Justices on the Arkansas Supreme Court sharply questioned the state attorney general's office Thursday, asking what damage could be done if a judge examined evidence that allegedly exonerates an inmate sentenced to death for killing three Cub Scouts in 1993.
"What harm is there in allowing (inmate Damien Echols) to present all evidence?" Special Justice Jeff Priebe asked senior assistant attorney general David Raupp.
Raupp responded: "The harm is to the criminal justice system's interest in finality and the work that gets done in evaluating whether justice can be served."
Echols, 35, has been on Arkansas' death row since he was 20 years old, sentenced to death for the 1993 killings of 8-year-olds Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. He's maintained his innocence since his arrest and argues that he would be acquitted if retried on the charges.
The state Supreme Court upheld Echols' conviction in 1996, and Echols filed a new appeal after the court granted him permission to test DNA evidence from the crime scene, where the boys were found beaten, nude and hog-tied.