Innocence Lost


Anyone who has seen the HBO Paradise Lost documentaries, which chronicled the appalling miscarriage of justice occasioned upon a group of Arkansas teenagers wrongly convicted of murdering three 8-year-old boys in the early 90s, knows that the story of the so-called West Memphis Three is not one that it easily forgotten or brushed aside, particularly if you are the type who harbors any illusions about the American criminal justice system being fair or effective. I watched the series in horror as a relatively naïve law student, and became pretty much obsessed with the plight of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, who languished in prison and on death row (in Echols’ case) for over 18 years simply because they were the kind of black-clad, heavy metal-listening teens who people thought belonged behind bars. Luckily for them, I was not the only one so profoundly affected by the HBO series, and they can thank devoted supporters like Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Peter Jackson– not to mention Brooklyn resident Lorri Davis, who began writing Echols after seeing Paradise Lost and eventually moved to Arkansas to fight for his freedom and become his wife–for keeping the spotlight shining on the travesty all these years. This week marks the long-awaited opening of West of Memphis, a documentary co-produced by Jackson, Echols, and Davis, among others, which promises to bring extensive and significant new information about the case to light for those of us who continue to be haunted by it. For now, the movie is screening only in Manhattan at the Lincoln Center Film Society theater, but it will be well worth the subway ride–I can guarantee that you will be at once inspired and enraged by this embarrassing chapter of recent history. – K.H.

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