Judge rejects new evidentiary tests in ‘West Memphis 3’ case

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark — An Arkansas judge on Thursday denied a request to authorize new genetic testing on crime scene evidence from the murder of three boys nearly 30 years ago.

Crittenden County Circuit Judge Tonya Alexander denied motion seeking access to evidence from the 1993 crime scene where three 8-year-old boys were found brutally killed in a drainage ditch near West Memphis, reported the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The additional tests were requested by Damien Echols, one of the three men convicted of the murders.

Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley were convicted in 1994 but released in 2011 under a rarely used plea deal that allowed them to maintain their innocence while pleading guilty in exchange for 18-year sentences and credit for the time passed.

A lawyer for Echols said he plans to appeal the judge’s decision.

Alexander cited an Arkansas law that requires those requesting new DNA tests to always be in jail, the newspaper reported.

No DNA evidence linked the three men to the murders of Christopher Byers, Steve Branch and Michael Moore. Lawyers for the men said more advanced genetic testing equipment could pick up fragments of DNA that weren’t detectable when the evidence was initially reviewed. Evidence sought for the new test includes clothing and shoelaces that were used to tie up the boys.

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