AFFIDAVIT OF VAL PRICE


I, Val Price, declare as follows:

1. I am an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Arkansas and serve as the Chief Public Defender for the Second Judicial District in 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. I have recently become aware of facts not known to me at the time I represented Mr. Echols that, in my opinion, would have dramatically altered the manner in which I 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 and its potential relevance to legal proceedings. I am familiar with the significance of Social Security Administration determinations of disability because my former law partner focused a good portion of his practice on social security law and benefits.

3. Had I known of the disability determination, I would have considered, investigated, and presented the nature, severity, and consequences of the substantial mental impairments suffered by Mr. Echols at relevant stages of the trial. Based on my experience, training, and practice, I believe that incorporating evidence about the nature and severity of Mr. Echolsí mental disability would have had a reasonable probability of altering the outcome of the guilt/innocence and penalty phases of the trial. Every aspect of my representation of Mr. Echols would have been affected. I would have developed a different relationship with Mr. Echols and taken a much more active role in determining if Mr. Echls was capable of meaningfully participating in his trial. Cases of doubted competence are resource intensive, and I would have used my time differently in preparing Mr. Echolsí case. I would have weighed with skepticism Mr. Echolsí decisions and judgments about testifying, about allowing cameras in the courtroom, and about how to conduct himself in the courtroom. I would have monitored Mr. Echolsí behavior, responses to our ongoing investigation, reactions to courtroom proceedings, and relationship with our defense team members.

4. There is a reasonable probability that a Social Security determination of mental disability would have led me to consider raising the issue of competency. If so, in Arkansas, Mr. Echols would have been sent to the state forensic unit first for a competency hearing. Depending on the findings of the state forensic evaluation, I might have requested an independent psychiatric evaluation to determine Mr. Echolsí mental state and its relevancy to numerous legal claims in the guilt/innocence as well as penalty phases of the trial.

5. Had I been aware of the Social Security Disability determination, I would have closely monitored the investigation and preparation of a thorough social history to identify the origin and effect of the mental impairments on Mr. Echolsí behavior and functioning in his family and community. I would have considered the results of the psychiatric examination and social history investigation in determining what evidence to offer in proceedings related to seeking a severance of the trial from Mr. Echolsí co-defendant; Mr. Echolsí competency to stand trial; jury selection; the reliability of statements made to law enforcement and lay witnesses; whether or not Mr. Echols knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel when questioned by law enforcement officers prior to and following his arrest; the advisability of Mr. Echolsí testifying in his own defense; whether specific behaviors and actions by Mr. Echols were attributable to mental illness rather than volitional acts of Satanism; whether the governmentís witnesses on occultism were qualified to address symptoms of mental illness; and mitigating factors to be presented at penalty phase.

6. Because I was unaware of the Social Security Administration determination that Mr. Echols was 100% disabled due to mental impairments, I limited mental health investigation and evidence to penalty phase proceedings and limited the scope of the psychological evaluation conducted at my instrcution to mitigation related themes. I was not aware that Mr. Echols suffered auditory and visual hallucinations, grandiose and paranoid delusions, and psychotic thought processes. 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. At no point during my representation of Mr. Echols was I aware of the severity of his mental impairments.

7. Investigation and presentation of mental health issues at Mr. Echolsí trial would have been perfectly consistent with the strategy and approach I took at trial, i.e., that Mr. Echols was innocent and became the suspect in the homicides because of his strange behavior rather than forensic evidence against him. Knowledge of Mr. Echolsí mental health history would have helped explain his behavior and would have supported his assertion of innocence.

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 16 day of January, 2001, in the County of Craighead.

Val Price (signature)
Val Price