Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lawyers, group reconcile WM3 funds

Lawyers, group reconcile WM3 funds

West Memphis Evening Times


January 25, 2008

After accusations of unequal funding for the "West Memphis Three," lawyers for the three men convicted for the murders of three West Memphis boys announced Wednesday that future contributions to the defense fund would be used to "meet the needs of all our clients... "

The announcement followed the formation of the West Memphis Three Innocence Project, a non-profit organization formed to address a "lack of openness and fairness in fund distribution" in the defense fund, according to the group's website.

But Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin, two of the three men convicted for the murder of three West Memphis boys, released statements saying they would not accept funds from the new group.

Echols, whose wife Lorri Davis helps run the legal defense fund for the three men, wrote that the new group's founders were attempting to "further their own agendas by making use of my name, pain and misfortune as well as that of Jason and Jessie."

"At a time when I should be preparing for the upcoming fight against the charges made a against me, I am having to deal with the actions and accusations made by this WM3IP group," Echols wrote in a message to the group. "I do not think the word 'supporter' can be applied to any involved with the WM3IP website."

The WM3IP group includes Mara Leveritt, author of the book "Devil's Knot," which detailed the murders.

Also on the board are Arkansas filmmaker Kelly Duda, University of Central Arkansas teacher Lanette Grate and Amanda Lamb, a founding member of ARWAR, an Arkansas-based group fighting injustice in the courts.

Duda, the group's president, wrote Thursday that if arrangements were made to make fundraising with the defense fund more "open and verifiable," the WM3IP group would focus on supporting and cooperating with the original group.

But if one or more of the three men does not receive equal access to the defense funds, the group will resume a mission to "ensure openness and fairness... " Duda wrote.

"In that what is done, not what is said, remains the 'bottom line,' we look forward to seeing the changes that the lawyers are promising implemented soon," he wrote.