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West Memphis Three lawyers break their silence after over thirty years



Little Rock, Arkansas – When Dan Stidham was a young attorney thirty years ago, he received a call requesting that he represent a youngster. He was informed that since the youngster had admitted to the killings, the investigation was closed.

However, Stidman became aware that his client might not be guilty after learning more about Jessie Misskelley.

“The thing that bothered me the most was that Jessie couldn’t seem to form a narrative when it came to telling about what happened,” Stidham said.

In 1993, police suspected three adolescents of murdering three 8-year-old West Memphis boys: Steve Branch, Chris Byers and Michael Moore.

Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, and Misskelley were all taken into custody and charged with the boys’ deaths. As Stidham, Misskelley’s attorney, learned more about the case, he began to believe that something wasn’t quite right.

“We’d ask him a question, and he’d get it wrong,” Stidham said. “The confession itself contains not only improbabilities, but also impossibilities.”

For more than thirty years, Stidham has remained silent regarding these details. He claimed that certain people wished to conceal the reality. With his book A Harvest of Innocence, he is now breaking his silence.

“When Mr. Misskelley refers to the victims, he refers to them as ‘The Byers’ or ‘The Branch,'” Stidham said. “I thought that was kind of odd. It dawned on me he was looking at a photograph from the local newspaper that referred to the victims as ‘The’ in front of them. He was just parodying that back.”

Stidham understood as he proceeded to represent Misskelley that his client had not skipped school as he had initially said, and that he had not been at the crime scene at all when the boys were killed.

In 1994, Misskelley, Echols, and Baldwin were nevertheless found guilty of the killings.
After serving more than eighteen years in prison, they were finally granted parole with an Alford Plea.

“It seemed like a victory in 2011,” Stidham said. “I got to keep my promise to my client that I would get him out of prison.”
In retrospect, Stidham stated that he disapproved of the Alford Plea. Baldwin claimed it was ironic that Misskelley, Echols, and Baldwin were able to maintain their innocence despite entering guilty pleas.

“Do you really think that the state of Arkansas would have let somebody walk off of death row and two people in prison serving life sentences if they thought they had killed three 8-year-old kids,” Stidham said.

As he continues to investigate, Stidham thinks he has identified a new suspect in the boys’ murders: a truck driver who may be a serial murderer.

“There was a ten-acre truck stop right next to where the bodies were discovered, and that was the last place where the kids were seen riding their bicycles,” Stidham said. “You can back up your 18-wheeler almost to the crime scene itself.”

In Arkansas, Stidham serves as a district judge. He claimed that the case has stuck with him and ultimately altered how his courtroom is run. He refuses to let Alford Pleas.

Over 30 years after the killings, the West Memphis Three case is still pending in court.

The Arkansas Supreme Court most recently decided that evidence might be retested using modern technology to determine whether the killer’s DNA was present on the ligatures used to kill the boys.

Baldwin, Echols, and Misskelley all still insist on being innocent.




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