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Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe: No Pardons!

August 19, 2011 was a joyous day for many reasons.  It was Friday.  School starts this week.  And Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley, also known as The West Memphis Three, were at long last released from prison.  After nearly eighteen years. 

We supporters have been saying for years that The Three at the very least didn't get fair trials and at most are flat out innocent of the murders they have been accused of.  Freedom from incarceration has been the main goal for years and I am thrilled that the day finally came last Friday.  It is discouraging, however, that Damien, Jason and Jessie had to take an Alford plea in order to secure their releases.  In other words, they had to admit that the State of Arkansas had enough evidence to convict them in a retrial while still maintaining their innocence.  The State of Arkansas, totally speaking out of their ass, claims that they indeed have enough evidence to re-convict in a retrial but released the men, despite their alleged guilt, for time served. 

In case you don't know, the above is a bunch of bullshit.  If the State had enough evidence to re-convict the men - - one of them, two of them or all three of them - - they would never agree to a plea deal.  Why should they?  Damien Echols was on Death Row.  Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley both had life sentences.  If their case was so damn strong, why let them out?  After all, the State claims these men were brutal children killers. 

So . . . legally the three men are convicted felons.  They could possibly receive pardons from Arkansas Governor, Mike Beebe, but Beebe says "Hell, no."  Okay, maybe he didn't exactly word it like that but he says that he doesn't plan on issuing pardons in the case unless evidence shows that someone else is to blame for the crimes.

And that, my friends, will never happen.  Want to know why?  The State of Arkansas and the West Memphis Police Department have continually shown their bullheadedness in this case since 1993.  They fucked up from the beginning when , for inexplicable reasons, they chose not to fully investigate the families of the victims.  In any homicide case involving a child, the parents and immediate family are the first people the authorities investigate (or should investigate).  In this case, there were serious issues in the homes of two of the three litte boys.  John Mark Byers, the stepfather of victim Christopher Byers, had a problem with drugs and was said to have an issue with violence.  The West Memphis PD gave him a pass because he was one of their drug informants.  Uh-huh.  You can't make this stuff up.  Victim Stevie Branch was known to have an abrasive relationship with his stepfather, Terry Hobbs.  Furthermore, Hobbs had differing alibis for the times the boys went missing and when they were likely killed and he was seen washing his truck clean of mud during the time the boys were missing and before their bodies were found.  Perhaps not a huge fact unless you consider that the boys' bodies were found in a muddy, swampy area of the local woods known as Robin Hood Hills and it was speculated the boys were killed elsewhere and their bodies dumped in the woods.  Makes you go hmmmm . . .

But wait!  It gets better.  Further testing done about five years ago revealed that the bite marks found on Stevie's face did not match Damien, Jason or Jessie.  Shortly thereafter, John Mark Byers had his teeth surgically removed.  DNA testing of hairs found on one victim and at the crime scene by the bodies matched not Damien, Jason or Jessie but Terry Hobbs and his best friend, David Jacobi.  You might expect a stepfather's hair or DNA to be found on the stepchild, sure.  But the DNA wasn't found on Stevie Branch, it was found on Michael Moore.  Dum, dum, dum.

Additionally, victim Christopher Byers' mother, Melissa, was found dead in her home after filing for divorce from John Mark Byers.  The medical examiner labeled her death "unclassified".  Sound suspicious?

The filmmakers of the wonderful documentary Paradise Lost received a pocketknife as a gift from John Mark Byers.  They noticed blood on the blade and turned it in.  The blood was determined to be human and the type and DNA matched his stepson, Christopher.

Stevie Branch had a pocketwatch that he supposedly never let out of his possession.  It was not found with him when his body was discovered, nor found at the crime scene or at the homes of Damien, Jason and Jessie.  It was, however, found with Terry Hobbs.  And Hobbs had no explanation for why he had it.

Gee, it certainly sounds to me like there was reasonable doubt in this case.  And certainly justification for checking out the families before going after three teenagers whose jumped on the police's radar because they listened to Metallica and wore black t-shirts. 

So back to why someone else being charged with the murders will never happen.  Because the State of Arkansas and the West Memphis PD would have to admit they made a mistake.  A big fucking mistake.  Not the "oops, I forgot to pay my electricity bill" mistake but the kind of mistake that results in three men being sentenced to prison as teens and spending eighteen years in there.   And they will never do this.  If they were still sticking to the ridiculousness of having enough evidence to reconvict while letting the men out, they aren't about to have their asses handed to them on a platter (and publicly) by someone else being charged for the murders they swear were committed by Damien, Jason and Jessie. 

Arkansas is a dirty, corrupt state.  Period.  Don't believe me?  Read Mara Leveritt's books.  Mara is a journalist and has written aboutt this case ini a book called The Devil's Knot.  She also wrote a book called The Boys on the Tracks, which deals with yet another miscarriage of justice in Arkansas.  There is a reason that Bill and Hillary Clinton are from Arkansas, people. 

Shame on you, Arkansas.  You should be expelled from the country for what you've done.  All in favor? 

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