I stumbled upon a news that after 18 years in prison, 3 guys who were arrested due to murder of 3 8-year old boys and persecuted because of a belief that it was done as a satanic ritual, are free. 18 years, damn, they did miss a lot of their lives. Of course, I read the facts through wiki and I saw something wrong in their verdict. Well, as the trial did 18 years ago and with a lot of mishandling, inappropriate proceedings and harrowed prejudice, the state of AK persecuted indeed 3 innocent boys. I thought our justice system is bad, in that case, justice system is a lot worse!
I can’t believe and it’s for the record that I watched the 4 documentaries in a span of one day. It’s a marathon, I tried to pause and say I’ll come back next day or a week but nah.. As I thirst for answers and keep hoping that those 3 will have their freedom even in a most crazy way, I was able to finished it.
There were 4 documentaries made for the plight of truth and justice for these 3 guys who were sentenced of death row and life sentence. 3 out of 4 made for HBO, called Paradise Lost 1, 2 and 3. The another one which I believe has the bigger budget and a lot of movie star support is West of Memphis. If I will be asked which one is the best or so.. I say, if you want the whole journey from start to finish, just watch Paradise Lost series. If can’t stand watching around 2 and a half hours each documentary, and you want a shorter version, go to West of Memphis.
As I was saying, the story starts, well.. I also advise you check wiki for this because it will be very long if I give the all details. But to make it short, 3 guys were arrested of murdering 3 8-year old boys. Those boys were killed in a gruesome manner, beaten, bitten and it may thought of sexually molested and one of the boys was sexually mutillated. All of these, as the police and persecutors pointed that this happened due to a satanic cult. Then, unfortunately for the 3 guys as there were witnesses, or even a confession directing of persecuting Jessie Misskelly, Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols for these crimes. The facts they used? First Damien wears black clothing, loves heavy metal music including Metallica, and has knowledge of Wiccan religion even he’s catholic. Jason was just a close friend of Damien who well, also likes stuff that Damien does. Jessie is really doesn’t know the other 2 as he was forcibly confessed that he saw the killing or participated one due to the fact that he’s borderline into mentally retarded. As emotions were high even the best defense lawyers can do, prosecutors and police was able to sell great logic to the jury..
Damien was sentenced to death, Jessie for 40 years in prison and Jason, life imprisonment with no parole. Their journey for freedom starts there, 18 years.. Yes, 18 years later after all the support they’ve got from the documentaries, even the people of the state, the family of the victims or even their respective families, then celebrity support such as Peter Jackson, Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp, Dixie Chicks and others… They were free as they did the Alford Plea, meaning they will plea guilty, but they will maintain innocence and reduced life sentence as indeed around 18 years in prison.
They are now free, but of course, they want to know still who is the real killer of those 3 innocent boys. Until now, nothing filed or even arrested a suspect of these murders.
It is sad that in this life, or in this world, this kind of justice still processing in our society. It’s sad that like the US with all its capabilities, with their State and Federal Laws and advanced law enforcement, taking pride of their Jury system, has big flaws. Not only these cases, but a lot of cases, big ones. Like the case in Gasland which it involves enviromental issues and they don’t seem to care of the towns that were experiencing health issues. Or how about in the Invisible War which higher military officials done sexual harassments or even rape got away and some of those accused even got promoted! Or simply the Client 9 blown out, I mean Spitzer is not perfect, he admitted that, even Bill done that but because of his resignation due to immense pressure from the wall street giants, USA fall to deep recession because of the banks/corporations he exposed who were rigging.
For this simply case that made out of hand due to wrong interpretation of evidence, or even procedures of the cops.. I mean, it’s hard.. It’s bothersome not only in the US, but the whole world. I mean, like here in this country, as we have a justice system which also or almost like any other justice system, a lot of holes or loops just to get out or if you’re unlucky, you’ll get in due to the fact of a lot of factors. Whether it can be political pressure, mishandling of evidence or facts or worse, due to slow process of our justice system, it wore out in the end.
