Peter Jackson‘s Wingnut Films have released the trailer for their forthcoming documentary focusing on the long-running case of the West Memphis Three. Titled West Of Memphis, the film follows the case from its beginnings in 1993, through to the modern era, exposing the problems and questions associated with the initial police work and the trials, the long 18 years the accused spent in prison, and questions who the real murderer may have been.
You can view the trailer at the bottom of this post.
The release of the documentary preview comes immediately after the airing of Paradise Lost: Purgatory, the third in a HBO documentary series that has followed the case since 1994, which helped in gaining more exposure to the case.
The West Memphis Three are Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin. The three men (who were adolescents at the time of their arrests) were accused of murdering three young boys, Michael Moore, Stevie Branch, and Christopher Byers. Despite not a single molecule of evidence tying the WM3 to the crime, they were imprisoned under the prosecution’s belief that the murders were part of a Satanic sacrifice â€“ a case pushed using the accused’s taste in music (such as Metallica), clothing style, and curiosity of other spiritual beliefs.
Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin, were kept incarcerated until 2011, where they were allowed to enter an Alford Plea â€“ an extremely rare plea deal that forces them to enter a guilty plea while being able to publicly maintain their innocence. Many critics believe that the plea agreement was made so that the State of Arkansas could avoid a retrial, and thus avoid having to claim any responsibility to imprisoning innocent men for close to two decades. The focus of the West Memphis Three has now re-focused from freedom, to clearing their names of any wrong-doing.
The podcast, Social Blend, has followed the case of The West Memphis Three for a number of years. In 2009, we interviewed Burk Sauls, founder of the Free The West Memphis Three movement and WM3.org, on the case; and last year we extensively covered the release of Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley in a more recent podcast episode.
Peter Jackson’s movie features many interviews with people associated with the trials, and in addition, focuses on some interviews with some well-known faces who have defended and advocated the innocence of the WM3, including Henry Rollins and Eddie Vedder.
West of Memphis was directed by Amy Berg, and produced by Peter Jackson with Fran Walsh and Damien Echols. The documentary will premiere at Sundance on January 20.