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 It took a jury 13 days to convict and sentence Damien Echols to death for the 1993 slayings of three second-graders.

Now, nearly 15 years later, Echols is hoping to convince the judge who oversaw his original case to grant him a new trial. His attorneys say DNA tests clear him and the two others in prison for the crime.

Attorneys for Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, known to supporters as the "West Memphis Three," were to appear Wednesday before Craighead County Circuit Judge David Burnett, along with the case's original prosecutor.

Together, the lawyers and judge will lay out a schedule for a three-week slate of hearings in September on DNA evidence and claims of juror misconduct in their 1994 trials over the murders of 8-year-olds Steven Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore.

Burnett has barred both prosecutors and defense lawyers from speaking with reporters about the case, saying he was tired of reading about it in the newspapers. It dominated newspapers and television sets throughout Arkansas and the nation after police found the three boys' water-soaked bodies in a drainage ditch a day after their May 5, 1993, disappearance from West Memphis.

The boys' hands were bound to their legs by shoelaces and their bodies showed signs of suffering severe beatings. One boy's body had been mutilated. A month passed and the community posted a $30,000 reward before police arrested the three teens. Misskelley told investigators how he watched Baldwin and Echols sexually assault and beat two of the boys as he ran down another trying to escape.

A separate jury gave Misskelley, who refused to testify against the other two, a life-plus-40-year sentence for the killings. Baldwin received a life sentence without parole after standing trial with Echols, who preened at times during the trial and quoted Shakespeare to reporters. Echols was sentenced to die.


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