After nearly 20 years, the West Memphis Three, convicted in 1994 of the 1993 murders of three young boys, are set to be freed. The murders of three 8-year-old boys whose mutilated bodies were found in the woods near West Memphis, Arkansas prompted the arrest, trial, and conviction of three young men. In 1996 and 2000, HBO released acclaimed documentaries ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Paradise Lost 2: Revelations’ covering the story. The documentaries suggested that the young men charged, including the telegenic Damien Echols who was given the death penalty, were falsely convicted. At best, there was no physical evidence tying the WM3 to the murders, although one of them had given a confession riddled with factual inaccuracies. Even though it was pre-Columbine, the implication was that a narrow-minded, small southern town wrought with grief had convicted the boys because they wore black clothes, listened to Metallica, and read some occult books. One notable scene from the trial showed the prosecutor, who argued that the murders were part of a satanic ritual, reading passages from an Alistair Crowley book owned by Echols. The case received a large amount of celebrity attention, with luminaries such as Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Marilyn Manson, Henry Rollins, the South Park creators, and others weighing in on the insufficiency of the evidence to convict. It is rumored that Lord of the Rings gurus Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have been bankrolling their legal defense in recent years. Five months ago, DNA tests confirmed that the mutilation was the work of animals and that there was no DNA traces of any of the WM3 at the scene. In fact, DNA of another person, not identified, was found at the scene.
It should be noted that the convictions were not overturned, only that they have been released with a 10 year suspended sentence.