AG spokesman: Review in West Memphis appeal will take time - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

AG spokesman: Review in West Memphis appeal will take time

By JON GAMBRELL
Associated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - The state attorney general's office said Tuesday that a review of new DNA tests and other evidence in the case of one of the teens convicted in the 1993 slayings of three boys in West Memphis will take some time.

In a statement, a spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said state officials are seeing the evidence put forward by lawyers representing Damien Echols for the first time.

"As litigation goes, this process will likely take months and possibly years," spokesman Gabe Holmstrom said.

"Indeed, counsel for Echols has taken years to develop these claims so it will take the state a fair amount of time to properly respond."

Holmstrom said the state stands behind the convictions of Echols and co-defendants Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelly, known by sympathizers as the "West Memphis Three."

Echols, now 32, was sentenced to death over the slayings of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. Baldwin and Misskelly received life sentences.

In a filing Monday, San Francisco attorney Dennis P. Riordan said Bode Technology, a private laboratory in Virginia, tested evidence collected on swabs, under fingernails and clothing from the 8-year-old victims.

A report from the lab included in the filing shows much of the evidence failed to yield reportable results. However, on evidence able to be tested, the lab found no traces of the three convicted for the slaying.

The legal filing of several hundred pages, which asks a federal judge to reconsider Echols' conviction, also included claims by forensic experts saying the mutilation of the bodies and castration of one of the boys came after their death.

In the filing, the experts say the cuts came from animals, rather than the blade of a knife. The three victims disappeared while riding bicycles in their quiet, tree-lined neighborhood May 5, 1993.

Their bodies were found the next day in a watery ditch near their homes. The state Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Baldwin and Echols' convictions in 1996, citing what it called substantial evidence of guilt.

In 2002, the state Supreme Court authorized further DNA testing in the case. In 2005, the high court rejected an effort by Echols to reopen the case so he could argue that his trial lawyers mishandled his defense.

And the court also said the DNA testing should be expedited. Holmstrom said the state has 10 days to respond to Echols' request that the new evidence be considered.

If the request is granted, Holmstrom said, the state would have another 20 days to file a response to the new evidence, although he expects officials to ask for more time.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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