BREAKING: West of Memphis, the Amy Berg-directed documentary that was one of the highlights of the last Sundance Film Festival, will join the Mavericks section of the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. The film, which is largely based on private investigators and forensic testing financed by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (they produce with West Memphis 3 member Damien Echols and his wife Lorri Davis), will get a premiere. There to help the filmmakers launch the film and participate in the press conference and Q&A will be Johnny Depp and Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines. Both have been longtime supporters of a retrial for Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr, who were convicted of triple homicide even though there was not a shred of physical evidence. Depp also acquired the upcoming memoir by Echols for a feature. The sham of that original trial was captured in the HBO docu Paradise Lost, which became a trilogy and which sparked Jackson and Walsh’s interest in the case years ago. The defendants were finally let out of prison after nearly two decades in Arkansas after prosecutors granted them an Alford plea (technically pleading “guilty” while vehemently denying they committed the crime). All parties are still pressing for an outright exoneration, but the state has refused to consider it because of the milllions of dollars in costs it would incur in civil suits for wrongly imprisoning the three men. Some of the evidence presented in West of Memphis paints an overwhelming picture that the trio was railroaded while the killer of three 8-year old boys remains free. The trio just celebrated the one year anniversary of their freedom, but how does one get back nearly two lost decades of a life? Sony Pictures Classics will release the doc, which has to be seen to be believed.
Peter Jackson issued this statement on his Facebook page, commemorating the anniversary of when the West Memphis 3 got let out of prison:
“It has been a year to the day since Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie
Misskelley were released from prison…. nothing has changed and everything has
changed. We got to watch Damien dip his fruit into tomato ketchup, because he
wanted to; we got to watch him make Lorri laugh and then wrap his arms around
her, because he could; we got to watch others read his work and realise he is a
hugely, talented writer. We got to witness the new chapter in a life that
thousands of people around the world prayed for, fought for and believed in –
and it has been, and will always be, worth every single second of hope we ever
held on to.
I feel incredible joy that Damien, Jason and Jessie are now free, and sorrow for
the loss of the innocent lives of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael
Moore. It is disgusting that Arkansas politicians continue to put their self
serving political interests ahead of justice for the victims and their families
in this case. Unfortunately, there can be no happy anniversaries when three men
continue to suffer the many effects of being wrongfully convicted and the real
killer of these children is allowed to walk free.”
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