Request denied for re-testing of DNA from West Memphis Three murders

CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Ark. — The petition filed by Damien Echols and his legal team for further DNA testing to prove his innocence in the West Memphis murders was denied on Feb. 8.

According to attorneys in Crittenden County, the court cannot grant the re-testing because the Act 1780 habeas corpus petition must meet the law’s requirements, and since it doesn’t, the State cannot agree to the Court granting his request.

RELATED: Damien Echols petitions court to use new DNA testing on “West Memphis 3″ evidence

In a document obtained by FOX13, officials listed a host of reasons as to why the filing does not meet the state requirements. The biggest ones were:

  • Any hearing on this petition must be “held in the court in which the conviction was entered.” Defendant’s murder conviction wasn’t 3 entered in Crittenden County; instead, it was entered in Craighead County. This error is fatal.
  • When the State has no one in custody to bring to court, habeas corpus 6 isn’t an available remedy. To allow a non-prisoner to seek Act 1780 relief would make the habeas corpus statute absurd. Under statutory law, if new DNA testing—like Defendant seeks—excludes him, the circuit court has two options: grant a new trial or resentence. When a defendant has completed their sentence, it makes no sense to grant them a new trial. Nor does it make sense to resentence them. Here Defendant has completed his sentence. He’s no longer a prisoner. So for Defendant an Act 1780 habeas corpus writ isn’t an available remedy

Echols, arrested in the case with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., was sentenced to death after being convicted for the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993.

RELATED: Damien Echols’ legal team reviews ‘lost’ evidence in 1993 West Memphis murder case

However, DNA testing led to the “West Memphis 3″ taking an Alford Plea and being released from prison in 2011.

Echols filed the petition in the Circuit Court of Crittenden County to permit new scientific testing of evidence in the case.

Specifically, Echols and his legal team wanted the shoestrings, used to tie up the murdered boys, to go under M-Vac wet vacuum system testing, a form of DNA testing which was unavailable at the time of prior DNA testing done in the case, according to the petition filed by Echols.

Echols and his legal team claimed that authorities told them that some of the evidence in the case was “lost”, “misplaced,” and “destroyed by fire.”

However, in late 2021 Echols lawyers were invited to survey the remaining evidence in West Memphis when they discovered the shoestrings were still intact, evidence that Echols’ lawyers claim was misfiled by the West Memphis Police Department.