LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CBS) As I sit at the Arkansas State Supreme court oral arguments in the Damien Echols case, I am struck by what a sad case it is. Three 8-year-old boys found naked, bound, and dead in May 1993.
Damien is the defendant in the notorious West Memphis 3 case who sits on death row. Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley are serving life sentences.
Seven justices are hearing these oral arguments.
It's always hard to read the tea leaves but, judging by their questions, it seems that at least three justices believe there are serious problems in this case.
What went wrong? Plenty. A national panic about teen satanic cults. A woefully inadequate investigation. A "confession" from a terrified mentally challenged kid who inadvertently implicates himself. But none of that matters now.
These arguments are about the grammar and wording of statutes, due diligence, interpretations. There was new DNA found that doesn't match the defendants. There are references to whether that or other evidence found in the past 17 years should be heard at a new evidentiary hearing. The state argues for finality.
There are three possible outcomes: this court can affirm, it can grant a new trial, or it can remand the case back to the circuit court for an evidentiary hearing (if forced to make a choice, that's my guess as to what will happen). That will mean more briefs, motions, hearings, delays.
If a new trial is ever granted I wonder how could it happen? Where's the probable cause to even hold these three men? I don't think we'll be hearing from the satanic expert who testified that the moon was full - yes, that was evidence in this case.
What's so sad is that no matter what happens now, we may never know what happened to those three innocent 8-year-olds.
Gail Zimmerman is a producer for 48 Hours | Mystery
ALSO ON CRIMESIDER