MARION, AR (abc24.com) - Pam Hicks doesn’t believe much of anything people in the justice system tell her. Her son Stevie Branch was only eight years old when he and two of his pals were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas almost twenty years ago. She wants police and prosecutors to let her see all the evidence they had gathered in the trials of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, who were convicted of the murders. Last year the state allowed the three to take what is called an Alford plea. They pleaded guilty to the murders even though they say they didn’t do them. All three were released from prison after being incarcerated almost twenty years.
Pam Hicks wants to see the evidence. “I’m concerned about my son’s stuff is why I want to see it,” she says. “For God’s sake, I’m a United States citizen of America, and they’re violating my Constitutional rights when they tell me I can’t see it, when every Tom, Dick and Harry, Mary, Jane and Sue already have.”
Hicks and John Mark Byers, father of victim Christopher Byers, are suing the state. They say since the cases are closed, they should have the right to see all the evidence under the Arkansas Freedom of Information law. They don’t believe Crittenden County prosecutor Scott Ellington has opened a new investigation, as an assistant prosecutor claimed in court.
Lawyer Ken Swindle represents Byers and Hicks in their lawsuit. He has questions about claims of a new investigation as well. “We have the prosecutor saying both things,” Swindle says. “He says it’s a closed file (case) and now he says it’s an open investigation.”
If you consider what happened to Christopher Byers, Stevie Branch and Michael Moore 19 years ago, maybe you’d understand. If you were a parent, sat through a trial where three men were found guilty of the murders, only to be released from prison because prosecutors think they made a mistake, maybe you can understand the rage that builds inside Christopher Byers' dad.
John Mark Byers limped over to reporters after just getting back surgery two days earlier. “I’m still supposed to be in the hospital,” he says, “…but the Clydesdale Budweiser Horses couldn’t keep me away.”
Byers has no faith in the justice system. “I will fight for justice,” he says. “I am extremely grateful to my lawyer Ken Swindle to have the testicular fortitude to stand up against bullyhood, homegrown, backwoods, inbred politics that are bull****.”
While all of this goes on inside a Crittenden County courtroom, outside Stevie Branch’s biological father says he’s tired of people making movies and money and getting famous while talking about his son - who never got the chance to see his ninth birthday. “It’s time for all of this to stop,” says Steve Branch, “…and for people to quit standing on my dead son’s shoulders, trying to get to the limelight or make money off of him.”
A judge will issue a written ruling within the next several days.