[Marxism] HBO documentary leads to freeing of West Memphis Three

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 19 11:51:19 MDT 2011

(As I have stated on numerous occasions, HBO sets the standard for 
fearless, groundbreaking documentaries of the sort that public 
television supposedly was created to air.)


Filmmakers To Change Ending As Decision Is Handed-Down
Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelly set free

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory set to air on HBO January 2012

Jonesboro, Ark (August 19, 2011) –Critically acclaimed HBO 
Documentary Paradise Lost  filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce 
Sinofsky were in court today to witness the stunning conclusion in 
which, after 18 years in prison, Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and 
Jessie Misskelly, known as the West Memphis Three, were set free.

The award-winning HBO documentary series Paradise Lost: The Child 
Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) and Paradise Lost 2: 
Revelations (2000) spawned a worldwide movement to free the West 
Memphis Three for wrongful murder convictions.  Set to debut on 
HBO in January 2012, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory will have its 
theatrical premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival 
with a number of prestigious festival dates to follow this Fall. 
This film tells the entire story from the arrests in 1993 to the 
growing movement, through the entire appeals process and the 
uncovering of new evidence, concluding with their release.

As Damien Echols notes in the film, if not for the Paradise Lost 
documentaries, “…these people would have murdered me, swept this 
under the rug, and I wouldn't be anything but a memory right now."

On May 5, 1993, the bodies of three eight-year-old boys were found 
next to a muddy creek in the wooded Robin Hood Hills area of West 
Memphis, Arkansas.  A month later, three teenagers, Jason Baldwin, 
Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelly, were arrested, accused and 
convicted of brutally raping, mutilating and killing the boys. 
Fraught with innuendoes of devil worship, allegations of coerced 
confessions and emotionally charged statements the case was one of 
the most sensational in state history.  The films sparked a 
national debate regarding the innocence or guilt of the West 
Memphis 3.

With the support of HBO, the filmmakers have stuck with the story 
over an 18 year period making these compelling films in order to 
continue to shed light, raise awareness and spur debate about the 
events that transpired at that time and in subsequent years after 
the convictions.

“Eighteen years and three films ago we started this journey to 
document the terrible murders of three innocent boys and the 
subsequent circus that followed the arrests and convictions of 
Baldwin, Echols and Misskelly”, said Director and Producer Joe 
Berlinger.   “To see our work culminate in the righting of this 
tragic miscarriage of justice is more than a filmmaker could ask 
for.  Added co-director Bruce Sinofsky:  "Today, we along with HBO 
are humbled to be a part of this remarkable outcome.”

Premiering at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, Paradise Lost: The 
Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills went on to win many accolades 
after its HBO broadcast, including receiving Emmy and Peabody 
Awards, a DGA nomination and was named Best Documentary by the 
National Board of Review.

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is directed and produced by Joe 
Berlinger. Co-directed and produced by Bruce Sinofsky. Edited by 
Alyse Ardell Spiegel; Director of Photography Bob Richman and 
producer/second unit director Jonathan Silberberg. Featuring songs 
by Metallica.  For HBO: supervising producer, Nancy Abraham; 
executive producer, Sheila Nevins.


NY Times August 19, 2011
Deal Frees ‘West Memphis Three’ in Arkansas

JONESBORO, Ark. — Three men convicted of killing three 8-year-old 
boys in a notorious 1993 murder case were freed from jail on 
Friday, after a complicated legal maneuver that allowed them to 
maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors had 
enough evidence to convict them.

A district court judge declared that the three men — Damien W. 
Echols, 36, Jason Baldwin, 34, and Jessie Misskelley Jr., 36, 
known as the West Memphis Three — who have been in prison since 
their arrest in 1993, had served the time for their crime. The 
judge also levied a 10-year suspended sentence on each of the men.

With his release Friday, Mr. Echols became the highest-profile 
death row inmate to be released in recent memory.

The agreement, known as an Alford plea, does not result in a full 
exoneration; some of the convictions stand, though the men did not 
admit guilt. The deal came five months before a scheduled hearing 
was to held to determine whether the men should be granted a new 
trial in light of DNA evidence that surfaced in the past few 
years. None of their DNA has been found in tests of evidence at 
the scene. The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the new hearing in 
November, giving new life to efforts to exonerate the three men.

In May 1993, the bodies of the boys, Christopher Byers, Steve 
Branch and James Michael Moore, were found in a drainage ditch in 
a wooded area of West Memphis, Ark., called Robin Hood Hills. The 
bodies appeared to have been mutilated, their hands tied to their 

The grotesque nature of the murders led to a theory about satanic 
cult activity. Investigators focused their attention on Mr. 
Echols, at the time a troubled yet gifted teenager who practiced 
Wicca, a rarity in the town of West Memphis. Efforts to learn more 
about him, spearheaded by a single mother cooperating with the 
police, led to Mr. Misskelley, a passing acquaintance of Mr. 
Echols, who is borderline mentally retarded.

After a nearly 12-hour interrogation by the police, Mr. Misskelley 
confessed to the murders and implicated Mr. Echols and Mr. 
Baldwin, though his confession diverged in significant details 
with the facts of the crime known by the police.

Largely on the strength of that confession, Mr. Misskelley was 
convicted in February 1994. Mr. Echols and Mr. Baldwin were 
convicted soon after in a separate trial, largely on the testimony 
of witnesses who said they heard the teenagers talk of the murders 
and on the prosecution’s theory that the defendants had been 
motivated as members of a satanic cult. Mr. Misskelley’s 
confession was not admitted at their trial, though recently a 
former lawyer for the jury foreman filed an affidavit saying that 
the foreman, determined to convict, had brought the confession up 
in deliberations to sway undecided jurors.

An award-winning documentary, “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at 
Robin Hood Hills,” was released after their convictions, bringing 
them national attention. Benefit concerts were held, books were 
written, a follow-up documentary was made and the men’s supporters 
continued to pursue their freedom. Many residents of West Memphis 
resented the presumption that outsiders knew the details of the 
horrific case better than they did. But in recent years some, 
though not all, of the victims’ families have begun to doubt the 
guilt of the three men.

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