Damien Echols has filed a petition to compel the state of Arkansas to conduct advanced DNA testing on evidence in his case. Echols has asked for clothing, ligatures, and other items to be tested that were collected in the murders of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore on May 5, 1993 in West Memphis.
Echols, along with two other co-defendants – Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. – were convicted of the murders in 1994, but were subsequently released in 2011 after evidence surfaced that they may not have committed the crimes.
The three men were dubbed “The West Memphis Three” throughout their trial, convictions, imprisonment and release.
“Damien Echols moves this court to permit new scientific testing of certain evidence in this case. The scientific testing proposed is a new DNA collection technology called the M-Vac wet vacuum system, which was unavailable at the times of prior DNA testing done in this case. The evidence proposed to be collected and tested with the aid of this new technology are the ligatures used to bind the child victims in this case,” the petition to the Crittenden County Circuit Court states.
Prosecuting Attorney Keith Crestman previously told Talk Business & Politics he would only allow the testing to move forward if ordered to do so by a judge.
Echols states in his petition he’s not afraid of new DNA testing due to the fact that he didn’t take part in the murders.
“No matter how one looks at it, using the new advanced M-Vac DNA technology to scientifically test the ligatures used by the killer(s) for biological material left behind that might serve to identify the killer(s) is all about trying to ensure that ‘justice’ is done in this case. There is no better way for the judiciary ‘to accommodate the advent of new technologies enhancing the ability to analyze scientific evidence.’ Echols knows that his DNA is not on those ligatures because he had no role in committing these murders. Others might not be so certain, and who those others are surely needs to be determined if it can in the interests of justice,” the petition states.
Echols has been fighting the state for new testing in the case for almost two years. State officials had previously claimed the evidence in the case was lost or destroyed in a fire, but several months ago it was found in the West Memphis Police Department’s evidence locker.
The West Memphis Police Chief, Michael Pope, resigned immediately after the evidence was found. Mayor Marco McClendon said at the time that it was unrelated. Pope only served as police chief for six months.
Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley have claimed for decades they are innocent in the case. The three agreed to Alford pleas, a rarely used legal mechanism that allowed them to profess innocence in court while still acknowledging the state could bring a case against them.