review all this information for yourself before publishing another opinion. Apply Occam's Razor. None if it makes any sense.

Can you at least agree they deserve a new trial?