Recently, three men known as the West Memphis Three were released from prison after serving eighteen years of life sentences for two of them and the death sentence for one. They were found guilty of killing three eight year-old boys when they were teenagers.
The murders were brutal and there was a rush to judgment. The prime piece of information came from the testimony of Jessie Misskelley whose IQ tested at 72. Misskelley was questioned for twelve hours by teams of detectives calling the validity of his confession into question. There was little, if any, attempt by the police to identify any other possible suspects. Despite considerable problems with evidence and witnesses during the trial, the three were found guilt.
A couple of years after the trial HBO did a documentary about the murders and the trials. HBO made it clear that there was no DNA evidence connecting the suspects to the murdered children. The prosecution had stated that the boys were killed where they were found. HBO discovered that there was no blood at the scene when the bodies were found. During the trial, weight was given to the belief that because one of the suspects dressed in black and used black eyeliner, the murders were committed by Satanists. West Memphis, Arkansas is firmly in the Bible Belt; finding jurors who did not know this was virtually impossible.
For years after the HBO documentary, celebrities promoted the injustice of the trial and forensic experts examined the evidence. The case made it to the Arkansas Supreme Court. ” On August 19, 2011, faced with DNA test results which some claim should exonerate the men, the prosecutors offered them a plea deal which they plead guilty to lesser charges and be allowed to walk out of prison and maintain their innocence. After weeks of negotiations, Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley agreed to the deal. They were released from prison after Judge David Laser accepted an Alford plea deal, in which the three plead “no contest” to the charges, thereby conceding that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to secure a conviction while reserving the right to assert their innocence. ”
A bad investigation by the police led to the arrests and convictions of three teenagers whose families were without any economic resources. After eighteen years, a deal is struck by which the convicted men gain their freedom by saying the state has all the necessary information to convict them. That being the case, they would plead “no contest” (translated as “you got me” but I’m not going to say so out loud where anyone can hear me) so that they could say out loud to everyone that they are innocent.
So three little boys are murdered, the wrong people go to jail for it, and whoever did do it got way with it. This makes Leighton’s story about justice as practiced in Brazil as simple and straightforward as a children’s book.
From Murder Is Everywhere:
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Pimenta Neves is lucky to be Brazilian.