THE COURT: Let the record reflect that this is a hearing in the State of Arkansas versus Damien Echols and I -- to be quite honest, I’m not quite sure what we’re here to do.
MR. PRICE: In this case Mr. Davidson and I filed our brief with the Supreme Court for Mr. Echols back in June of this past year. During that brief we raised approximately -- almost thirty different issues on the appeal and as the Court’s aware, Supreme Court Rule 4-3 requires if a client receives a death or life sentence, for us to argue all possible issues on appeal, and we did that and included among that was five or six different death penalty related issues.
Once we filed that, Mr. Echols on his own filed a motion with the Supreme Court by letter requesting at that point that the Supreme Court not take up the issues relating to the death sentence on his appeal. And the Supreme Court --
THE COURT: And since then after you reviewed that with him, he withdrew that request.
MR. PRICE: Yes, sir. We went down -- as a matter of fact, the Supreme Court directed us to go down and talk with him and consult with him -- which we did that several times by telephone and also went down to the penitentiary and talked with him.
At that point Mr. Davidson and I filed a response with the Supreme Court stating that we had done that and had a signed document signed by Mr. Echols saying that he now wanted to withdraw that request and proceed with all issues on appeal.
The Supreme Court again ruled on the case on January 8th, 1996, and at that point basically decided that -- remanded it to this Court to make a factual determination of his competency for reasons that development of the record would be protecting the interests of the appellant and also the State in further proceedings.
THE COURT: I understand all those, and for the record, that statement is fine. My problem is, is there anything at all to indicate to the Court that Mr. Echols is not competent?
MR. PRICE: No, sir. Based on all conversations that Mr. Davidson and I have ever had with him since the conviction and also previous to that -- we are not -- we never have argued that he is incompetent to stand trial, and we’re not arguing that at this time.
THE COURT: Is there anything to even suggest it?
MR. PRICE: No, sir. When Mr. Echols filed his request on his own, it was his position at that time that he was not guilty of these crimes, but he either wanted to have the Supreme Court reverse his conviction and give him a new trial or impose the death penalty, and that was his position. And even with that, it is now his position we should argue everything on his behalf.
THE COURT: Mr. Davis.
MR. DAVIS: Your Honor, it’s the State’s position that since there is the potential down the road -- and with this type case, down the road could mean eight, nine, ten, twelve years from now -- that the issue of the defendant’s competence could be raised by some defense attorney at that juncture, and we would like the Court to inquire of Mr. Echols on the record and to make a record of the fact that he understands as to the procedures he’s followed up to this point, his attempt to waive those issues, his decision to withdraw that waiver and to proceed so that the Court is fully assured that Mr. Echols understands the significance of this.
THE COURT: I understand that. And initially that was the posture that the Court took that it would be this Court’s responsibility to determine whether or not Mr. Echols knew and understood what he was doing when he elected to waive the appeal of the death portion of the sentence.
Since then, he’s waived it. I guess we’re still in the same posture -- to determine whether or not he understands the nature of the proceedings -- if that’s a competency hearing.
But, Mr. Price, you’re telling me there’s absolutely nothing to suggest that there’s any reason to doubt his competency at this point or any point.
MR. PRICE: Yes, sir. That’s our position.
THE COURT: All right then, let the Court direct some inquiry then to Mr. Echols.
Let me just let him take the stand. Do you want to question him?
MR. PRICE: Ah --
THE COURT: For purposes of this hearing only.
MR. PRICE: We are not submitting him to any kind of cross examination as to any other issues.
THE COURT: Just to this issue, nothing else. It would be precluded from any retrial or any other proceeding against him other than for this particular matter before the Court.
MR. PRICE: Yes, sir. Judge, we’d request that the shackles be removed while he’s testifying.
THE COURT: All right. That’ll be fine.
Having been first duly sworn to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then testified as follows:
BY MR. PRICE:
Q. Will you please state your name?
A. Damien Wayne Echols.
Q. Mr. Echols, after you were convicted in this courtroom, you had requested that Mr. Davidson and I file a notice of appeal on your behalf. Is that correct?
Q. Once we did that, we prepared an abstract of testimony summarizing the entire trial testimony -- approximately eleven hundred pages worth -- and you were sent a copy of that. Is that correct?
Q. And also, once we did that, we filed a brief on your behalf and argued as many different points -- approximately thirty different points on your appeal. Is that correct?
