Prof. Bennett Gershman comments on the “West Memphis Three”

Prof Bennett Gershman commented on the case of three convicted murderers in West Memphis, Arkansas in The Commercial Appeal as well as in his regular column on the Huffington Post.

Gershman  and co-blogger Joel Cohen wrote on the HuffPost about the “West Memphis Three,” who on August 19 had their convictions, under which they had served 18 years, thrown out–only to plead guilty to murder, be sentenced to time served and be released from jail, all while telling the judge and the rest of the world that they were innocent.

They write: “Just imagine that you are the victim’s survivor, listening to a man ostensibly ‘guilty’ of killing your loved one who has the temerity to say ‘guilty’ in open court in virtually the same breath that ‘I am actually innocent’ — as if he was crossing his fingers while uttering the word ‘guilty.’

And just imagine being the defendant who, to gain his freedom after 18 years for a crime for which he has unwaveringly claimed that he is innocent, having to publicly state that he’s guilty.

Not to mention being the judge who hears all of this and agrees to preside over what appears to all the world — probably, including himself — to be nothing less than a legal charade. And put aside those commentators from outside the system — commentators not constrained by the legal fraternity’s protocols — who try to explain to visiting Martians how American criminal justice actually works when there is no other way to mete out rough justice.”

According to the article in The Commercial Appeal, “When the state of Arkansas agreed earlier this month to release death row inmate Damien Echols and co-defendants Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, it succumbed to a secret, lavishly funded defense investigation that tapped the deep pockets of Hollywood filmmakers, actors and pop singers, yielding resources the now-retired Gitchell might only dream about.”

“I don’t know of any case like this one,” Gershman told The Commercial Appeal. “Typically, you don’t see these cases generate this kind of huge interest and attention — and certainly not huge attention from celebrities.”

He added: “They’re fortunate that they’ve been able to attract celebrities and money. Money makes a big difference in the criminal justice system.”

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