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Damien Echols says prosecutor refusing to cooperate with new DNA testing

Damien Echols said new DNA testing is being stalled by an Arkansas prosecutor that could lead to his innocence in the West Memphis murder of three boys in 1994.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — (Editor's Note: The attached video is from a Dec. 2021 report.)

Damien Echols claims the Crittenden County Prosecutor Keith Chrestman is refusing "to cooperate with new DNA testing."

In 1994, Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were charged and convicted of the murders of three boys in West Memphis. 

In 2011, 20-years later, all three men walked free on an Alford plea that essentially stated that they maintained their innocence in the crime, but claimed the prosecution had enough evidence to convict them.

But the case has still seen its fair share of back-and-forth, even now. 

In a tweet sent Tuesday morning, Echols said, "The prosecutor in Arkansas has refused to cooperate with new DNA testing. He says if we want it done, we'll have to fight for it in court."

This comes only a month after attorneys Echols' attorneys found evidence that was thought to be destroyed, including shoelaces used to tie the boys up. 

"We waited 18 months from the time the former prosecutor agreed to allow us to test this evidence. It's outrageous," said Lonnie Soury, a member of Echols's defense team.

Chrestman asked Echols' legal team to file a request for the evidence to be tested through the courts... something they didn't expect and still don't understand.

"Why in the world after 18-months to find this evidence would the prosecutor ask us to go through this formality when it's unnecessary," asked Soury.

We reached out to the prosecuting attorney's office with questions, but haven't heard back. 

Despite that, Soury said the Echols' defense is working to file the prosecutor's request involving the newly discovered evidence.

In 2021, Echols claimed the West Memphis Police Department didn't comply with requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act and that the department could have destroyed evidence that would've led to his innocence.

"We are pleased that the evidence is intact," Echols' attorney Patrick Benca said later in a news release. 

Now, with the recovery of the evidence, Echols' legal team is working to get it tested.

"We are planning to move ahead and test this evidence using the latest DNA technology available to hopefully identify the real killer(s) of the three children in 1993, and exonerate Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley,” said Benca.

In December, the West Memphis police chief resigned the same week this new evidence was discovered. The city said his resignation had nothing to do with the case.

Now, while a search committee finds a new chief, the city has promoted an officer to assistant chief who is currently taking over the chief duties.

We will update this article with more information as it becomes available.