Arkansas Supreme Court denies attempt to dismiss Echols appeal for advanced DNA testing

by George Jared ([email protected]) 4,674 views 

The Arkansas Supreme Court denied a motion Thursday (April 6) by the Arkansas Attorney General’s office to dismiss an appeal filed by Damien Echols to allow for advanced DNA testing to be done in his case. The high court did grant an extension for filing a brief in the matter.

“Appellee’s motion to dismiss appeal or, in the alternative, motion for extension of time to file a brief. Motion to dismiss appeal denied; motion for extension of time to file brief granted,” the ruling states.

Echols filed an appeal with the Arkansas Supreme Court asking it to allow for new M-Vac touch DNA testing on ligatures collected in the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis. Judge Tonya Alexander dismissed a petition filed in June to have the evidence tested in Crittenden County Circuit Court citing a lack of jurisdiction.

Echols and his co-defendants in the case, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., agreed to Alford pleas on Aug. 19, 2011 in the killings of Michael Moore, Christopher Byers, and Stevie Branch. The three men, known as The West Memphis Three or WM3, were released after spending more than 18 years in prison. All three have steadfastly maintained their innocence for decades.

Echols spokesman Lonnie Soury told Talk Business & Politics that his legal team is pleased with the ruling, and ultimately the hope is that the DNA testing will be allowed to advance.

“We are pleased that the Arkansas Supreme Court turned back efforts by the Arkansas Attorney General to delay the Court’s consideration of Damien Echols appeal of Circuit Court Judge Tonya Alexander’s decision in June 2022 to refuse DNA testing using state of the art M-vac technology in hopes of identifying the real killer(s) of the three children in West Memphis Arkansas in 1993. Echols’ appeal asked the Supreme Court to reverse that procedural determination of Judge Alexander and to remand the case back to the Circuit Court for a full hearing on the merits of Echols’ request for this new scientific testing,” he said.

If those ligatures are tested, Soury said he believes that DNA from the three men convicted will not be found, and the true killer’s DNA is still recoverable.

“We hope that the Arkansas Supreme Court will rule in the interest of justice and advise the lower court to allow Echols to test forensic evidence that could lead to the real killer(s). It has been nearly 30 years since the murders, and three years since Echols was given the approval to test forensic evidence by then Craighead County prosecuting Attorney, now Circuit Court Judge, Scott Ellington,” he added.