November 5, 2010

The Arkansas Supreme Court orders a new hearing in the case depicted in the documentary "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills."

"While there is a significant dispute in this case as to the legal effects of the DNA test results, it is undisputed that the results conclusively excluded Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley as the source of the DNA evidence tested," wrote the court.

Here's the trailer for the (excellent) film:

38 comments:

EDH said...

The movie needs a more Hollywood title, like...

Leathal Mullets

Robert Cook said...

I saw the movie when it was first released, and the filmmakers were at the screening.

It seemed awfully suggestive that the three convicted boys were guilty only of being black clad "devil worshipper" rock dudes...in other words, your standard clueless teen metal heads. In the inbred community of slope-headed hillbilly cretins in which they lived, they appeared as if from Hell spawned.

They were railroaded.

kent said...

Excellent news! Those three boys were manifestly railroaded, and the greater portion of their lives have been effectively wasted in prison, thus far.

(Both Paradise Lost AND Paradise Lost 2 are eminently worthwhile films, incidentally, for those who haven't seen either one.)

clarenancy said...

What's really terrifying is, if they didn't do it, where's the monster who did?

clarenancy said...

To me, that is the other awful side of wrongful convictions. For every one there is a criminal who isn't removed from society.

Robert Cook said...

"What's really terrifying is, if they didn't do it, where's the monster who did?"

If I recall correctly, the film presents reasons to suspect the father of one of the little boys, the one, in fact, who shoots at the pumpkin in the trailer, talking about wanting to make the alleged murderers bleed. He's dead now, though.

Maguro said...

Cook - John Mark Byers is the guy you're talking about and he's still alive.

JAL said...

@ Robert Cook
In the inbred community of slope-headed hillbilly cretins

Nice intelligent, tolerant, accepting of other cultures take, not to mention bigotry, RC.

JAL said...

Oh, I forgot "stereotypical"

Seven Machos said...

slope-headed hillbilly cretins

Wow, dude. That's some big talk from a moron who thinks the United States is party to some treaty the Unite States is not a party to that allows its leaders to be tried by a world court that was created by another treaty the United States is also not a party to.

You must live in a glass house somewhere in Arkansas, Robert.

kent said...

In the inbred community of slope-headed hillbilly cretins in which they lived

You're like the Aimee Semple McPherson of stupid, aren't you?

Pogo said...

I was convinced of their innocence until I saw that "Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines" supported them.

Now I'm not so sure. She's like a negative bellwether.

Robert Cook said...

"Cook - John Mark Byers is the guy you're talking about and he's still alive."

I stand corrected...I thought I had read he had died some time back.

Seven Machos said...

Robert -- Did he do some time like Bush or Obama under treaties the United States is not a party to? Did the judges have jurisdiction over this Byers fellow?

Do you know what jurisdiction is?

Palladian said...

"I stand corrected."

Wow, you'll not read that phrase often under the Robert Cook byline.

Hucbald said...

I worked in West Memphis - very closely with many of the locals - and my impression was that just about half of that community could have committed those murders. The cops there struck me as Barney Fife on meth too.

Seven Machos said...

My car broke down in West Memphis once and the mechanics are swell.

Fred4Pres said...

It is a powerful film. I saw it years ago, but I still remember it.

Revenant said...

"In the inbred community of slope-headed hillbilly cretins"

Nice intelligent, tolerant, accepting of other cultures take, not to mention bigotry, RC.

Well, West Memphis does suck. Give credit where credit is due. But it is funny that Cook would call a majority-black city "an inbred community of slope-headed hillbilly cretins". Where's the racial sensitivity?

Anyway, glad to see a new hearing has been ordered.

The Crack Emcee said...

Fuck this whole inbred community of slope-headed hillbilly cretins!

Ooops! I meant, I love all my lovely white brothers and sisters, of course,...

Insane.

kent said...

Insane.

Liberals claim, with monotonous insistence, that they're uniquely "pro-people," and foursquare for the common man...

... I mean... you know... in the abstract, at any rate.

kent said...

Ann: here's the follow-up to the initial Paradise Lost documentary that I mentioned earlier, covering the ongoing post-conviction legal battles of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley, in case you (or anyone else here) is interested.

EnigmatiCore said...

Cases like this are the reason I have a hard time with the death penalty.

I am all for it being on the books and lose no sleep over it for cases like McVeigh, but the sentence is given in cases where it significantly less of a slam dunk.

Misty said...

Both the victims and the convicted represent a parent's worse nightmares - that your child would die such a horrible, horrible death, or that your child (or anyone) is wrongly convicted and thrown into the hell that is our prison system (if they are in fact innocent, which I have no idea).

I am sorry for the deep pain these parents must be in all these years and to have to keep bringing it up and even making movies must be awful. But so is finding out that maybe the real killers are still out there.

I am strongly opposed to the death penalty for a couple of reasons, but the possibility of wrongful conviction is one of them.

I had not heard of this case before, but now I'll keep following it to see how it ends.

kent said...

I had not heard of this case before, but now I'll keep following it to see how it ends.

There's an excellent book on the case (The Devil's Knot), still in print.

Misty said...

Thanks, Kent, I've also been seeing a lot on the internet.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann: here's the follow-up to the initial Paradise Lost documentary..."

Yes, I saw that when it came out.

Crusader said...

