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Op-Ed: Blind justice, Casey Anthony and the West Memphis Three

In the past 24 hours I’ve read a lot of comments over the Internet about how the Casey Anthony verdict is proof of a corrupt justice system. Questions are asked. How could anyone find Casey Anthony not guilty of murdering her daughter? Who was paid off? Conspiracy theories and outrage run rampant, and people feel there is no justice here anymore.

While looking into the case and what was presented as “evidence” in this trial, I was reminded of some trials in my state, during which similar “evidence” was used to convict three young men of a grisly child murder in West Memphis two decades ago.

Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were convicted with no physical evidence and no eyewitness testimony. Instead, the prosecution pointed to Echols’ Pagan beliefs, his black wardrobe, his enjoyment of Stephen King books and his love of heavy metal music as “evidence” that he led two other boys to sexually assault and violently murder these children.

Since the conviction, the defense has gathered a substantial amount of physical evidence, none of which has been introduced in the courtroom. In addition to new DNA evidence that may implicate one of the victims’ family members in the crime, the most disturbing piece of evidence is the human bite marks found on one of the victims. The marks match none of these boys’ dental records. It was determined by the Arkansas Supreme Court that other items were tested at the crime scene, none of which were linked to the West Memphis Three.

Echols sits on death row, Misskelley and Baldwin are serving life sentences, and they all have been stripped of their adult lives. Fortunately, a new hearing has been set to begin Oct. 1, and with hope these men will be exonerated.

Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley

Even if they are set free, they still won’t get the past 18 years back. 

We should be thankful that trials like these are no longer enough to convict people. In the West Memphis Three case, books, music, hairstyle and other characteristics typical of ordinary teenage boys were enough to convict. In the Anthony case, Google search histories in the home computer were attempted to be used as sufficient evidence.

It is sad that there is no DNA evidence to link Casey or anyone else to this horrific crime. It is sad that the victim was found several months after she went missing, thus buying time for the murderer to cover their tracks, as well as hindering efforts to collect physical evidence. There is no closure here.

But I can’t say this was the result of the court system. Because if Google search histories are enough to convict Casey Anthony of murder, then the West Memphis Three convictions should be prime examples of fairness in the justice system. But they aren’t.

More info:

Mara Leveritt

The Innocence Project
The Arkansas Times

Discovery: How Science Falls Short in Anthony Case

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