Photo: Sony Pictures
The “West Memphis 3” case has gripped the country since the early ’90s. That’s when three teens were arrested for the sexual assault and murder of three 8-year-old boys in Arkansas.The teenagers always maintained their innocence and after nearly 20 years behind bars — and the help of some Hollywood heavyweights like Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson — Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelly, and Jason Baldwin walked out of prison free men in August 2011.
But the case is far from over. defence attorneys for the West Memphis 3 have all claimed Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie Branch, one of the murdered boys, should be looked at as a suspect in the case.
Attorneys for Echols said in January Hobbs’ nephew told friends “my uncle Terry murdered those three little boys,” Fox 16 reported at the time.
Hobbs has fought the allegations, calling them “more of a publicity stunt” than anything else. In truth nobody really knows who killed the boys.
I was recently lucky enough to attend a screening of West of Memphis, the latest documentary about the case, produced by Jackson and Fran Walsh and directed by Amy Berg.
I was only 5 years old when the case first broke and truthfully never knew much about it other than the major developments that happened in the past few years. So going into the movie, I had no opinions about the trio’s guilt or the case in general.
But the documentary was so moving and presented such a gut-wrenching picture of a town torn apart by a horrific crime and six young lives — the victims’ and the West Memphis 3’s — forever damaged that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
The pictures that follow are all stills from the movie and tell the essential aspects of the West Memphis 3’s long journey.
West of Memphis is the story of three teenagers: Damien Echols (L), Jessie Misskelley (M), and Jason Baldwin (R). The three were convicted in 1994 of the murders of three young boys.
The community was outraged at the murders and turned on the trio. The West Memphis 3 drew so much ire because they were different and were long suspected of belonging to a Satanic cult, according to the documentary.
All three boys were convicted after Misskelley confessed to the crime. He was convicted in a separate trial of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. Misskelley was sentenced to life plus 40 years in prison.
Echols and Baldwin were tried separately from Misskelley. The boys always maintained their innocence. Baldwin even turned down a lighter sentence he was offered in exchange for outing Echols.
Baldwin was sentenced to life in prison. Echols however, the alleged mastermind behind the crime, was sentenced to death. It would be 18 years before any of the three got to see the outside world again.
The West Memphis 3 case was thrust onto the national scene after Echols' wife, Lorri Davis, whom he married in 1999 while still behind bars, teamed up with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh to investigate all the mistakes they believed had occurred during the investigation and trial.
After nearly two decades behind bars, the Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled to grant the West Memphis 3 a new trial. All three walked out of prison as free men in 2011 after agreeing to an Alford Plea — a legal manoeuvre that let them assert their innocence while still pleading guilty. Echols, the most famous of the three, now lives in Salem, Mass., with Davis, an architect. He works as an author.
Jessie Miskelley has largely stayed out of the spotlight since he was released from prison. As of August, he was living in the trailer park in which he grew up, Arkansas Online reported at the time.
Jason Baldwin got a part-time job at a law firm after his release and hopes to earn a law degree, according to Arkansas Online.
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