1. I am an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Arkansas and maintain a private practice in Jonesboro, Arkansas. In 1993, I was appointed to represent Damien Echols in the Circuit Court of Crittendon County, Arkansas. Venue was later changed to the Circuit Court of Craighead County, Arkansas Western District, in Case No. CR 93-450 & 450A. Trial was held, and Mr. Echols was found guilty and sentenced to death.
2. Val Price, who was also appointed to represent Mr. Echols as co-counsel, and I have recently become aware of facts not known to us at the time we represented Mr. Echols that, in my opinion, would have dramatically altered the manner in which we conducted investigation, preparation, and presentation of evidence on his behalf. I have been informed that at the time Mr. Echols was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death in 1993-1994, the Social Security Administration had determined that he was 100% disabled due to mental impairments. Had I known the Social Security Administration had determined Mr. Echols to be disabled, I would have been alerted to the severity of Mr. Echolsí disability. I am familiar with the significance of Social Security Administration determinations of disability because I have represented clients in matters related to Social Security benefits and disability.
3. Had I known of the disability determination, I would have introduced it at relevant stages of the trial. A Social Security finding of disability would have offered objective evidence about the severity of Mr. Echolsí mental impairments at a date well in advance of the criminal proceedings against him. A Social Security Administration finding of disability generally has more credibility than findings in mental health evaluations that are initiated solely as result of pending legal charges. Based on my experience as a criminal defense attorney, it is my opinion that evidence about the nature and severity of Mr. Echolsí mental disability would have had a reasonable probability of altering the outcome of pre trial proceedings and guilty and penalty phase. The credibility of a Social Security determination would have made a significant impact on the manner in which Mr. Price and I represented Mr. Echols. I would have been especially concerned about the effect of Mr. Echolsí symptoms of paranoid delusions and hallucinations on his perceptions of his defense team and courtroom proceedings, his decisions about testifying, any waivers he made, and how his symptoms manifested themselves in the years before his arrest.
4. In light of the Social Security determination of mental disability, I would have seriously considered raising the issue of competency. I also would have closely monitored the investigation and preparation of a comprehensive social history to document the nature and effect of Mr. Echolsí mental impairments on his actions. I would have provided the social history to appropriate mental health professionals for them to use in their evaluation of Mr. Echols. I would have considered the results of the mental healts evaluations and social history investigation in determining what evidence to offer to rebut allegations by the government that Mr. Echols worshipped Satan and, thus, had a motive to kill the victims; to show the prejudice required for successfully seeking a severance; to support a claim that Mr. Echols was incompetent to stand trial; to select a jury; to challenge the reliability of statements made to law enforcement and lay witnesses; to establish that Mr. Echols did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to counsel when questioned by law enforcement officers prior to and following his arrest; to advise Mr. Echols about the risks and benefits of testifying in his own defense; to explain that bizarre and strange specific behaviors and actions by Mr. Echols were attributable to mental illness rather than volitional acts of Satanism; to challenge the credibility of government witnesses who were unqualified to differentiate symptoms of mental illness from purported acts of Satanism; and to support the long standing nature of mitigation factors.
5. Because neither Mr. Price nor I was aware of the Social Security Administration determination that Mr. Echols was 100% disabled due to mental impairments, the scope of the mental health investigation was limited to penalty phase proceedings. Although I was aware that Mr. Echols was not normal, I did not know that there was independent, objective evidence establishing the severity of Mr. Echolsí impairments, including the symptoms of auditory and visual hallucinations, delusional thinking, and psychotic thought processes.
6. Further Investigation of the facts surrounding the Social Security Administration determination of disability and presentation of mental health issues at Mr. Echolsí trial would have been consistent with the trial strategy Mr. Price and I adopted, i.e., that Mr. Echols was innocent and was targeted as the suspect in the homicides because of his strange behavior rather than physical evidence against him.
Under the penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States and the State of Arkanas I swear that the foregoing is true and correct and executed this 16th day of January, 2001, in the County of Craighead.