West Of Memphis (2012)

Posted: January 21, 2013 in Documentary, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Director: Amy Berg

Actors: Damien Wayne Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin, Eddie Vedder, Henry RollinsPeter Jackson

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I didn’t really think I was going to talk about documentaries here, but that was before I found out about the ‘West Memphis 3‘, a few months ago. The West Memphis 3 were three teenagers from West Memphis, Arkansas, who were wrongfully convicted for the murders of three 8-year old boys, back in 1993. ‘West of Memphis’ is the fourth documentary dedicated to this case. The first one dates back to 1996 (Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills). I stumbled upon it by coincidence and after seeing it I immediately watched part 2 and 3 as well. (Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000) and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011)). The three teenagers’ sentences ranged from life imprisonment to the death penalty. Because of the documentaries, the case got even more media coverage and caught the attention of a few celebrities like Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Peter Jackson who started giving their support to the defendants  . Finally, the West Memphis 3 were released last year.

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All four documentaries basically cover the same issues, though new facts appear and are added to the story over the years: three teenage boys (Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin) are accused and convicted of a triple child-murder without any real evidence against them. Damien Echols was held accountable by the  local police and justice department, based on a forced confession and his interest in the occult, the two others basically because they hung out with him. The murder of the three boys was, according to local authorities, a satanic ritual. The catastrophic incompetence of the local authorities is exposed: evidence against other possible suspects is overlooked or simply ignored, judges and prosecutors try to make a name for themselves at the expense of the defendants. It is the ultimate example of a modern-day witch-trial. I’m not going to sum up all the facts that are presented, that would be too much, you can find all of that on the web. I will say this though: the story of the West Memphis 3 and the child murders at Robin Hood Hills is one of justice failure, abuse of power and ignorance, but also about courage, solidarity and standing up against injustice. Of course, all of that doesn’t bring back the 3 young boys who were killed, and on top of that, their killer is still out there.

To fully comprehend the entire story and background of this case, one should watch all four documentaries. Not only to get all the facts, but because they are spread out over such a long period of time (from 1993 until 2012) it gives you a genuine feel of how long this flagrant injustice went on. You see the three boys as teenagers in the first parts, when they are finally released, they are men in their thirties.

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