Since then -- I have continued to follow the case.. An interest -- that led to an exclusive interview with Damien Echols. Death row inmate Damien Echols. The so-called "ring leader" of the West Memphis Three.
For 12 years -- he has maintained his innocence. "I want you to take me back to West Memphis in 1993.." A high school drop-out -- Echols was living with his pregnant girlfriend at the time. His life going no where. " Were you different than most people in West Memphis?" (Echols) "I think at that time, yeah I probably was a lot different than most people in West Memphis, just because of the music I listened to and the way I dressed." He wore black. Listened to heavy metal music. and kept to himself. No one really bothered him.
Until May 5th, 1993. The day three little boys were last seen alive. The day most in West Memphis will never forget. The day -- that changed so many people forever -- including Damien Echols. The eight year old victims: Christopher Byers, Michael Moore, Stevie Branch.. were found the next day.. in a drainage ditch behind their sub-division. The crime -- so brutal -- it sent shockwaves throughout the small community.
"The thing that everyone was talking about. everywhere you went it`s what everyone was talking about. No one really had an interest in anything else." Rumors erupted.. and spread. Many believed -- it had to be the work of the devil. Police began looking for the killer. Echols became the main suspect.
"For me, it became a time of pretty much complete and utter harassment. There was not a day that went by after that that the police did not show up at my house for one reason or another and just kept asking me the same questions over and over." A month later... A confession by Jessie Misskelley. implicating himself -- Echols -- and a third teenager -- Jason Baldwin. They were arrested. Convicted. And sent to prison. Echols got the death penalty
The theory -- the three teens killed the three little boys in a satanic ritual. Prosecutors and detectives stand by the theory to this day. "My personal opinion, i think these three individuals are child killers." Yet little evidence exists in the case. And many people believe police "coerced" the confession from Misskelley. A confession he later recanted. He also refused to testify against Baldwin and Echols -- at their separate trial.
And even though the confession was not used in "their" trial -- defense attorneys now argue -- it was a key factor in the conviction. It`s now the foundation for this. The latest appeal filed by attorneys representing Damien Echols. In it -- they allege "jury misconduct" -- based on new information recently uncovered by defense attorneys.
Despite instructions from the judge to ignore any outside information about the Misskelley confession.. The defense says -- it has proof the jury did so anyway.. And argues that Arkansas state law prohibits a jury from considering information or evidence not admitted at trial.. despite the fact it was common knowledge at the time. We traveled to Jonesboro to talk to the jury foreman about these new allegations of misconduct.
"The jury foreman declined an on-camera interview. But off-camera, he told me he is misquoted in the appeal and the attorneys who sought the information in the first place had their own agenda." An agenda to free Damien Echols. The Arkansas Supreme Court denied this appeal but it was recently filed in Federal Court and Echols says he continues to hold out hope. Regardless.. many people remember him as an arrogant teenager -- a so-called "satanic cult member" and "devil worshipper." "You were portrayed as this devil worshipping child killer." (Echols) "Right. (reporter) "Did you kill those three little boys?"