It is shocking—yet not really surprising—that West Memphis police failed to find an arrest report on Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of one of the three children murdered in 1993, as part of their investigation.
Worse, if they did find it, the report was suppressed. It was not part of the police file.
The arrest in Hot Springs, Arkansas, was entered into the national crime information database to which all police agencies have access. West Memphis police had only to search.
Assuming that they did not, the failure highlights the inattention West Memphis investigators paid to the families of the three eight-year-old victims.
It is a sad reality that most murdered children die at the hands of people they knew. Most police investigators realize that and focus their earliest and most intense efforts on the backgrounds and activities of those adults who were closest to the victims.
That did not happen in this case. But this neglect only adds to what we know about the pitiful—nay, disgraceful—performance of the WMPD in this roundly tragic case.
Who can forget the failure to track down the bloody, muddy man who was reported cleaning up in the Bojangle’s restaurant on the night of the murders, and the subsequent admission by West Memphis police that blood-stained items he left behind, which had been belatedly collected, were inexplicably “lost”?
There are too many other oversights, ommissions, and errors to try to list them here. But the cumulative effect is not lost on all of us who have bothered to examine the department’s conduct with regard to this investigation.
The trials that followed were notable for their own remarkable omissions, most significantly that of any actual evidence linking the three accused to the crime.
It is for these reasons that so many of us, around the world, the U.S., and especially here in Arkansas respond with outrage when we read, as we did today, that our state’s attorney general persists in defending the atrocity that is this case.
Today, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a statement that read like the cant that state officials have been uttering for years.
Noting that attorneys for Damien Echols had a habeas corpus petition in federal court yesterday, McDaniel said that, ”[W]hile the state will look at the new allegations and evidence objectively, it stands behind the conviction of Mr. Echols and that of his codefendants and does not anticipate a reversal of the jurys’ verdicts.”
Such a knee-jerk approach to “justice” does not do this state proud. Sooner or later someone in authority is going to have to admit that this case was botched from beginning to end.
Regrettably, it does not appear that Mr. McDaniel is the one to rise to that occasion.