December 19th, 2012
Last January, TADP staff had the honor of meeting Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin, two of the West Memphis Three, who were wrongly convicted of the 1993 murders of three 8-year old Cub Scouts in West Memphis, Arkansas. They were in Nashville as part of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for the screening of the documentary about their case, West of Memphis, which Damien helped co-produce alongside Academy-Award winner Peter Jackson.
The film examines the trial, conviction, and the years of hard work that led to the release of the West Memphis Three last year. They were only teenagers when they were convicted of the murders, and Damien Echols, believed to be the ring leader, was sentenced to death, while Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley received life sentences after a tumultuous trial in which the prosecution painted them to be satanists. Subsequent DNA evidence did not connect them to the crime scene.
After nearly 20 years of claiming their innocence, and the constant work of a large community of activists, celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines, and their legal team, which included Lorri Davis, who Damien later married, the defendants were released on an Alford plea, which allowed them to maintain their innocence but also acknowledge that the state could convict them again in a retrial. They were credited for time served and released in August of 2011.
West of Memphis will debut in select theaters on December 25. Be on the lookout for it after that at a theater near you, or be sure to rent or download it when it becomes available! You can view the trailer here. Damien also recently released his memoir, “Life After Death,” and spoke about it at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville in October.
Although the West Memphis Three are free, they are still awaiting justice since they all still have a criminal conviction on their record for something they did not do. Please sign this petition calling on Arkansas Governor Mike BeeBe to pardon them.