Was sickened after watching both documentaries because it was so obvious to any normal rational person that these three boys did NOT have anything to do with murdering and mutilating the three little boys!

I had to keep putting my hand in front of the TV monitor because the evidentiary photos are just to aweful to see over and over again. Very sad case, definitely not something those convicted of could have been capable of doing.

Hope all three of those convicted get exonerated before they start growing gray hair!

Freeman Hunt said...

West Memphis is horrid. I hope it isn't what people picture when they picture Arkansas.

Freeman Hunt said...

Helena and West Helena are horrid too. Don't go to any of those places.

kent said...

Helena and West Helena are horrid too. Don't go to any of those places.

Decades ago, in college, I dated a woman whose home town was a wee Arkansan hamlet by the name of Crossett. Went there once to visit her, over the summer.

I've honestly had bigger apartments. ;)

Freeman Hunt said...

Ha. Democrat areas, of course.

Northwest Arkansas is solidly Republican and, incidentally, the nicest area of the state.

Heh.

Shanna said...

West Memphis is horrid.

Seconded Freeman. Although it's basically Memphis lite so it shouldnt' count as Arkansas.

BTW, is this case what all those bumper stickers saying "free the west memphis three" are talking about? Because i always wondered about that.

Rebecca said...

This excellent site has comprehensive archives and news updates about the case, and the young men involved. www.wm3.org

While there is much evidence to show that the police, and some members of the community, were motivated by bigotry and ignorance, it doesn't require an indictment of the entire community.

The murders themselves were shocking, and happened at a time when the national news was full of stories about Satanic Ritual Killings. Many people latched onto that explanation because it was comforting. When faced with the possibility that one of your ordinary-seeming neighbors is capable of torturing and killing three young children - possibly one of them their own child - it's easier to believe that there are devil worshiping crazies on the loose, killing children.

The jury heard evidence that the police and prosecutors knew to be false. "Eyewitnesses" testified to everything from seeing the boys near the scene, to hearing them confess to the crime later. Almost all of the stories were later recanted, but the police knew how unreliable the witnesses were, and that some of the testimony conflicted with known facts of the case, but put the fabulists on the stand anyway.

Why so many willing fabulists? Many write it off as something that an "inbred community of slope-headed hillbilly cretins" are wont to do, but even the Paradise Lost filmmakers admit that their own presence, allowed even inside the courtroom, had some negative influence. They were there to begin with, working for MTV, to make a film about a sensational Satanic Ritual Killing. Many people came forward with tales of seeing Damien wearing all black clothes, or Jason buying candles (obviously for some nefarious Satan worshiping ritual), in order to draw the cameras in their direction. The filmmakers realized, as events unfolded, that these witnesses, and the boys themselves, were playing to cameras. After all, if they were there to make a movie about Satanic Ritual Killings, then there must have been a Satanic Ritual Killing to begin with, or MTV wouldn't be making the film. Everyone on the film crew was convinced, early on, that the boys were innocent, but the damage had been done, and their continued presence was a dual edged sword, both documenting and feeding the growing hysteria.

My stepson just recently asked me if anything new had happened in the case, since the last development I'd told him about was the DNA evidence. I was a little ashamed that I'd forgotten about the boys for so long that I didn't have an answer. That a new hearing has finally been granted is incredible news, but it's frustrating to see how slowly the wheels of justice turn.

In response to those that have asked who the DNA evidence implicated, it was not that of John Mark Byers (the father of victim Stephen Byers), but the stepfather of one of the other boys. The story of the West Memphis Three (though the number is more accurately six, as the three young victims need to be remembered too), continues to be a cautionary tale, first with the certainty of the boys guilt, based on appearances and "suspicious" behavior, then with the certainty that many have had about the guilt of John Mark Byers, based on similar evidence. That the DNA points to someone whose appearance and behavior satisfied neither side - not those that pointed fingers at the metal heads that dressed in black, nor those that pointed at the loudmouth hillbilly - should give us all pause, and an opportunity for self-reflection. The West Memphis Three have suffered, but it seems they will not have to die, for our sins.

Vaughn said...

@Robert Cook's first comment:

Is it your opinion that the inbred slope-headed hillbillies cretins are the only purveyors of dull, hateful, ignorant, dehumanizing prejudice?

And if so, are you self-aware?

MrMagoo said...

It's pretty amazing that in a town full of messed up hicks, that somehow a movie is going to turn 3 members of that community into witches being hunted.

The kids are part of that community. I don't trust the movie. It feels like the Blair Witch used for the wrong purposes.

That's just a hunch.

TML said...

Sinofsky and Berlinger are formidable film makers. I saw this back when everyone else did too. Stunning. They did seem unlikely suspects for a lot of reasons. Reminds me of one of the greatest books I've ever read about crazy, bat-shit prosecutorial zeal: Lawrence Wright's "Remembering Satan" about the Paul Ingram case in Wash state. It will infuriate you and bring to mind the Buckeys in California and the Amiraults in Mass.

Frank said...

In the documentary the boys describe how they hid when the cops showed up looking for them. The interviewer asks, "If you hadn't done anything wrong, why did you feel the need to hide from the police?" Damien's startled expression and non-answer is the most honest moment of the entire film.

BTW - I dare any one of you effete daisy's to call those Americans "slope-headed Hillbilly cretins" to his or her face. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I suspect the response would be kinder than you deserve and better justice than you can imagine.