A juror’s affidavit: ‘Damien Echols seemed to me to be Satan walking alive’

‘Satan walking alive’

On June 7, 2004, one of the jurors in the trial of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin signed an affidavit that will become a key piece of evidence at the evidentiary hearing in December. The affidavit supports other evidence of juror misconduct at the men’s trial and illustrates the effectiveness of prosecutors’ contentions that the murders were committed as part of an “occult ritual.”

[private]In the affidavit, Peggy Vanhoozer Nicholson said she kept notes throughout the trial and during the jurors’ deliberations. At one point in her notes, she said, she wrote the word “Satanic” regarding Baldwin. She said she then crossed out that word and wrote “follower.”

On the line above those words, Nicholson said: “I wrote ‘J. Misk. State.’ That was my shorthand for ‘Jessie Misskelley statement.”

The statement Misskelley made to police formed the basis of his conviction at a trial that was recently concluded. The statement was not, however, supposed to be used or referred to in the subsequent trial of Echols and Baldwin because Misskelley refused to appear at that trial and testify in support of it. Evidence that the jury foreman improperly discussed Misskelley’s statement during jury deliberations at the Echols/Baldwin trial will be presented by defense attorneys as part of the reason they are seeking new trials for the men.

Nicholson provided attorneys with her notes from the Echols/Baldwin trial. In her affidavit explaining the notes she said: “In my view, based on my own background and beliefs, Damien Echols seemed to me to be Satan walking alive.”

Prosecutors at the Echols/Baldwin trial presented Satanic involvement as the pair’s motive for murdering three West Memphis children in 1993. At one point, deputy prosecuting attorney pointed to Echols and said, “You see inside that person, and you look inside there, and there’s not a soul in there.”

(On a personal note: The segments shown here are enlargements from photos of Nicholson’s affidavit, which was provided by the Arkansas Supreme Court in response to a Freedom of Information request. I appreciate Nicholson’s  integrity in providing her statement and notes. That quality has not been seen enough in this case.) [/private]  

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