Chicago’s Disturbed have been hard at work on tour in support of their fifth album, Asylum. Anyone who knows anything about the band, or has read their lyrics knows these guys always have something to say and they use their music to send the message.
This time around the guys are coming out in support of the West Memphis Three. The three Arkansas men convicted of the heinous murders of three 8-year-old boys. DNA in the case points to the step-father of one of the three boys, while no DNA evidence implicates those convicted.
Many people have been up in arms over the backward way this case has been handled by the courts. With a pending hearing set for this October legal fees are piling up, and in support of this Disturbed is offering the bonus track “3” exclusively through their website, with all proceeds from the sale of the song going to the Damien Echols defense fund. Echols is the WM3 member sentenced to death for his alleged part in what has been called a Satanic ritual.
For nearly 18 years, The West Memphis Three have been imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. The three were condemned by their poverty, incompetent defense, Satanic panic and a rush to judgment by the media.
It all began May 5, 1993 when three eight-year-old boys were found mutilated and murdered in the Robin Hood Hills area of West Memphis, Arkansas. Under tremendous pressure to find the killer despite physical evidence pointing to anyone, West Memphis officers coerced an error-filled “confession” from a mentally handicapped teenager, Jessie Misskelley Jr., questioning him for hours without counsel or parental consent, only audio-taping two 46-minute fragments. Jessie recanted his statement the same night but it was too late: Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Misskelley all were arrested on June 3rd, and have been incarcerated ever since.
Local media said the murders were part of a satanic ritual; human sacrifices in the wooded areas of West Memphis, Arkansas. The police assured the public the three teenagers in custody were definitely responsible for these horrible crimes. There was no physical evidence, murder weapon, motive, or acquaintance with the victims so the State stooped to presenting Damien’s black hair and clothing, heavy metal t-shirts, and Stephen King novels as “proof” the children were sacrificed to the devil. In early 1994, Echols was sentenced to death by lethal injection, Baldwin received life without parole, while Misskelley got life plus 40 years.
Beginning with the ’96 HBO documentary “Paradise Lost” and the wm3.org website, the push for justice for the WM3 has steadily gained traction worldwide. With the steadfast support and financial help of their supporters, there is now factual, scientific evidence of their innocence. Damien, Jason and Jessie still must fight to gain their freedom but there are major differences now: the “satanic cult sacrifice” motive is now an embarrassment the prosecution doesn’t even embrace. More important, forensic technologies have progressed to the point where previously untested items yielded definitive results: Not one molecule of DNA from the crime scene matches that of Damien, Jason or Jessie. The DNA does match of a pair of individuals (one of them a victim’s stepfather) that were admittedly together on the day the children disappeared.
In 2009, Dr. Werner Spitz, the world’s most respected forensic pathologist, testified the “knife wounds” on the children’s bodies could only have come from post-mortem animal predation. There was juror misconduct that should have resulted in a mistrial— the jury foreman of Damien and Jason’s trial was consulting his own attorney about the case during the trial as well as discussing MIsskelley’s “confession” during deliberations though it was inadmissible in their trial.
In November of 2010, the State Supreme Court of Arkansas finally ruled in the WM3’s favor for the first time, ordering new hearings wherein all post-conviction DNA, forensic evidence or testimony that could lead to their exoneration will be heard. Judge David Laser was assigned to be the judge of this evidentiary hearing which will begin on December 5, 2011.
While it’s true the WM3 can see the light at the end of this tunnel, they still desperately need your financial help. Judge Laser ordered all remaining DNA is to be tested and we must pay for it, as well as additional forensic investigations and legal work. Please visit wm3.org for more information on the case and make yourtax-deductible donation to the defense fund.
Disturbed is currently on tour in Australia, followed by several European dates, before they return to the States for this year’s Mayhem Festival.
According to Blabbermouth.net, the band has also soon to release the newest video off Asylum for the track “Warrior” which vocalist David Draiman describes as “a fight song for fighters.”