What The Movies Don’t Tell You : The Failed Alibis of the West Memphis Three
On May 5th 1993, in the Southern town of West Memphis, AR, three local boys named Christopher Byers, Stevie Branch, and Michael Moore went missing from their local neighborhood. The next day, a search and rescue officer discovered muddy footwear floating in a ditch in a nearby patch of woods very close to where the boys were last seen. A thorough search of the ditch yielded the naked, bound, and terribly beaten bodies of the three boys. All three had been subjected to a brutal beating, with Christopher Byers having suffered the added humiliation of having his penis skinned and his scrotum ripped open. Byers was determined to have died from multiple injuries associated with blood loss (due to being castrated) while Branch and Moore had been drowned - most likely in the ditch they were found in. The time the murders occurred was estimated to have been between 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm the previous night, the day the boys disappeared.
A month after the hideous discovery, West Memphis Police arrested Jessie Misskelley (17), Jason Baldwin (16) and Damien Echols (18) for the triple murder, after Misskelley confessed he had seen Echols and Baldwin beat up the boys and torture them. Both Baldwin and Echols denied being in the woods and committing the crime. Damien Echols was already considered a person of interest in the murders (though never declared an official suspect until Misskelley’s confession) and his alibi in particular is a vital component of the case; obviously innocent people are elsewhere when crimes are being committed, and it can be relatively easy to ascertain this fact.
Unfortunately, the alibis of all three West Memphis suspects have never checked out. This unsavory fact has been largely omitted in the famous documentaries made about the case - the ‘Paradise Lost’ trilogy and the more recent ‘West of Memphis’ - or grossly skewed out of context. Let’s analyse the alibis of the West Memphis Three:
Jessie Misskelley Jnr. and his defense team claimed Jessie was was in a neighboring town attending a wrestling match on the night of the murders, and summoned several friends as alibi witnesses. Both ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘West of Memphis’ briefly touch upon this and present it as factual, but unfortunately they leave out the prosecution’s cross-examination of Misskelley’s witnesses. Under questioning, not one of them could say for sure that Misskelley had been with them on that particular night, and one boy admitted he could have mixed the dates Misskelley tagged along on the wrestling trip. Receipts produced by the prosecution convincingly proved that Jessie had actually attended the wrestling match several weeks before the murders, which means his albi for May 5th 1993 is false. Even so, the documentaries present the wrestling trip as a legitimate alibi, despite having no evidence to back it up.
Unfortunately for Baldwin, his alibi taken from statements to police and his own lawyers was so scrappy and vague his defense team took the highly unusual step of not presenting it at all during the trial. In a statement years later, Jason’s attorney admits his client’s alibi wouldn’t have stood up to cross examination and he believed it would be safer for Baldwin if it was never presented it at all.
However, there IS evidence that places Baldwin in the company of Damien Echols on the afternoon of the murders, and the source of this information is surprising - Damien Echols himself.
In his police statements, Damien Echols claimed to have spent the afternoon and night of May 5th at home talking on the phone with a variety of girls. The murders are generally thought to have occured between 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm, Damien’s alibi has been hotly contested over the years, with his four alibi witnesses giving conflicting accounts of his movements as well as the myth created by Echols himself that the prosecution wouldn’t allow his witnesses to testify in court. In a quote taken from an interview with CNN, Echols says:
“At the time the police say the murders took place, I was actually on the phone with three different people.The problem was, they were never called to the stand”
Why? If Echols’ alibi witnesses could have adequately proven his whereabouts on the night in question, his lawyers would have most certainly called on them to testify. In fact, the prosecution made sure Echols’ witnesses were available to testify and wrote their names on the witness list so they could be called. Echols’ lawyers chose not to.
The reason why is very simple: in their official police statements, not ONE of Echols’ four witnesses could cover the hours between 5:30pm and 9:20pm on the day of the murders. The accounts they gave varied wildly from each other, with each witness account contradicting Echols own account of that day.
Holly George - In a statement given to WMPD a few mobths after the murders Holly states she rang Damien Echols around 3:30 pm on May 5th and chatted to him for a few minutes. She maintained she only called him once that day. The call lasted no more than thirty minutes. She also mentioned to fellow witness Heather Cliett that Damien had told her he was going “walking” before getting off the phone with her.
Heather Cliett - Cliett gave a statement just days after the murders about her phone call with Echols. She said she had attempted to call Echols at around 8:00pm but nobody answered the phone. She called back around 10:00pm and Damien answered, and they talked for twenty minutes. Cliett’s account is important because it directly contradicts Echols story of being at home all night.
Domini Teer - Echols girlfriend Domini Teer said in an interview that she last saw Damien between 5:00pm - 5:30 pm on May 5th. She said she and Echols had been fighting because of Holly George and Heather Cliett ringing him up on the phone. She claimed Echols did not ring her until after 10:00pm, where again they fought over Echols’s friendship with George and Cliett.
Jennifer Bearden - the final alibi witness is the most damning one, for the statements made by Jennifer Bearden to police not only show that Echols wasn’t at home like he said, but was actually out with Jason Baldwin during the hours the murders were committed. Bearden states that she called Jason Baldwin’s house between 4:15 pm and 5:30 pm on May 5th, and talked to BOTH Echols and Baldwin on the phone for half an hour. Damien told her to call back at his house around 8:00pm. Bearden states that Damien told her that he was “going somewhere” with Jason Baldwin. Bearden rang at 8:00pm and was told by Echols’ grandmother that Damien was “out walking”. She rang him again at 9:20 pm and Damien picked up the phone. He confirmed he had been out with Jason Baldwin. The two chatted for ten minutes and then Bearden hung up because she wasn’t permitted to use the phone after 9:30.
