We are very honored here on The Night Crew to bring you a raw, unedited round table discussion with cinematic icon Peter Jackson (Dead Alive, Lord Of The Rings), and Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three, who were jailed for nearly two decades after being wrongly accused of murder. Jackson has produced a new documentary based on the case, West Of Memphis, and was personally involved in the case through his funding of investigative work that helped lead to the release of these young men victimized by a politicized judicial system. This interview is brought to you by Night Crew staffer/Fangoria writer Heather Buckley. Strap in, it’s an emotional ride and broaches some very important issues in America as to discrimination, and legal corruption.
THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE -
The West Memphis Three are three men who were tried and convicted as teenagers in 1994 of the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment. During the trial, the prosecution asserted that the children were killed as part of a satanic ritual.A number of documentaries have been based on the case, and celebrities and musicians have held fund raisers in the belief that they are innocent.
In July 2007, new forensic evidence was presented in the case and a status report jointly issued by the State and the Defense team stated, “Although most of the genetic material recovered from the scene was attributable to the victims of the offenses, some of it cannot be attributed to either the victims or the defendants.” On October 29, 2007, the defense filed a Second Amended Writ of Habeas Corpus, outlining the new evidence.
Following a successful decision in 2010 by the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding newly produced DNA evidence, the West Memphis Three reached a deal with prosecutors. On August 19, 2011, they entered Alford pleas, which allow them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Judge David Laser accepted the pleas and sentenced the three to time served. They were released with ten-year suspended sentences, having served 18 years and 78 days in prison.
WEST OF MEMPHIS -
West of Memphis is an examination of a failure of justice in Arkansas. The documentary tells the hitherto unknown story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light. Told and made by those who lived it, the filmmakers’ unprecedented access to the inner workings of the defense, allows the film to show the investigation, research and appeals process in a way that has never been seen before; revealing shocking and disturbing new information about a case that still haunts the American South.
IN CONVERSATION – with Heather Buckley, featuring guests Peter Jackson and Damien Echols
Trailer for West Of Memphis
Interview w/ Jackson and Echols
Song excerpt – “Freedom” by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton
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© The Night Crew 2014