What fascinates me in these series was how this jury, able to buy that notion at the trial of Jessie, that his confession was falsely made. In the simplest defense and logic, they did not listen. It’s the first time I heard a real forced confession. Well, here it happens but this one, no force physically was done unlike here. hehe But police knew that Jessie is somewhat mentally challenged, they kept him asking the questions for a day, then in the end because of that pressure, he gave what the police want. Jury or the judge did not even check the evidence, I mean they dude was kept in police for a day then the confession recording played in the court room was only 45 minutes? Is that really enough evidence to pin him down? Not only that, with a lot of witnesses testifying that Jessie was far away from the crime scene at that night even there was a written proof, they did not look at the evidence.
Then, going to Damien’s and Jason’s trial, with all the proof that they were in school or each other’s house at that night of murders. They did not listen as well. What helped to get them convicted? The so called forensic expert plus the “cult” expert then one dude who said Jason confessed that he done and that which in the end, he was a drug addict and admitted it was made up, all of those poor points of evidence led to the conviction of the two. That doesn’t include well, how police forgot asking the neighbors what happened to the time of the crime, even the families of the victims were not that throughly investigated which they really messed up in the end.
Hay… It was really more than a national spectacle, it’s more of a circus show that these 3 guys will be put to that you know wheel and the other person at the other end has a knife and keeps throwing to those 3 guys until they we’re worn out. I felt sad after watching the first Paradise Lost, seems after that no hope for those 3.
Then, as years goes by, new evidences were showing up due to the help of those fans who watched the first Paradise Lost. Like most of the viewers, they can’t stand the hypocrisy happened to those 3 guys! They raised funds and get the necessary support and more credible and reliable experts, then new evidences emerging. Such has there were bite marks, and with it, it will show no DNA from those 3 present to the victims. Some of the evidences were planted and do not really link to any of those 3 accused. New suspects can be questioned or maybe have involvement in the crime. Other factors also arises such as the state of Arkansas approved new trial for new DNA findings and sorts…
But why it took 18 years? Well, there were a lot happening in the appeals of these guys, especially Damien who accused his former defense lawyers of not representing him correctly, then the biggest factor was the judge of the murder trials which until now I can’t believe it… All the appeals they have done for retrial or new trail, it was the same judge who convicted them in the first place? How you will win an appeal if that same judge will trial the case? There was one instance that he did not even look at the new evidence or hear the arguments, he out closed the case and said no for the appeal. Did these guys have a right to have a different judge to trial the case? Hell yeah! But nah..
However, in the end of their plight of freedom, they were able to get a breakthrough of the case, such as The Supreme Court allowed them due to the new law of DNA testing for the guilty convictions to re-examine the cases again, to have retrial or hearing the new evidences. Then, the state had a election for Senate, this judge they allowed to win so a new judge will hear the case.
Then, just August 2011, a surprise hearing made and the prosection, and the defense agreed for an Alford Plea to make this case closed and move on.. The 3 guys agreed and made this plea to the Judge. Judge agreed, set them free.
At first, those who were shouting for execution of those 3 way back 18 years ago, you can check that in the first Paradise Lost but 18 years later, they were shouting for the freedom of those 3. They did understand the evidence, logic and other suspects can be involved in this murders, they want them free.. Which I can’t believe the jury of the trial, the judge, prosecutor who made a great acting in the trial but great he lost in the elections.. hehe And even the retired police investigator who initiate this fiasco of convicting 3 innocent men.. They still believe that those 3 done the crime. Geez, they’re simply outrageous!
