Friday, August 19, 2011

Come Together, Right Now, Over Me

Hello fellow bloggers, readers and passers-by,

     It was my intention to devote numerous posts to this blog about the infamous West Memphis Three. To share the story of the victims and the persons found guilty for those crimes. And it was also my understanding that I would have until sometime in December to get us all up-to-date on the hearing scheduled to review new evidence after the State Supreme Court ruled they should get a new hearing. Alas, the fates would not be so thoughtful.

     Just a mere 33 hours ago, news reports started filtering in that a short notice hearing would be held in Jonesboro on August 19, 2011. Not December 2011. Not October 2011... Just one day away. Reading these reports, I felt a rush of adrenalin, an urge of satisfaction and a whim of worry. adrenalin because I knew the West Memphis 3 would be at the forefront of every media network and they would drudge up the 'blind' stories of Wicaa, Satanism and Black Magic that for months, filled the headlines and caused bias in the rural towns where the hearings would take place. These same biases would taint the opinion of the masses, because sometimes, old dogs can't learn new tricks, or in this case, open their eyes and see that the aforementioned beliefs are entirely seperate beliefs, one having nothing to do with the other. Read this post for details.

     In an effort to better understand what this immediate hearing was to entail, I turned to local news sources. But they were reporting something I couldn't fathom! 2 of the 3 may be released? What? How? When? How? Why? HOW? I knew the evidence they had looked pretty strong based on what was seen in the second documentary. But how had this happened? What had changed now that wouldn't have happened in December? To figure this out, I traveled to their support site. From the articles stated on the site, "Alford plea", "guilty plea" and "release all three" were the only words my eyes would focus on.

     Now I really was confused. I know they are innocent. Their supporters, their family members, the documentaries... all point to innocent. WHY would they plea guilty? I figured they had the State on the run with the evidence that surfaced in 2007 and the A.G. didn't want to take on the case. Then I seen the word Alford plea. This sparked my memories from Criminal Justice class. I knew something about it, but not enough to fully understand how it could pertain to the case. Visit this link to learn more about Alford Plea.

     After reading this information and remembering that unlike the Casey Anthony case in Florida, I'm only a mere 30 minutes away from Jonesboro, Arkansas -- and I was bound and determined to be at the hearing. Texting my dear sister in law, I convince her go, and me and hubby ride along.

     The mood was almost surreal. The site was something out of a movie: News reporters filled the sidewalk as their white vans, decked out with satellites and deco paint jobs advertised their channels. People from all walks of life ventured out to the Craighead County Courthouse, some in support of the West Memphis 3: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, JR., and some were not. I only seen a couple that did not agree with the issue of releasing the men who had been accused and found guilty of the murder of 3 - 8 year old boys in West Memphis in 1993. One person I didn't expect: John Mark Byers, step-father of Christopher Byers who died on that tragic day in May. If you've seen either of the two HBO Documentaries, you know that Byers certainly looks like he could be guilty... But looks don't count in the justice system. And if you've read my previous posts about the WM3, you've read an introduction to him. The information posted hasn't changed. However, my opinion of him has gone to a safer zone on the 'people to suspect' thermometer. Why? Because he supports their innocence and wants true justice for the murders of Christopher Byers, Stevie Branch and Michael Moore. Byers stated, "They didn't kill my son" only moments after he arrived to the courthouse. I was so impressed with his statements, I asked for a photo with him; he graciously accepted.

     Interviews with supporters would continue through out the morning and I became privy to listening to a lot of them... Even speaking on camera for one documentary crew (not the HBO crew). One woman believed that they were innocent, but she was loud in her protest about the State dropping the ball in the case and about who actually killed the boys. Though I didn't hear her name, she did rattle off several jobs she had working with Judges in the tri-county area. And one woman even smelled of alcohol, though she avoided any direct attention.

     The courtroom filled to quickly for me to get in, so I lingered outside the courthouse, watching as key people arrived. I seen Jessie Misskelley, SR arrive, smiling but looking very tired. I seen Damien Echols mother, who looked like she was having trouble believing this was actually happening. She later stated in an interview, "it's like I can't wake up from a dream." I was also able to catch a glimpse of Steven Branch and a man with him. I didn't recognize him from the documentaries and he was very upset. I didn't venture to speak with them. In a bizarre twist, standing in what I thought would be the appropriate place for the three to exit, as did every one else standing there, we find out through tweets and chatter that they will be released from the back of the building. We take of running to see a yellow barrier. Standing what had to be 100 feet away, I could barely make out a specific hair color, much less be able to identify or get a good picture of the three as they exit for freedom in what has to be the most happiest day of their lives!

     Panic soon consumed me and I ventured across the street. Police officers swarmed, but I was not about to miss a picture! (Granted, I left my Canon at home, so I was forced to use my itty-bitty-phone-cam!) And the weather was not cooperative. Fat rain sprinkles, thin rain sprinkles, rain sprinkles that were undecided on their size... And then the sun came out, just long enough to warm it up about 8 degrees. Then, right when we are about to wilt, we see Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines exit through the side door and walk right in front of us. Weather not cooperating, my phone cam steams over but I manage a couple of shots. Vedder, looking out the side door of the luxury van, places his hands together in thanking manner, showing he appreciates our support as we appreciate his. Then the waiting game for the three! But they do emerge. Damien wearing a black suit, his wife Lori, by his side. Jason Baldwin exited as well. The crowd chanted "freedom, freedom" as Echols waived and gave a smile. Misskelley was released a bit later and we had already left... I have kids, I couldn't stay there forever! :)

     I did make a friend that was in the courtroom and she said I could interview her about the mood in the courtroom and share it with you all... However, I can't do this until later tonight. But it will be posted for you all to read as fast as my fingers will type it!

     Until then, enjoy the pictures from the day and remember! Three lives were not the only ones taken, but three can work towards helping find the true murderers. Let's pray true justice is found!

Until tomorrow,

West Memphis Three Finally Free Photo Album

Raw Video Footage from WMC News 5 in Memphis, yours truly in White and Black blouse at :36

West Memphis 3 footage

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