West of Memphis Review
Ryan Revolver
3/13/2013

 

Three young boys were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993. Three men are subsequently charged, found guilty, and sentenced. Are Damien Echols, James Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley guilty? This documentary covers the West Memphis 3 trials and tribulations from start to retribution.

 

Documentaries have the power to make you angry about something you might not be familiar with. This one will do just that. West of Memphis shows the breakdown of the judicial system in Arkansas. With the added star power of Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Patti Smith; this doc acts as both a timeline and investigative effort to find the real killer. With stories of death row inmates being exonerated from DNA evidence, this is a chilling reminder that even the innocent can serve time.

 

During the original trial there was no love for the accused killers Echols, Baldwin or Misskelley. A photo of a young Echols wearing a Metallica shirt certainly doesn’t help his case, nor does it help that the prosecution had character “witnesses” that were willing to tell complete lies under oath against the three. Echols might not be very civil during the original trial (that you see from archival footage), that doesn’t mean he is guilty. Local media outlets flooded to the victim’s parents outside the courtroom, getting the perfect quote for the 6 o’clock news. Yes Misskelley “confessed” to the murders, but when you hear the full police interrogation you get the real truth.

 

Things started to change as the years go by. Peter Jackson and wife Fran Walsh reached out to Lorri Davis, wife of Echols, providing financial support from his home in New Zealand. In came a new legal team, a private investigator, and emotional support for Lorri. Many cases from the 90’s have been overturned due to DNA evidence. One case in Texas (Michael Morton) got the documentary treatment as well.

 

West of Memphis - ★★★★

 


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