Circuit Judge Tonya Alexander ruled today in West Memphis that Damien Echols could not obtain evidence from the West Memphis Three murder case for enhanced DNA testing.

A release from a spokesman for Echols:

After two years of lies and unnecessary delays  by  the state of Arkansas that prevented the West Memphis 3’s Damien Echols from conducting state-of-the- art DNA testing on the evidence in the murder of three children in 1993, a court today ruled that Echols did not have the right to test forensic evidence.

The prosecution had argued, and the judge agreed that only those who were still incarcerated could test for DNA. This conclusion is based on the flawed assumption that the only consequence that matters from a conviction is its sentence. Hundreds of wrongfully convicted have sought relief after they were paroled and were “free.”

According to Arkansas’ DNA statute, “Except when direct appeal is available, a person convicted of a crime may make a motion for the performance of . . . DNA testing, or other tests which may become available through advances in technology to demonstrate the person’s actual innocence.” Ark Code Section 16-112-202

Lonnie Soury, member of Echols’ defense team and wrongful conviction expert, said, “We are extremely disappointed in the Judge’s decision which was based upon a narrow interpretation of the law and one that failed to allow justice to be served. All we asked is for the right to seek to identify the DNA of the real killer (s). We will certainly appeal the decision and are confident that the Arkansas Supreme Court will see it differently. The sad fact is that those responsible for the murders of three children in 1993 will breathe a sigh of relief now that Arkansas is once again in their corner.”

Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were convicted of the slayings of three West Memphis children —  Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore.  Echols received a death sentence. A long campaign for their innocence ended in  a 2011 negotiated deal in which the three asserted innocence, but accepted their convictions and were immediately released from prison. Discovery of evidence held by West Memphis police and advancements in DNA testing led to a long court battle by Echols to examine the evidence.

Former Arkansas Times senior editor Mara Leveritt, who wrote books about the case that were important in the fight to free the three, reported on proceedings today on Twitter.