WEST MEMPHIS, AR (abc24.com) - The defense team for the West Memphis Three say they have new information pointing to who really killed three boys in West Memphis almost 20 years ago. The man they're now accusing, Terry Hobbs, says he's innocent.
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, the men known as 'The West Memphis Three,' were freed in August, after spending 18 years behind bars for murders they say they didn't commit. All three were convicted of murder for the 1993 deaths of 8-year-olds Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. They pleaded guilty at the time of release but maintained their innocence, a legal maneuver called an Alford plea. Now Echols' lawyer says they have new witnesses who say the murders were a "Hobbs family secret."
However, Hobbs' lawyer, Ross Sampson, said, "Three people have already pled guilty to the murders, no matter how you put a spin on it they pled guilty. I would be shocked and surprised if the Attorney General in Arkansas went forward with that."
At his release on August 19, 2011, Echols said, "We can still bring up new evidence, we can still continue the investigations we've been doing, we can still try to clear our names, the only difference is now we can do it from the outside instead of having to sit in prison and do it."
In 2007, new DNA evidence identified a hair on a shoelace used to tie one of the boys, as a possible match to Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie Branch. For years fingers have pointed at him as the real killer. Sampson told abc24.com, "It has affected his physical and mental well being."
Now, there's more. The West Memphis Three defense team says three men have undergone polygraph tests and provided sworn statements saying, Terry Hobbs' nephew, Michael Hobbs, Jr., told them his uncle murdered the boys.
According to Echols' defense team, one man said in a sworn statement that in 2007, Hobbs' nephew told him, 'You are not going to believe what my dad told me today. My Uncle Terry murdered the three little boys.'"
Another told lawyers of an exchange with the nephew in 2010, stating, "One night last winter, Michael and I were playing pool in his basement when the third friend asked about the West Memphis Three case which had been in the news. Michael responded by saying, 'My uncle killed three kids in West Memphis.' Michael was dead serious when he said this."
Lonnie Soury with the West Memphis Three defense team told abc24.com, "It's not ridiculous; these three men were brought to Washington, DC. They took a polygraph, we believe them and we believe the Hobbs family has information about the murder of these three children."
Sampson says the new information has no credibility. "This isn't actually evidence," Sampson said. "Evidence is something you can present in court, from what I'm reading, none of this is going to be admissible in court against anyone on earth."
Soury maintained, "It's another brick in the wall of innocence of these three men and another brick that should lead prosecutor Scott Ellington to reopen the investigation, look into these allegations and to do what prosecutors do in getting to the bottom of this crime." Soury added the defense team has sent witness statements and other new information they've gathered to District Attorney Scott Ellington.
Based on the new statements, the defense believes the Hobbs family knows more than what they've told police. "The question is what do they know about the murder of these three children? That's what this points to," Soury said. "I would suggest Terry Hobbs take a polygraph and supply an interview as well."
Sampson said he doesn't believe his client has taken a polygraph, but, "If the state Attorney General in Arkansas requested it, I'm sure he would. But that's the only authority in this case."
Echols' team is hopeful this will prompt Ellington to re-open the investigation.
Hobbs maintains his innocence. Speaking with abc24.com on Jan. 12th, he said this has been a nightmare and is working on a book to help clear his name.