Years after giving her first statement, Bearden changed the timeline of her phone conversation slightly; she claims she actually rang Damien back much later, around 9:45pm, and the two talked on the phone until past 10:30 pm. This contradicts the stories of both Domini Teer and Heather Cliett, who both claimed to have talked to Damien around 10:00pm on the night of May 5th.
In ‘West of Memphis”, Jennifer Bearden complains on camera that she was never given the opportunity to defend Echols’ alibi during the 1994 trial. The problem is, the alibi she gave police is in direct conflict with Damien’s version of events; she told police when she called Echols’ house at 8:30 pm and was told that Damien was “out”, and when she rang him back much later he confirmed he had been out with Baldwin. If the defense had called her as a witness, her testimony would have proven Damien WASN’T at home like he said he was, and that he was actually with Jason Baldwin. This would have seriously impacted the jury, so the WM3 defense team chose not to call her or any of the other alibi witnesses.
To this day, Echols has failed to adequately defend his alibi claims, instead blaming the court for not allowing his witnesses to testify their damaging stories. The only thing ism if they HAD been called to testify, their testimony would have only hindered his case, not helped it.
The failed alibis of the West Memphis Three are hardly discussed simply because the well-known documentaries on the case choose to glean over the facts. A failed alibi is not definate proof of guilt, but the fact Echols lied about his whereabouts on the day of the murders as well as his witnesses providing evidence he was in the company of Jason Baldwin is revealing.
(All evidence discushed here was sourced from calahan8k.com, an online resource about the case. To find the statements of the alibi witnesses go into the Case Files folder and enter ‘Documents’)
1) Inside the Buffalo Public Library, 1900s. 2) The Dakota at Central Park West, 1890. 3) 5th Avenue and 59th Street, 1897. 4) Emigrant and pretzel vendor. By Alice Austen, 1896. 5) Nassau Street, circa 1905. 6) The Mad Hatter Tea Room, Greenwich Village, circa 1908. 7) Waldorf Astoria Original Site at 5th Ave and 35th Street, 1899. 8) Grand Army Plaza Brooklyn, 1894. 9) Brooklyn Bridge, 1896. 10) The Saint Regis Hotel, 1900s..
"Only the Sinai Peninsula has been returned to its rightful owner (Egypt)" Hmm.
Well, last time I checked, settlements were adding up in the Golan Heights and the West Bank, and Bibi has made no secret he wants both territories to be internationally recognised as part of Israel. Concerning Gaza, it’s more a joke than anything; on top of besieging the Strip, the IDF have repeatedly demonstrated how easily they can penetrate it and wipe out armed resistance (see 2014, 2012, 2008-9…etc). The Hamas and the likes can say whatever they want, but their military power is barely above your regular stone-thrower. Bibi and his cronies just don’t bother turning Gaza into the West Bank 2.0 because it would result into international outrage and guerrilla warfare, without actual gains (and probably another Intifada).
So yes, of all the territories they put under their control during the Six-Day War, only the Sinai Peninsula was actually given back.
Fifth Avenue Then and
Now, a Century of Streetviews in NYC.
1. Starting in the
south, near Washington Square Park, this image looks west from 5th Avenue, down West 8th Street. In the 1911 photo, the building at
left is a private residence, at right, an office of the Edison Company.
2. Next, we move
up to West 20th Street, where the corner building remains
intact, just a change of tenants from a store to buy trunks, and a publisher,
to a sporting goods store and clothing store.
3. Looking down
West 36th Street, the private residences and shops at right have been
replaced by a modern building, while most of the arches of the building at left
remain visible, despite a new facade on the 5th Avenue side. Note the heights of the newer
buildings looking down 36th.
4. A workman stands in front of a distinctive set of 3 arched windows on 5th Avenue, between East 38th and East 39th Street. In 1911, the shops
were, from left, Knabe Piano Co., Benson and Hedges Tobacconists, Hardman Piano
Co., John M. Crapo Linens, Ludwig Schultze Interior Decorations, and Siebrecht,
a florist. In the 2014 view, from left, Payless Shoes, a new bakery under
construction, Prima Donna clothing, GNC nutrition store, and a Sleepy’s
5. At West 40th Street, the brand new New York Public Library Building. The
building opened to the public for the first time on May 23, 1911. The 2014 view
has become obscured by trees.
6. St. Patrick’s Cathedral at East 51st Street. In 1911 the building at left was the Union Club. Today it
houses luxury jewelry and clothing stores.
7. Looking down East 57th Street, what were almost all private residences in 1911 have now
been replaced with large commercial and retail buildings.
8. At East 61st Street, across the avenue from Central Park (see the reflections
in both photos). Again, mostly private residences back in 1911.
9. At East 91st Street, the residence of Andrew Carnegie. Today, the Carnegie
Mansion remains, and is the home of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
10. In 1911, Fifth Ave at East 93rd Street was home to a number of billboards touting stage
performances, bacon, whiskey, and a speedometer. At right, a private residence.
Today, nothing remains from either side of the street.