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West Memphis Three Released from Prison! How Peter Jackson Helped

Peter Jackson by Joey Paur

Damien Echols, 36, Jason Baldwin, 34, and Jessie Misskelley, 36, known as the West Memphis Three were finally released from prison on Friday after being wrong convicted for the May 1993 killings of three 8-year-old boys from West Memphis, Ark. 

I know this isn't really geek related, but the men were the subject of two Documentary films when they were teenagers, from Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. There is the 1996 documentary called Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, and a sequel follow-up film made in 2000 called Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, both of which cast doubt on their part in the murders. It's these documentaries that sparked interest for me and got me involved with what was going on. I recommend you watch the documentaries if you haven't already. There is actually a third one on the way called Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.

The HBO docs sparked a nationwide movement urging authorities to re-examine the convictions. Many celebrities also got on board, including Johnny DeppWinona Ryder, the members of Metallica, Eddie VedderNatalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Demi Lovato and Henry Rollins, who organized a benefit album for the trio.

It's awesome to see that these guys have finally been released from prison. They went through a hell of a time trying to prove their innocence, but they finally did it! I can't even imagine what these guys are feeling right now. After being in prison all of these years... they never gave up. 

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and his producing partner Fran Walsh also played a huge behind the scenes hand in helping these three guys prove their innocence and get released. Over the last seven years they have been funding the ongoing investigation efforts. According to Deadline, "This has included financing extensive private investigators over a number of years and the uncovering of crucial new DNA evidence. Jackson and Walsh also have been instrumental in hiring some of the country’s leading forensic experts to reevaluate the case and uncover new witnesses, all of which contributed to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision to reopen the case."

As THR reports, "The prosecution of the three teens hinged on the confession of Misskelley, who has been diagnosed as borderline mentally retarded. In 2007, the case took a turn when new DNA evidence placed a fourth, uncharged man at the scene. Still, Thursday's announcement about a potential deal with prosecutors that could set the trio free immediately came as a surprise to observers. The arrangement calls for the three defendants to plead no contest to lesser charges in return for their immediate release, according to legal sources with knowledge of the deal."

According to local reports, on thursday Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were instructed to gather their belongings and were transported from their cells to Jonesboro, Ark. for Friday's closed door hearing. It is the first time all three have left together and they are not expected to return.

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