Wrongful convictions occur every day. With a legal system that is at times dependent on eyewitness accounts and hearsay there is room for error. Sometimes these errors of justice are quickly rectified, but at other times the process can be long and drawn out. In the case of the West Memphis three: Damian Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, were teenagers when they were arrested for the murders of three young boys: Chris Byers, Michael Moore, and Stevie Branch. For nearly two decades, although convicted of the crimes, the West Memphis three denied any involvement in the murders. The West Memphis three case is a prime example of how small town misconceptions and rumors can take hold of a criminal case and twist non-existent
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An officer responded to the call but no evidence was collected until the next day.(Perrusqia 1994) The evidence that was collected at the restaurant, after the boys bodies had been found, was subsequently lost by officer Brian Ridge, the same officer who would later interview one of the accused. It can clearly be seen that losing evidence of any sort at such a crucial time is an example of police incompetence.
Satanic panic is a term mentioned a lot in this case. Damien Echols name was first mentioned by an overzealous juvenile officer named Steve Jones early in the investigation (the day after the bodies were found). Due to the leaks in the press about the injuries on the murdered boy’s bodies and rumors of satanic rituals Mr. Jones was contacted by officer Sudberry of the West Memphis police department. During this informal conversation, Jones states he knows of a person he believed to be not only to be involved in occult activities but that could also be capable of this type of crime; Jones named Damien Echols. (Steel 2012) Based on this hunch, with no evidence, both officer Sudberry and Mr. Jones went to speak to Damien Echols at his home the next day. During this interview with Jones and Sudberry, Echols made a statement he thought one of the murdered boys had been injured worse than the others. This statement was later used against Echols, even though it was common