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Judge: Parents can’t see ’93 evidence

He dismisses lawsuit 2 filed against West Memphis in slayings of 3 boys by Kenneth Heard | April 4, 2013 at 4:48 a.m.

WEST MEMPHIS - A circuit judge has ruled against allowing the parents of two West Memphis 8-year-olds killed in 1993 to look at evidence in the case.


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Crittenden County Circuit Judge Victor Hill dismissed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Tuesday filed by Pam Hicks and joined by John Mark Byers against the city of West Memphis, saying the law applies only to documents and not physical evidence.

Hicks is the mother of Stevie Branch, one of three boys killed on May 5, 1993. Byers is the stepfather of victim Christopher Byers. Michael Moore was also killed.

Ken Swindle, a Rogers attorney representing the two parents, filed affidavits with the court last week that included a statement from Arkansas Department of Correction inmate Bennie Guy that implicates Terry Hobbs, David Jacoby, L.G. Hollingsworth and Buddy Lucas in the slayings. Hobbs, Hicks’ former husband, was the stepfather of Stevie.

Hobbs and Jacoby have repeatedly maintained their innocence. Hollingsworth was killed in an accident in October 2001, and police said in their initial investigations that Lucas was not a suspect.

In his ruling, Hill wrote that the filing of the affidavits could not compel him to “act on the plaintiffs’ theory of the criminal case. Neither may the court permit this action to serve as a collateral attack on the concluded criminal case.”

Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington said the men named in the affidavits were questioned intensely by police in 1993 and were not considered suspects.

“I’ve not heard anything new in these,” Ellington said of the affidavits. “This is like the John F. Kennedy conspiracies. There are several hundred stories of how someone said that happened.

“These guys were examined by law enforcement officers 20 years ago,” he said. “If there was a case to be made then against them, the cops would have gotten them.”

Prosecutors convicted Damien Echols of capital murder in the slayings in 1994 and sentenced him to die. Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were also convicted in 1994, and both were sentenced to life in prison.

In August 2011, the three men were released after negotiating an Alford plea, which allowed them to plead guilty to the crimes but maintain their innocence.

Swindle acknowledged Wednesday that he was disappointed over the ruling.

“This is not a ‘theory,’” he said of the affidavits’ claims. “It is evidence. It’s hard to imagine a more explosive matter.”

He said Hicks and Byers don’t intend to file an appeal of Hill’s decision.

“For them, the mystery is over,” Swindle said. “They are satisfied with what happened in the woods. The only question left is if the state has the fortitude to do the right thing.”

Arkansas, Pages 13 on 04/04/2013

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