The infamous case of the West Memphis Three, widely regarded as a miscarriage of justice, has a new appeal launched a few days ago with new genetic evidence. Supposedly expert testimony on the case in 1993 helped support an ongoing idea in the media that heavy metal and goth was closely connected with blood thirsty occult crime. The conviction was mainly made on the basis of a inconsistent confession, which may have been obtained under police duress.
Lawyers file DNA motion in Ark. murders - Los Angeles Times:
"Attorneys seek to overturn the convictions of three young men who were found guilty of brutally killing three Cub Scouts in 1993. By Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer October 30, 2007 Attorneys for a death row inmate found guilty of killing three 8-year-old boys in Arkansas in 1993 filed a motion in federal court to overturn his conviction based on new evidence, including DNA test results that found no genetic material on the victims' bodies from his client or two others convicted with him. The sensational case in West Memphis concerned three Cub Scouts whose bodies were found submerged in a drainage ditch not far from their homes; one boy's body appeared to have been sexually mutilated. Two of the defendants frequently dressed in black and were described as 'Goths.' Accusations of satanic rituals were presented in court testimony...
The new petition includes analyses done by seven forensic scientists, including Dr. Richard Souviron, chief forensic odontologist at the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department, who played a significant role in Florida's successful 1979 prosecution of serial killer Ted Bundy. All of them challenge prosecutors' claims that Christopher had been sexually mutilated with a knife.
The forensic pathologists and odontologists, who separately reviewed autopsy tests, photos and trial testimony, state that the evidence strongly indicates that after Christopher was killed by blunt-force blows, animals ate parts of his body.
The brief also states that some of the key testimony asserting that the teenagers were part of a satanic cult -- something they have denied -- was presented by a so-called witchcraft expert with "a fraudulent PhD" from a California school that was put out of business by state authorities."
Support for three has been widespread amongst a range of people and bands:
"However, a group of musicians determined to reverse the defendants' misfortune has come to the aid of the West Memphis Three. "Free The West Memphis Three: A Benefit for Truth & Justice" is a loud petition featuring the signatures of such luminaries as Tom Waits, Joe Strummer, Steve Earle, Eddie Vedder, Rocket From The Crypt and a reunited Killing Joke."
Burk Sauls, a founding member of the Free The West Memphis Three Support Fund, notes that while being a punk or goth in certain parts of the country is perfectly acceptable, in others, it remains an open invitation for harassment.
"The thing with Damien is he was in a town that wasn't as receptive to that low-level rebellion," Sauls said. "If you wear a black trench coat, it's not okay. And if you walk around with a Metallica t-shirt with your hair teased up like Edward Scissorhands, it is not okay.
"In a lot of the towns in the South, you don't have those punk clubs or goth clubs. You've got your sports bars and those are your only choice. And if you walk into a sports bar with a Dead Kennedys t-shirt, someone is going to give you hell about it."
Indeed, one of the prosecution's star witness was Dr. Dale W. Griffis - an occult expert with a mail-order credential. Griffis testified during Echols' trial that "wearing black fingernails, having black painted hair and wearing black t-shirts" were all signs of youthful Satanic worship."
Wiccan. Various occult-related items were found in his room, including a funeral register upon which he had drawn a pentagram and upside-down crosses and had a copied magical spell. Among the evidence seized were black T-shirts and lyrics from Metallica songs. Echols testified that he wore a long black trench coat even when it was warm. One witness, Jerry Driver, said he had seen Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley together six months before the murders, wearing long black coats and carrying long staves... Pink Floyd lyrics from the suspect's notebooks, Stephen King novels,and Echols' interest in heavy metal music and Wicca were also presented in court as evidence against the teenagers."
If you're asking if I felt that was strange, yes sir, I did.
-Det. Bryn Ridge, testifying about Damien reading Stephen King books
Campaign website: Free the West Memphis Three