Sunday, January 20, 2008

Free the West Memphis Three

A few years ago, after reading Margaret Cho's excellent screed I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, I was prompted by a mention in Cho's book to rent the video, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996). I was intrigued by the documentary that told the story of three young men (teenagers at the time they were accused) who were arrested, tried and convicted of the horrific murders of three eight year old boys in the woods near a working class neighborhood known as Robin Hood Hills in West Memphis, Arkansas. The initial documentary was followed up four years later by a sequel entitled Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000).

After watching both of these films and doing a bit or research on my own, it became clear to me that these three young men had been falsely accused and convicted on little more than bias against the dark clothes they wore, the dark side of life that fascinated them (as it does so many teenagers), the music that they listened to, and the general perception in a very narrow-minded community that they were outsiders. Although this crime occured back in 1993, there is reason to reconsider this case anew, as DNA analysis of evidence, not available at the time of the trial, has shown conclusively that no DNA from any of the three accused was found on the bodies or at the scene of the crime.

Attorneys for Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin have filed a motion for a new hearing. The judge should rule on this motion by February 15, 2008 and is expected to set a date for a new hearing sometime this spring. I recommend that anyone with an interest in justice, rent and watch both of the films mentioned above and read Damien Echols book, Almost Home My Life Story vol. 1. And if you feel so moved, you might want to send a contribution to the Damien Echols Defense Fund. (Damien Echols is on Death Row in Arkansas for this crime that he did not commit, while both of his co-defendants are incarcerated, also in Arkansas - Jason Baldwin is serving life without parole and Jessie Misskelley is serving life plus 40 years).

Larry King interviews Damien Echols, (December 19, 2007) CNN, with a link to the transcripts of the interview.

Free the West Memphis Three.

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