What do Marty Tankleff, Jeffrey Deskovic, the five men convicted in the infamous Central Park jogger case and Damien Echols have in common? A false confession that led to their convictions for murder.
An article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal by Beth Warren makes the connection between these cases. Unlike the other men though, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley have not been exonerated. “For Echols, in his 17th year on Arkansas” Death Row, it”s literally a fight for life. Misskelley and Baldwin are serving life sentences.”
In the West Memphis 3 case, not only did mentally challenged Jessie Misskelley”s false confession convict him, but it was unconstitutionally introduced into Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin”s trial, which had been separated precisely to prevent the “confession” from being considered as Jessie had recanted and refused to testify against his co-defendants. Nevertheless, according to briefs filed in court recently, the jury foreman in the Echols/Baldwin trial was angry that the “confession,” which had been all over the newspapers following their arrest, could not be considered. So juror Kent Arnold decided he would not let the constitution stop him from bringing the confession into the jury room and convincing his fellow jurors to convict the men of three murders they did not commit.
The Arkansas Supreme Court recently ordered an evidentiary hearing in the case to consider new evidence that might lead to a new trial. The Attorney General of Arkansas, who grew up in the county where the murders occurred, is against a new trial and believes the evidence, including new DNA and forensic evidence as well as the the shocking juror misconduct, is irrelevant.
The new trial hearing will take place in Jonesboro, Arkansas, before Craighead County Court Judge David Laser, beginning December 5, 2011.