JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - When Damien Echols was arrested in 1993 in the killing of three 8-year-old boys at West Memphis, a necklace he was wearing bore traces of blood whose type matched one of the victims, as well as himself and another defendant, the state Crime Lab director testified Monday.
Kermit Channell, now director of the Crime Lab, was a criminologist for the agency when evidence was gathered in the slayings. He testified Monday at a hearing in which Echols' two co-defendants, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, are seeking a new trial. Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin were all convicted in the boys' deaths.
Baldwin and Misskelley now claim they had ineffective counsel when they were convicted in 1994 of killing second-graders Michael Moore, Steven Branch and Christopher Byers.
Circuit Judge David Burnett, who presided over the trials of all three defendants, is conducting the hearing. Burnett told lawyers Monday that he barred use of the necklace and the test results in 1994 because he felt the evidence could cause a long delay in the trial, and possibly a mistrial.
"I wouldn't allow it," Burnett said.
Channell said two tests were conducted on the blood found on the necklace. He said the first test showed the blood type matched that of Echols. The second test, Channell said, showed the blood type was consistent with those of Baldwin and Branch.
On cross examination, Channell said the blood type was also consistent with a large percentage of the population. The blood type involved was not revealed at Monday's hearings, and attorneys in the case are barred by a gag order from answering reporters' questions. At an earlier hearing, Burnett denied Echols' request for a new trial.
One month after the boys' bodies were found in a water-filled ditch near their West Memphis homes, Misskelley gave police a statement that also implicated Baldwin and Echols.
Defense attorneys have claimed that West Memphis police improperly pressured Misskelley into confessing to the crimes. A tape recording of his confession was played for the jury at his trial. Misskelley told police that Michael Moore escaped his attackers, but was chased down by Misskelley, who took him back to Echols and Baldwin, who both killed him.
Like Baldwin, Misskelley did not testify at his original trial.
Misskelley was sentenced to life in prison, plus 40 years, Baldwin to life in prison without parole; and Echols to be executed.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)