Q. We sent you a copy of this appeal also?
Q. In that appeal there were -- a majority of the issues dealt with either getting a new trial on your behalf and if so, what evidence would be admissible at a new trial?
Q. But there were some additional points that we argued dealing with the death sentence that you received. Is that correct?
Q. And once we filed this, at that point you sent, I believe, some type of letter to the Arkansas Supreme Court back in June of this past year?
Q. During that letter you had requested that we not argue and that the Supreme Court not decide the death penalty issues at that point.
Q. Once you had sent that, that was sent without Mr. Davidson’s and my knowledge?
Q. Once they got that, they had made a ruling for us to remand this back to this Court for the judge to make some questions about that.
Q. Since that time, Mr. Davidson and I have been to the penitentiary and talked with you in person, and we’ve also talked several times on the telephone and also some letters?
Q. All right. And at this point is it your desire -- well, what is your desire as far as us arguing the death penalty issues on your appeal?
A. Argue everything.
Q. Argue everything.
Q. We have talked with you about that if we purposely or accidentally did not argue certain issues in the state court, then the federal court might not hear those later on?
Q. Okay. And we also discussed with you -- you are obviously -- are you aware of what is going on at this point?
Q. Has anybody -- has Mr. Davidson and I or anyone pressured you into changing your mind about this?
Q. It’s still your position at this point that you are requesting the Supreme Court to hear all the evidence on the appeal, and we are requesting -- I mean we’re hopeful that the Court will give us a new trial -- reverse your conviction and give you a new trial?
Q. Do you -- being in the penitentiary you’re not under the influence of any kind of drugs or alcohol?
Q. This is something that -- you have had a chance to reflect on this decision. Have you also talked with your parents some about this decision?
Q. Are you knowingly and intelligently agreeing to at this point request that we argue everything on your behalf?
MR. PRICE: That’s all I have unless the Court has some questions.
THE COURT: Do you have any questions, Mr. Davis?
MR. DAVIS: I don’t have any questions.
THE COURT: Have you discussed with your attorneys all possible defenses including diminished capacity and insanity or any defense of that nature?
THE DEFENDANT: Um-hum.
THE COURT: Have they explained to you the availability of those potential defenses?
THE DEFENDANT: Um-hum.
THE COURT: Do you understand them?
THE DEFENDANT: Um-hum.
THE COURT: Do you fully and completely understand all of the proceedings at this time?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: Anything else?
MR. PRICE: No, your Honor. No other questions.
THE COURT: Mr. Davidson and Mr. Price, the Court wants to know -- and in your course of involvement with Mr. Echols which has been rather extensive over the period of the last eighteen months to two years -- is that correct --
MR. PRICE: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: -- About that long? Has anything developed in that association with him that would suggest or in any way open an avenue for a diminished capacity or insanity defense in his behalf? Anything at all?
MR. PRICE: No, your Honor.
MR. DAVIDSON: No, your Honor.
THE COURT: Are you both absolutely certain and convinced in that long association with him that he’s as competent as any client you have represented?
MR. PRICE: Yes, your Honor. Specifically, that’s based on my fourteen years of law practice and over sixty criminal jury trials and including -- I’ve had several of those trials in which I argued either diminished capacity or the insanity defense or argued that my client was not competent.
THE COURT: All right. This Court makes the following finding: that Damien Echols is competent and was competent during the course of his trial and that he’s voluntarily and knowingly and intelligently withdrawn his request to waive the punishment aspect of the previous trial -- which I might add was mandatory anyway. I’m not sure what the effect of a waiver of that would have been anyway. But the rules of the Arkansas Supreme Court are that all matters are to be pursued on a capital case. So I’m not even sure it could have been waived if he chose to do so.
MR. PRICE: That was our problem with it.
THE COURT: That finding is the only thing I can make at this point. I don’t see any reason why the appeal shouldn’t proceed immediately.
MR. DAVIS: Nothing further.
MR. PRICE: Nothing further.
THE COURT: The Court has made a determination that Mr. Echols is competent to make any rational decisions about the conduct of his appeal and is capable of rationally and intelligently discussing the facts and circumstances with his attorneys and to aid and assist them in the completion of the appeal of his case.
And you’ll need to fix an order that reflects that.
MR. PRICE: All right.
THE COURT: He’ll be remanded to the custody of the sheriff for transportation.