|Updated: 1/20/2012 6:05 pm
||Published: 1/20/2012 5:52 pm
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Defense attorneys for Damien Echols claim they have new evidence that implicates someone else for the murder of three West Memphis boys. But the attorney for Terry Hobbs, stepfather of Stevie Branch, tells FOX16 it’s nothing more than a publicity stunt.
Attorneys and advocates for the West Memphis 3, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, make no secret they want their story in the limelight to try and get the men exonerated.
Damien Echols defense team claims Terry Hobbs nephew Michael Hobbs Jr. told 3 friends "my uncle Terry murdered those three little boys."
A press release from Echols defense team states the three unnamed witnesses were polygraphed about what Michael Hobbs Jr. told them.
John Hardin with Arkansas Take Action, an advocacy group for the WM3, says the new developments aren’t enough to say Terry Hobbs is responsible.
"It is enough to say that there is a lot of suspicion that should be cast on him and he should be looked at with scrutiny which he never was in the original investigation," Hardin says.
Memphis attorney Ross Sampson represents Terry Hobbs.
"This sounds almost like more of a publicity stunt,” Sampson says. "This isn't actually evidence. Evidence is something you can present in court. From what I'm reading, none of this would be admissible against anybody on planet earth."
Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley entered an Alford plea in August 2011 allowing them to maintain their innocence, get out of prison, but plead guilty to murdering West Memphis 8-year old cub scouts Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers in 1993.
"Yes, at some point, our hope is that we can bring enough evidence to the state where the state will say, ok, we're going to open up some of our own resources to really dig back into this," Hardin says.
But Sampson says he would be shocked if the state pursues any of these claims against his client, Terry Hobbs.
"And I would guess, well let me put it to you this way, I'm sure the authorities from Arkansas have not contacted Mr. Hobbs about any of this," Sampson says.
Scott Ellington, prosecutor for the 2nd judicial district has not contacted FOX16 on his reaction to the defense team claims.
Ellington agreed after the Alford plea to allow the AR State Crime Lab to test defense team DNA evidence to see if it hit on anyone in CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).
However, Ellington has never publicly said he would spend state money investigating what the defense admits is hearsay against Terry Hobbs.
WM3 Defense Team Press Release
(Mountain Home, Arkansas – January 20, 2012) Terry Hobbs’ nephew, Michael Hobbs Jr., allegedly told his friends “my uncle Terry murdered those three little boys,” according to declarations under penalty of perjury recently given to Damien Echols’ defense team. The three new witnesses were polygraphed about what they stated Michael Hobbs, Jr. told them.
“One day Michael picked us up in his truck. He was very quiet and upset. Michael then said to us, ‘you are not going to believe what my dad told me today. My Uncle Terry murdered the three little boys.’ According to Michael, his dad called this ‘The Hobbs Family Secret’ and he asked us to keep it a secret and not tell anyone.”
Another witness stated, “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.”
The three little boys referenced in the declarations were found brutally murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. DNA consistent with Terry Hobbs, stepfather of victim Stevie Branch, was later discovered in the knot of a shoelace used to restrain victim Michael Moore. Three eyewitnesses have also provided sworn statements that they saw Terry Hobbs with the three children on the day of the murders, immediately before they disappeared. Terry Hobbs has maintained that he never saw the three boys the day they were murdered.
A third witness stated that he was at Michael Hobbs Jr’s home in 2003 or 2004 when he was told by Hobbs Jr. that the two of them could not go down to the basement to play pool because Michael Hobbs Sr. was down there having a conversation with Hobbs Jr.’s uncle. The witness said that he “ listened with Michael Jr. at the top of the stairs. I heard two men talking. One appeared to be very upset even crying and he said ‘I am sorry, I regret it.’ The other man was trying to console him and said, ‘You are in the clear, no one thinks you are a suspect, those guys are already in prison.’”
Echols’ attorney, Stephen Braga of Ropes & Gray, said: “This is critical new information which reveals that the people closest to Terry Hobbs, his family members, may know much more about Terry’s involvement in the West Memphis Three case than they have ever acknowledged. If this is the Hobbs Family Secret, then what a horrific cost that secrecy has imposed on the lives of so many people – perhaps most significantly Pam Hobbs who deserves to know what really happened to Stevie on the night of the murders, as do the Byers and Moore families. With the secret now out, let’s hope that someone in the Hobbs family has the heart, the soul and the courage to come forward to tell the truth directly. In the meantime, I have given our investigative materials concerning these new witnesses – along with other related information - to District Attorney Scott Ellington for his review and action.”
The new witnesses came forward after seeing a recording of the CBS News 48 Hours special on the West Memphis 3 case. At the end of that broadcast, attorney Stephen Braga was asked what’s next in the effort to gain exoneration for the three after their plea deal. He responded: “Hopefully, some day we will find that smoking gun, that key piece of inculpatory DNA or a deathbed confession or a witness will come forward and say, "You know, this is really what happened."
Hearing those words moved the new witnesses to contact the West Memphis 3 Confidential Tip Line just a few weeks ago. The new witnesses were then interviewed by the Echols’ defense team, signed declarations under penalty of perjury and passed polygraph examinations concerning what they say Michael Hobbs Jr. told them.
The Confidential Tip Line number is (501) 256-1775.
2003/2004 – Michael Hobbs, jr. and friend listen to two men talking in basement.
Michael Hobbs and Terry Hobbs.
2007/8 – Michael Hobbs tells two friends about Hobbs Family Secret.
2007/2008 – Friend tells mother of revelations. Mother signs sworn statement to details.
2009 – Two of three men who came forward were arrested. Michael Hobbs jr. provides evidence against them.
2010 – Michael Hobbs jr. in his home with two other friends, tells them his uncle killed those boys in West Memphis 3 case
December 11, 2011 – Call to tip line about new evidence.
December 16, 2011 – Three men come to D.C. to meet attorney Steve Braga and Lonie Soury. Sign affidavits and are polygraphed
January 19, 2012 - Materials sent to Craighead County Prosecutor Scott Ellington.