November 27, 2007
‘Can an innocent person be convicted?’
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Written by: Randy Kemp of The Sun-Times
Next May will mark the 15th anniversary of one of the most controversial crimes in recent Arkansas history. It wasn’t just the murder of three young boys, but the trappings of witchcraft/devil worship, mind control, mutilation and other salacious factors along a muddy ditch over at West Memphis. And people are still talking about it. And interested in it. And lecturing on it. If you are among those for which such crimes hold a continuing fascination, or maybe your are just captivated by all things related to the judicial system or law enforcement procedure, you can get your next “fix” right here at Heber Springs on Tuesday, Nov. 27. Dan Stidham, the attorney who was appointed to represent Jessie Misskelley, will present a case study on the West Memphis Three murders in the Entergy Room at ASU-Heber Springs. He will make his presentation at 1 p.m., with time afterward for Q&A. Admission is free to the public, but if you don’t call Carol Johnson for a reservation, you might have to stand. (Call Carol at 501-362-1205).Stidham, who will transition from attorney to fulltime district judge in January, has been personally involved in this case for over 14 years. He hails from Paragould, just up the road from West Memphis, and he is coming at the invitation of Dr. Dennis Devine, who teaches business courses on the faculty at Cleburne County’s community college.A few weeks after the 8-year-old boys’ murders, police arrested three teenagers after a jarring confession from one of the teen boys claiming that the killings were related to satanic cult activity.Stidham, who holds that his client, Jessie Misskelley Jr. falsely confessed, calls the case a twisted maze. He plans to present a factual overview of the case and discuss the legal issues involved in the case, including police interrogation techniques, false confessions, satanic panic, criminal profiling, and legal lessons to be learned.Dr. Devine of Heber Springs, who also holds a law degree, provided some further information about next Tuesday’s guest speaker:During the 14 years of the investigation, Stidham consulted with some of the world’s leading forensic experts. The case was the subject of a 1996 HBO documentary film entitled Paradise Lost. A sequel to this film, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, was released in spring 2000. Stidham's work on the case resulted in several appearances on national television including the NBC Nightly News, MSNBC and Court TV's Prime Time Justice. In 1996 his experience in the case was the subject of a cover story in the Arkansas Times magazine. The story has drawn the attention of author Mara Leveritt, who wrote a book called Devil 's Knot telling the story of the murder.So, can an innocent person be convicted? Dan Stidham is certainly convinced of it, and he will present his fascinating and compelling case here on Tuesday. We’d suggest you give Carol a call and get on the list for a good seat. Additional Information about Dan Stidham's presentation can be found on his website, here.