For the Paradise Lost series, what I really like was the emotion build up collected in the first 2 parts, I mean they got blow by blow accounts of the case and even some evidences pointing not to the three guys.. It’s real and yeah, I did not mind it’s 2 and a half hours each. Although the third one did not disappoint, but it was kinda rushed even it has nice graphics and clear cinematography and pacing. It’s shorter and it lack some facts or new evidences which they it did not show in detail. But what I love in this documentary, damn Metallica soundtrack all over it. Ted gonna love this. hehe Metallica shown support wayback 1996 by giving their music which they not always do in movies.. Because maybe they love the convicted that they are proud fans of their music and nothing to be ashamed of. Gotta get the best of Metallica. The documentary properly used the music in the major shots and I love there the scene which Jason’s Mom wants to dedicate Nothing Else Matters of Metallica to the 3 guys because indeed, nothing else matters to her but the 3 convicted guys innocence from the crime. Real justice should be served. She want them free. Cool Mom! =)
For the West of Memphis, this what Paradise Lost 3 loss, it was filled by this movie. More compact and accurate timeframe of the trial and some of the evidence and facts that you did not see in the Paradise Lost series, are here! I was laughing although I should not but yeah, it’s clever on how those boys got scracthed, bitten and the unlucky one, police did not even think of it. New evidences were explained in detail here, better.. The logic also explained in the right way.. Most importantly, you can really see or feel who is the real suspect for these murders. Or maybe there are two of them. What I like most in this film, not the OST because no Metallica here, there is Eddie Vedder song but I like the Metallica stuff. hehe But it’s the celebrity involvement of this case. I mean I’m not a Peter Jackson fan but in this film, I said damn, I am his fan! He exerted not only financial support but also effort to really push for the freedom of these accused. Count Johnny Depp in then you have Eddie Veder who I am surprised he supported these guys from the start, then let’s thank that Dixie Chicks Vocalist who because of her libel case against one of the stepfather victims, has shed some light in the murder case. They were up and arms for the freedom of the West Memphis three and a lot believed in their advocacy and followed for the fight.
The star of course of these documentary is West Memphis Three.. I feel very sad for these three especially at the time of the trials, I mean I don’t know how they were able to survive for 18 years of waiting in agony. For Jessie, I mean, even he’s that mentally challenged, you can see he was afraid at the trial, admitted he was coerced. But indeed a loving son and his family stood behind him. For Jason, I mean almost not agreeing to the Alford Plea which it may cost their early freedom, very calm and not really agitated thanking for the support of his Mom and friends. And Damien, as he said that he’s very thankful for the documentary because without it, he might be killed inside the prison or by himself. But he never give up and I’m happy for him not only he got married but also find peace and happiness after he was released. Happily Married. For those 3, I wish them enjoy freedom, and move on.. Although it was a hard process but well.. In the end, they prevailed even in a flawed manner. I will do the same thing, even I mean it will be a longer trial for getting all the evidences, talking again and looking for those witnesses who were coerced and say this in the trial before.. The appeals and arguments, I mean do you think the prosecution will just let them get away, of course not.. As the last prosecutor thought, well.. It will be more costly and a long process if there will be retrial. Besides, it’s one of a big deal of a lifetime. I just want to get out, let the facts present if not with the justice system, but the minds of the many that indeed.. You are innocent.
I hope that whether it’s a jury type of system or the regular one, everybody should really go to the evidence rather than the emotions or pressure of many. I mean, this won’t happen if the jury just checked the evidence or even thinking of basic common sense. Make sure listen to the right experts not the so called experts who did not even take right courses or training. But sad to say, this might happen again if not there, or here, it will happen everywhere.
John Byers, well.. After watching the last Paradise Lost 3 and West of Memphis, I believe you did not do something but it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, one last time. If there will be an investigation again, just submit and prove you’re innocent then yeah.. You’re free! Great job you did at the Paradise Lost 3, with that cardboard you made with all the logic and facts. You’re pretty damn right.
Terry Hobbs, if you’re really innocent.. Maybe it’s time to really admit or defend yourself with all the evidence or even testimonies pointing to you, and the history you have. I mean, it’s not bad to have yourself again in trial like what you did in your case against the Dixie Chicks. Just prove yourself. How about negating that “hobb’s family secret” statement. It will help you see. By the way, it will be hard for your friend to keep quiet and doesn’t know anything in the murders especially when there is DNA evidence involving him. I’m thinking although John Byers can do by himself because of his physique but he has no history of violence, unlike in your case. I’m also thinking 2 people would’ve done it.
For those kids, don’t worry, if not now.. Later, justice will be served. =)