Monday, May 14, 2007

Supporters of ‘West Memphis Three’ to hold protest

Mara Leveritt, one of Arkansas' foremost independent journalists, will be on the show tomorrow morning at 10 and she passes along the following press release.

Supporters of the men known as the West Memphis Three will protest the convictions of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., on Saturday, June 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Crittenden County Courthouse in Marion.

Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were teenagers when they were convicted in 1994 of the murders of three eight-year-old West Memphis boys–Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Steven Branch–in West Memphis the previous year. Echols was sentenced to death, Baldwin and Misskelley to life in prison.

Since their trials, concern about the proceedings has grown. Critics point to the absence of physical evidence linking the teenagers to the crime and to the apparent lack of motive, beyond the state’s unproven claim that the murders were committed as part of an “occult ritual.”

The courthouse event will include a 14-minute segment of silence to symbolize the 14 years the West Memphis Three have been imprisoned. Speakers will outline concerns about the case, including the likelihood that the children’s true killer (or killers) remains free.

The protest is part of World Awareness Day, an annual observed by supporters around the world to focus attention on the case. World Awareness Day events in the past have been held in Little Rock and in other cities across the United States and Europe. This will be the first event held in Crittenden County.

Organizers intend for the protest to be dignified and peaceful. Anyone who shares that intention, along with doubts or concerns about the controversial convictions, is invited to attend.

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