Life

‘WM3’ Deal an Outrage on Multiple Levels

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More than 18 years after the murder of three eight-year-old boys nicknamed the West Memphis 3, the three men prosecutors still believe committed the crime, were set free.

Right after they pleaded guilty.

Does this sound like justice to you?

The three men, one of whom was on Death Row for the 1993 murders, had gained national attention after documentaries and celebrities who had no involvement in the case suddenly started sticking their noses into the situation.

Last November, the men’s legal team argued successfully that new evidence showed no DNA link between the defendants and the victims, resulting in the state’s Supreme Court ordering a new hearing.

That hearing was set thirteen months later: scheduled for this December. If there’s enough evidence to warrant a new hearing that could potentially free the men, why on earth would it take more than a year to happen?

That hearing would have potentially posed major problems for the prosecution, who acknowledged that some witnesses as well as some evidence was no longer available. The men could well have been exonerated on a retrial.

They could have then turned around and sued the state for millions.

So in an agreement that was largely said to be an attempt for the prosecution to “save face,” it agreed to a plea deal that would allow the men to enter what is known as an Alford Guilty Plea. It essentially allows someone to maintain his innocence and simultaneously admit that he is pleading guilty anyway because he considers it in his best interest.

So the judge vacated the previous convictions, ordered a new trial, then accepted the Alford guilty pleas, as agreed upon by both sides. He then sentenced the men to 18 years and 78 days, the time they’d already served, plus a suspended sentence of 10 years.

The prosecuting attorney maintains the men are still guilty according to the state, despite DNA evidence that provides no link to them. He considers the case closed.

“After a period of time, it will be acceptable to the public as the right thing,” he said.

A deal like this should never be regarded as acceptable. It isn’t.

Because this deal wasn’t about justice at all. It was about protecting self-interests that had absolutely nothing to do with the victims in the case, whose killers, depending on whom you believe, have yet to be brought to justice.

And I can’t help but wonder about one other key fact: let’s suppose that at some point, police learn that there’s a match to that DNA evidence. Will prosecutors — the same ones who feared a lawsuit by the men whom they could no longer successfully prosecute — actually attempt to prosecute a new set of defendants? Wouldn’t they fear that the original defendants, who felt they had to enter what amounts to a fraudulent guilty plea because it was in their best interests at the time, might then sue anyway?

If I were essentially forced to plead guilty to a crime I didn’t commit to get out of a prison I should never have been placed into to begin with, and then it was proven that someone else actually did commit the crime, you can bet I’d sue.

Which begs the question: will anyone ever try to find the “real” killer? Will anyone bother to lift a finger to figure out whose DNA actually was collected from the crime scene?

If this is justice, I’d hate to see what the lack of it looks like.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.