Was the West Memphis Three Case a Modern Day Witch Hunt? Documentaries and Books
Over the past twenty-two years, there have been a number of documentaries, television reports, books and a movie produced about the case of the West Memphis Three.
This section takes a look at those documentaries, books and movie.
Paradise Lost Trilogy (1996-2011)
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders in Robin Hood Hills is the first in a trilogy of documentaries made by filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky for HBO, which was released in 1996.
The documentary begins by covering the investigation and includes interviews from a number of people involved in the case as well as the victims parents, the accused and the accused families.
It then goes on to follow the arrests and the trials of Jessy Misskelly Jr, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin.
After its release in 1996, serious questions began to be raised as to how the investigation and trial were conducted and weather or not the convicted teenagers were actually guilty of the crime.
The second documentary, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations was released in 2000. This documentary follows the growing support of the West Memphis Three, which was largely due to the original documentary. It also follows the appeals and motions process.
The documentary also bring to question a number of pieces of evidence that seem to have been strongly misinterpreted during the original investigation and offers an alternative theory as to who may have been responsible for the murders of the three boys.
The third documentary and final documentary, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, was released in 2011.
It looks at the still growing support of the West Memphis Three, including support from two of the parents of the three boys.
The documentary also focuses strongly on the discovery of vital new evidence, including DNA found on one of the victims, strongly linking another person to the crime. A person who had not been interviewed by the West Memphis Police at any stage of the investigation.
With the discovery of this new evidence, it then goes on to follow the appeals process for new trials based on the newly discovered evidence, which the original judge denied, leading to the Arkansas Supreme Court granting an evidentary hearing and the strong possibility of a new trial and subsequent deal with the state prosecutors.
West of Memphis (2012)
West of Memphis premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012. The Documentary was directed by Amy J Berg and produced by Peter Jackson, Damien Echols and Lori Davis.
West of Memphis, like Paradise Lost, follows the eighteen year journey of the West Memphis Three.
The documentary also brings into further focus the possible injustice delivered to the convicted and looks deeper into the discovery of new evidence, including a new suspect, how the police used manipulation to gain the information they wanted from witnesses, how the boys could have received a number of their injuries, how those injuries had been severity misinterpreted and the unwillingness of the courts to grant a new trial based on the new evidence and the reluctance of the West Memphis Police to reopen the investigation.
As with the Paradise Lost documentaries it brings into serious question into the conduct of the West Memphis Police Department while investigating the case from the beginning.
Have you seen any of the West Memphis Three Documentaries?
There have also been a number of books written about the West Memphis Three case.
Probably the most well known book about the case would be Devils Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three written by Mara Leveritt which was published in 2002 and revolves around the idea the three teenagers were convicted as a result of "Satanic Panic" rather than actual evidence. It also offers an alternative theory as to another possible suspect. (www.bookplease.se)
Mara Leveritt has also collaborated Jason Baldwin to write a second book titled Dark Spell: Surviving the Sentence. Which documents Jason's experiences during the eighteen years he was in prison and how he overcame the injustice that put him there. (www.maraleveritt.com)
Here are some other books written about the West Memphis Three
- Abomination: Devil Worship and Deception in the West Memphis Three Murders written by William Ramsey (www.fishpond.com.au)
- Hunting the West Memphis Boogieman written by Amanda Pettrey (www.booktopia.com.au)
- Broken Summers written by Henry Rollins (www.TheNile.com.au)
- The Blood of the Innocent: The True Story of Multiple Murder in West Memphis written by Guy Reel, Marc Perrusquia and Bartholomew Sullivan (www.fishpond.com.au)
Damien Echols has also written a couple of books:
- Life After Death (www.bookdepository.com)
- Yours For Eternity (www.booktopia.com.au)
Devils Knot Becomes a Movie
The film Devils Knot, which is based on the book written by Mara Leveritt was premiered in September 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival, before being released in theaters in May 2014
The movie, like the book is based on the events in West Memphis from May 5th, 1993 when Steve Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers went missing until shortly after the convictions of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin in March 1994.
The movie stars Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs (Steve Branch's mother) and Colin Firth as Ron Lax, the private investigator hired by the defence.
Over the years there has been a number of television shows that have covered the case and interviewed both the parents of the victims, the three convicted, supporters and others involved in the case.
The following are some of the shows, which can be viewed on you tube.
- 48 hours Mystery - The West Memphis 3 -Free
- 48 Hours Mystery - A Cry for Innocence
- True Crime with Aphrodite Jones - West Memphis Three
- Geraldo - West Memphis Three Special
As this case is still receiving a lot of attention and emotions and opinions about it can become quiet volatile, I ask that as always all comments be respectful.