Judge rejects new evidence testing in West Memphis 3 case

FILE – In this Jan. 22, 2012, file photo, documentary subject Damien Echols, from the film “West of Memphis,” poses for a portrait in Park City, Utah. Echols, who spent nearly 18 years on Arkansas’ death row before he and two others were freed in 2011 as part of a plea deal in which they maintained their innocence, requested to allow DNA testing of evidence from the 1993 crime scene where three 8-year-old boys were found slain near West Memphis.

(AP Photo/Carlo Allegri, File)

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge on Thursday rejected a request to allow new genetic testing of crime scene evidence from the killing of three boys nearly 30 years ago.

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

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

An attorney for Echols said he planned to appeal the judge’s decision.

Alexander cited an Arkansas law that requires those petitioning for new DNA testing to still be in prison, the newspaper reported.

No DNA evidence connected the three men to the killing of Christopher Byers, Steve Branch and Michael Moore. Attorneys for the men have said that more advanced genetic testing equipment might detect fragments of DNA that weren’t detectable when the evidence was first examined. The evidence sought for retesting includes clothing and shoelaces that were used to tie the boys.