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Mystery hearing set for 'West Memphis Three'

By the CNN Wire Staff
Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin were convicted of killing three West Memphis boys in 1993.
Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin were convicted of killing three West Memphis boys in 1993.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new hearing for the "West Memphis Three" is set for Friday
  • Authorities are tight-lipped about the subject, citing a gag order
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(CNN) -- An Arkansas court has called a short-notice hearing Friday for three men convicted of killing three West Memphis boys in 1993, with authorities tight-lipped about the nature of the proceeding in a closely watched case.

All three of the men -- Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin, dubbed the "West Memphis Three" -- are expected to attend the session in Jonesboro. The state attorney general's office said it could not comment on the matter, citing a gag order on participants in the case.

Stephanie Harris, a spokeswoman for the state court system, said the convicts would appear before a judge in chambers before the public hearing is held.

Echols was sentenced to death and Misskelley and Baldwin were given life sentences in the May 1993 slayings of second-graders Steven Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers. The boys' bodies were mutilated and left in a ditch, hogtied with their own shoelaces.

Prosecutors argued that Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin, then teenagers, were driven by satanic ritual and that Echols had been the ringleader. But DNA testing that was not available at the time failed to link any of the men to the crime, and the state Supreme Court ruled in November that all three could present new evidence to the trial court in an effort to clear them.

The case has drawn national attention, with actor Johnny Depp and singer Eddie Vedder trying to rally support for the men's release.

CNN's Nick Valencia and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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