Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dixe Chicks singer to appear at rally for WM3

Dixie Chicks singer to appear at Ark rally on 1993 WM slayings
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The lead singer of the Dixie Chicks is to be on hand to rally supporters asking for the release the three men convicted in the 1993 slaying of three boys in West Memphis.Publicists for Natalie Maines say she'll appear at an event planned for Dec. 19 at the state Capitol.

Supporters say they will unveil a long banner of postcards from around the world calling for the release of Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley, known to sympathizers as the "West Memphis Three."Echols, who celebrated his 33rd birthday this week, was sentenced to death for the slayings of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, who disappeared from their tree-lined neighborhood May 5, 1993. Baldwin and Misskelley received life sentences.

The state Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Baldwin and Echols' convictions in 1996, citing what it called substantial evidence of guilt. The court later allowed Echols' lawyers to conduct DNA tests on evidence collected from the killings.A new, wide-ranging appeal on Echols' behalf includes a report saying DNA tests found no trace of the three men. However, a report included in the filing shows much of the evidence failed to yield reportable results.A federal judge has asked a state court to examine the new claims. The state attorney general's office has said it will need time to review the new appeal.

In a letter on the band's Web site, Maines writes that she saw two HBO documentaries outlining the case and felt that the three men were "wrongly convicted.""My heart sank when I learned that the boys were now men and were still in prison. I couldn't believe it," Maines wrote, later asking for donations for their legal fund.

Alice Leeds, a spokeswoman for the campaign trying to free the men, said Maines contacted Echols' wife and asked what she could do to help the effort."We're thrilled she's showing her support in this way," Leeds said.

Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the governor likely would not be at the Capitol for the planned event. However, DeCample said governor's office staff would plan to attend the event and accept anything offered to Beebe.

This isn't the first time Maines, 33, has attached herself to a high-profile issue. In 2003 before the invasion of Iraq, she told a London audience: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Many country music stations stopped playing Dixie Chicks music. Despite that, the band went on to win five Grammys in 2006.

On the Net:Dixie Chicks: service of the Associated Press(AP)

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