by Feind Gottes
I first learned about the West Memphis 3 with an HBO documentary in the mid-90s entitled Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. It marked the first time Metallica had allowed their music to be used cinematically (I was a huge fanboy at the time so I was intrigued). The case revolves around the brutal murders of three young boys: Steve Edward Branch, Christopher Mark Byers and James Micheal Moore. As tragic as these three young boys being brutally murdered was, they unfortunately are only the first three victims in this tale. In one of the cruelest rushes to judgement ever, police created three more victims in this story, the trio that came to be known as The West Memphis Three. The injustice was increased as the legal system proceeded in railroading and ruining the lives of three more young men: Jessie Misskelley Jr, Charles Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols otherwise known as The West Memphis Three. The three young men (teenagers when this began) were singled out for being different in a place where it wasn’t okay to be different, namely Arkansas. Sorry for anyone living there who this might offend but seriously Fuck Arkansas and the “Christians” who hold up the bible while persecuting anyone who doesn’t join their cult. Yes, I’m an atheist and yes, Fuck Christians! Sorry had to say it.
So how exactly did the West Memphis Three find themselves railroaded and in prison for a crime they had nothing to do with for almost 20 years? Well you can thank public pressure on a police force that makes the Keystone Kops look like pillars of law enforcement. The police needed to make an arrest quickly so instead of actually doing any, y’know police work, they set their sites on Damien Echolsthen went about gathering “evidence” to convict a young man they just didn’t like. Damien was a troubled kid who had been in trouble for some minor offenses. He was rebellious and outcast in the heart of the “bible belt” where listening to metal and reading about Allister Crowley is very nearly a hanging offense. So instead of actually looking at the evidence and trying to find who may have actually committed the murders; police set their sights on Damien.
The injustice just kept coming through their many appeals as new evidence was gathered again and again showing there was little to no way the three young men could have possibly committed the crimes but to set them free and admit the killer was still on the loose was just too much of an embarrassment. So the injustice continued. It also didn’t help that the three had to keep appearing before the same judge over and over again and expecting him to overturn himself was almost laughable. In the end the Arkansas “justice” system just wanted the whole mess to go away without ever admitting that they had completely railroaded three young men and let a killer walk around free with no worry of ever being caught for 20+ years. After evidence including DNA evidence showed that it was nearly impossible for the West Memphis Three to have committed the crimes Arkansas put the final screws to the West Memphis Threewithout having to admit that they completely fucked them over by fucking them over one last time. Arkansas kindly allowed the WM3 to enter a rarely used Alford plea which allowed the state to set them free without acquitting them of the crime while the WM3 could maintain their innocence. Oh and the Alford plea conveniently prevents the WM3 from suing the state for false imprisonment or damages from their false arrest and prosecution.
So the West Memphis Three with their Alford plea (their only other option was to remain in prison for several more years and hope for the judge who kept fucking them over to die) were finally released on August 19, 2011. They went to prison as teenagers and came out just in time to turn 40. Congratulations Arkansas you effectively stole their youth and face no real consequences for it. Did I say congratulations? I meant, Fuck You! In the ass with a giant red hot poker!
Now why do I care you might be asking yourself? When I first saw the first Paradise Lost documentary (there are three all together, the WM3 were in prison nearly 20 years) I immediately identified with Damien Echols. His only real crime was being a metalhead in the bible belt. I had never been to Arkansas (still haven’t and no plans to) but I grew up in a small town in western NY and it really mattered little that this happened in Arkansas, what I saw was a small town reacting to a tragedy. If you’ve ever been in or around small town America it’s all pretty much the same from Alaska to Florida that’s why I left for the city. In small town America it’s not okay to be different. I heard Damien say once the WM3’s real crime was being poor and different, I couldn’t agree more. They couldn’t afford attorney’s who could compete with the juggernaut of a state attorney’s office that was out for blood and a judge that was right there with them. If you’re poor in America you really don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of the law because you will get fucked. The WM3are not the only wrongly accused and convicted in this country, it happens more often than any of us like to think. Just a few years ago in my hometown of Buffalo, NY a man was released after over 20+ years in prison for a series of rapes for which he had been convicted for the similar reason of being poor and oh, yeah of borderline intelligence like Jessie Misskelley Jr.
I could go on forever but I don’t want to preach and bore you further so I guess I should wrap this up. If the story of the WM3 is new to you Devil’s Knot is an excellent movie that you should watch. If you want to really get outraged and learn more watch the comprehensive documentary West of Memphis (watch it online here) or if you have the time take the journey where mine began with the Paradise Lost trilogy of documentaries. I highly recommend all of these. I know this isn’t really a “horror” movie but in reality it’s more horrifying than any drivel we all love to watch and you just might learn a little something in the process.