Monday, March 19, 2007

 

Free the West Memphis Three

Last night I watched the documentary film Paradise Lost (checked out from my local library) about the trial of three young men convicted for three murders in West Memphis, Arkansas. The film is long and a bit slow-paced but engrossing nevertheless. It is hard to believe that anyone can watch it and come away thinking these guys (pictured above right) got a fair trial, let alone that they are actually guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Here's a synopsis of their story from a West Memphis Three support web site:
Shortly after three eight-year-old boys were found mutilated and murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas, local newspapers stated the killers had been caught. The police assured the public that the three teenagers in custody were definitely responsible for these horrible crimes. Evidence?

The same police officers coerced an error-filled "confession" from Jessie Misskelley Jr., who is mentally handicapped. They subjected him to 12 hours of questioning without counsel or parental consent, audio-taping only two fragments totaling 46 minutes. Jessie recanted it that evening, but it was too late— Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were all arrested on June 3, 1993, and convicted of murder in early 1994.

Although there was no physical evidence, murder weapon, motive, or connection to the victims, the prosecution pathetically resorted to presenting black hair and clothing, heavy metal t-shirts, and Stephen King novels as proof that the boys were sacrificed in a satanic cult ritual. Unfathomably, Echols was sentenced to death, Baldwin received life without parole, and Misskelley got life plus 40.

For over 13 years, The West Memphis Three have been imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. Echols waits in solitary confinement for the lethal injection our tax dollars will pay for. They were all condemned by their poverty, incompetent defense, satanic panic and a rush to judgment.

But there’s still hope for them, and you can help.

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