Reported by: KARK 4 News
Monday, Oct 12, 2009 @01:00pm CDT
There's a development in the so-called West Memphis Three case.
The defense team representing Damien Echols, who is on Arkansas death row for his conviction in the case, reports that there are new witnesses who have not been questioned in the 1993 investigation.
Two other men are imprisoned for the killings of three eight-year-old boys.
Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley continue their fight for new trials.
This afternoon, Echols' defense team issued the following news release:
Neighbors Saw Steven Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore With Hobbs Just Before Their Disappearance
Three eyewitnesses have come forward and provided sworn statements that they saw Steven Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore with Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Steven Branch, at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5, 1993, immediately before the time the boys disappeared. Hobbs was calling loudly at the children and ordering them to return to his house. The new evidence establishes that the last person who had custody of the three boys before they vanished and died was Terry Hobbs. Jamie Clark Ballard, who lived only three doors down from Terry and Pam Hobbs, has supplied a sworn affidavit, as have both her mother and her sister.
Based upon this new evidence, a motion on behalf of Damien Echols was delivered today to the Arkansas Supreme Court asking the court to order the matter to the Circuit Court to permit further factual development of Echols's claims of actual innocence.
Ballard states in her sworn affidavit that, "Between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., I saw Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers playing in my backyard. I am absolutely, completely and totally positive that I saw Terry Hobbs hollering at Stevie, Michael and Christopher to get back down to the Hobbs house at approximately 6:30 pm. If Terry Hobbs said he did not see Stevie Branch, Michael Moore or Christopher Byers on May 5, 1993, he is not telling the truth. I know for a fact that Terry Hobbs saw, was with and spoke to Stevie, Michael or Christopher on May 5, 1993."
Hobbs has repeatedly said that he never saw the three boys the day they were murdered. In fact, during a recent civil deposition of Terry Hobbs, dated July 21, 2009, Hobbs stated, for the first time under oath, that he never saw his stepson, Steven Branch, at any time on May 5, 1993. Under oath he was asked, "It's your testimony that you did not see Stevie Branch at all the day of May 5th of 1993. Correct?" Hobbs answer: "Correct." "Did you see Stevie at all that day, May 5th?" Answer: "No, I did not." "Did you see any of the three boys that day?" Answer: "No, I did not. No I never seen Stevie that day."
Police never questioned Terry Hobbs during the original investigation of the crimes, but after new evidence was revealed that his DNA was found at the crime scene in 2007, he was questioned by West Memphis Police Department on June 21, 2007. In that interview he stated numerous times to Detective Mitchell that he did not see the boys at any time that day. Officer Mitchell asked Terry Hobbs about what time he got home from work, and he responds roughly about 3-3:30 p.m. He was then asked if he saw Stevie anywhere. His answer: "I did not, he wasn't there."
According to the motion prepared by Dennis Riordan and Don Horgan, Echols attorneys, "It has previously been established that Hobbs was never questioned by police during the original investigation of the crimes, despite the fact that the lead detective in the investigation of the murders has conceded both that when a child homicide occurs, police should always consider the parents of the child as potential suspects, and that it is "statistically proven that homicide victims are usually the result of family, close friends, [and] known acquaintances" (see below). Yet DNA evidence submitted to the Circuit Court in the § 16‑112‑201 proceedings below links Hobbs to the ligature used to bind Michael Moore. A hair linked by DNA testing to David Jacoby, whom Hobbs had visited in the hour before the boys disappeared, was found at the crime scene. Hobbs, moreover, has been accused assaultive conduct in the past. He has made bizarre and self-incriminating statements concerning his activities on the date the boys went missing. His whereabouts during a key early evening time period on May 5th have never been accounted for. Certain family members recalled that he had acted suspiciously on the date of the disappearance and the days that followed. His wife and other family members have voiced their belief that Hobbs was responsible for the killings.
"Considered in the context of all available evidence in these matters, the new revelations that Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Steven Branch, had Steven, Christopher, and Michael in his custody just before their disappearance and death, and that Hobbs has deliberately denied and concealed that critical fact, cannot reasonably be reconciled with the conclusion that appellants were responsible for the crimes of which they stand convicted."
The eyewitnesses, who saw the boys in their backyard prior to returning to the Hobbs home, were never questioned by the police on the day of the murders. According to the affidavit of Jamie Clark Ballard, "Following the murders, the police never came to interview me or my family. In fact, after the murders, I do not recall ever seeing any police vehicles on my street or seeing any police interviewing any of the people in my neighborhood."
Damien Echols case is currently under appeal in the Arkansas Supreme court seeking a new trial based upon new evidence. Dozens of pieces of evidence found at the crime scene conclusively show that no DNA from the murders matches Echols or the other two men. DNA testing, however, links Terry Hobbs, stepfather of one of the murdered children, to the crime scene, and other evidence has emerged implicating him in the crimes. In addition, scientific evidence from the nation's leading forensics experts demonstrates that most of the wounds on the victims were caused by animals at the crime scene, after their deaths - not by knives used by the perpetrators, as the prosecution claimed and was the centerpiece of the prosecution's case. Moreover, evidence presented that a knife recovered from a lake near one defendant's home caused the wounds was completely discredited by the pathologists.
Echols's also informed the Supreme Court that a prominent Arkansas attorney in a sworn affidavit has revealed improper conversations that the jury foreman held with the attorney while the original trial was in progress, clearly violating the law and the rights of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin to a fair and impartial trial. In those conversations, the jury foreman indicates that he had prejudged Echols's guilt and was trying to convince other jurors to convict based upon news reports of the false confession of Jessie Misskelley, which was barred from admission at the Echols-Baldwin trial. During one conversation, the jury foreman told the attorney that the prosecution had presented a weak case, and that the prosecution had better present something powerful the next day (the end of the prosecution's case) or it would be up to him to secure a conviction.
KARK 4 is attempting to contact Terry Hobbs about this new information, and we'll share any comments he makes available.