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story.lead_photo.caption Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley and Damien Echols (ADG/HBO / File photo )

— A hearing is scheduled Friday in the appeals of three men convicted of the grisly murders of three boys in West Memphis in 1993.

While a gag order is in effect, multiple reports have surfaced that the hearings will be to announce an agreement that will release two of the three men sentenced in the 18-year-old case.

Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley are expected to appear in a Jonesboro courtroom Friday morning before Judge David Laser, who is set to preside over an evidentiary hearing later this year. The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the hearing to determine if new evidence warrants new trials for the trio.

Supporters of the men declined comment on the nature of the hearing but indicated it would be significant in nature. WREG in Memphis reported that an agreement would have all three men admitting guilt and two of them released, attributing the news to a father of one of the victims.

There was no immediate confirmation of that report.

Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were convicted of the May 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys. Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers were found dead and hog-tied in a ditch off Interstate 40. Echols was sentenced to death while Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison.

There was no immediate word on what the hearing Friday will cover. Laser's office said it would start around 10 a.m. in chambers, followed by a public session around 11 a.m.

The convictions in the case came after Misskelley admitted the crime to police, but he later recanted and supporters of the men contend it was a false confession. Attorneys argue Misskelley was mentally deficient, had initially denied the crime before changing his story and gave police information contradicting evidence in the case.

Misskelley was convicted first, followed by Echols and Baldwin, who were tried together.

Attorneys for the men say DNA found on the shoes of one of the victims - but not presented as evidence in the first trials - did not belong to Echols, Baldwin or Misskelley. They also say there is evidence of juror misconduct.


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Archived Comments

  • wolfman
    August 18, 2011 at 1:11 p.m.

    I wonder why death sentences take so long to be carried out. appeal after appeal. victims didn't get an appeal for their death sentence.

  • anthonio17
    August 18, 2011 at 1:24 p.m.

    in this case its a good thing then. the west memphis 3 are victims too

  • tneal77707220720
    August 18, 2011 at 2:21 p.m.

    Wolfman if you get a chance to watch "paradise lost" you may want see it. These men and I are the same age and I remember the news coverage we was shown but the real media coverage shows the incompetency of our great hillbilly state. Even their dna does not match the crime scene.

  • oneEYEopen
    August 18, 2011 at 3:53 p.m.

    Wolf man - As anthonio17 said it good thing in at least this case or an innocent man would have been wrongly executed. I believe there are people who deserve the death penalty, but how can we continue to carry out such sentencing when cases such as this cloud it's justification. If you execute 1000 deserving murderers but then you mistakenly execute one innocent man does that not corrupt the whole process. The only answer I can see would be to abolish the death penalty (again) to prevent such mistakes. Surely life in isolation knowing freedom is just beyond the wall but never to be seen again would be a worse fate than an execution. I hope this hearing tomorrow in someway moves forward a rapid release for these guys, enough is enough and everyday they serve for this crime is true miscarriage of justice ------free the three!!!!!!

  • OAnnie
    August 18, 2011 at 5:15 p.m.

    Never can I imagine that the death penalty is justified.

    If the perpetrator of the crime is guilty, he must be made to live with his heinous act, preferably with photos of the victim and the victim's family on the walls of his cell, and letters from the victim's family to read and re-read explaining the horrific harm he has done to them. Truly psychopathic killers will be unmoved by such appeals to conscience, but the families of the victims will have a greater catharsis than those who simply watch a man lie on a gurney and get an injection or two.

    If the perpetrator is innocent, he has a chance of proving himself to be innocent. No one can give him back the years of his life that were wrongfully taken away, but his freedom will be the sweeter for having lost those important years. If his case warrants it, because of egregious acts on the part of the state, then a financial settlement will be in order. Even an innocent man who has been in prison for twenty years has no resume to show to prospective employers.

  • oneEYEopen
    August 18, 2011 at 6:32 p.m.

    I believe god is an advocate of the death penalty, right or wrong, just or unjust, he is an outspoken advocate for the death penalty... but somehow anti-abortion to boot. ? Although I feel there are those well deserving folks who deserve the old needle, I am opposed to carrying it out. I am doubtful as to the effectiveness of the letters and photo punishment as Oannie suggest for either the killer or the family. I am certain in most cases the family would opt for the gurney and injection scenario. Regardless it looks as if the 3 will finally and justly be freed............who has the right to question god? ......we all do & we all should, a few questions answered would probably let some folks realize the truth.