by Max Brantley
Supporters of the West Memphis Three gathered Saturday night for the CBS "48 Hours" episode on the case. I watched at home. It was an enlightening look at the shoddy prosecution. You may believe the three are guilty in the slaying of three children -- I don't -- but if you study the exculpatory detail amassed by their defenders, I don't see how you can believe that the verdict was properly proven. The utterly specious satanism testimony aggravates to this day. Not to mention the jury tampering.
Here's a summary of the watch party, for lack of a better description. It included a surprise call to the gathering from one of the three convicted in the case, Jason Baldwin.
Little Rock, AR- February 29, 2010) Over the weekend, 80 plus supporters and inquisitors gathered in Little Rock to watch CBS’s 48 Hours Mystery: A Cry For Innocence, a program on the Arkansas case of the West Memphis 3. The hour-long episode included interviews from well-known Hollywood Actor Johnny Depp along with Damien Echols, one of the man wrongfully imprisoned. Echols’ wife Lorri Davis, who watched the program with the crowd at the Oyster Bar, also appeared in the 48 Hour feature. Arkansas Take Action (ATA), a group of local advocates dedicated to seeking justice for the three wrongfully convicted men, organized this and other events on the issue.
In 1993, Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols, known as the West Memphis 3, were arrested, charged and convicted for the brutal death of 3 young boys in West Memphis, AR. There was no scientific or forensic evidence pointing any guilt of the three. Instead, prosecutors relied on an error-riddled “confession,” community fears, and discredited “expert” witnesses to gain convictions. Most recently the case has garnered some national and international attention as famous actors, musicians and activists speak out against the wrongful convictions.
Local supporters were pleased with the great turnout for the event from both the national and local interest in the case. The gathering started with a screening of the Brian Quist documentary “Time for Truth”, which briefly summarizes the case and details recent forensic test results that prove the West Memphis 3 did not commit this crime. The group also heard from ATA member and event organizer John Hardin. “There are three kind of people gathered here in this room,” Hardin explained.
“…There are my fellow ATA members who know 100% that the West Memphis 3 are innocent. Then there are the majority of supporters that simply believe that these three at the very least deserve a fair trial. Finally, there are the skeptics. Those are the people I urge to do their own research and investigation. Because I am so convinced that when you look at the true facts of this case, you will come up on our side.”
Some 80 people intently watched the entire hour long 48 Hour segment, quieting themselves each time the commercials ended and the program resumed. The room remained packed as people watched while standing along the walls and sitting on the floor. “With the strong and growing local network of support, including the legal community, we are really looking forward to the court finally granting a new trial.” Lorri Davis said convincingly.
The crowd was also treated to a special and unplanned surprise when Jason Baldwin called the cell phone of friend and ATA member, Holly Ballard, from prison. With the phone pressed to the air, Holly reiterated Jason’s wishes to thank everyone for being there and for everyone’s support. The room erupted with applause and words of support and praise for Jason.
48 Hours veteran Erin Moriarty is the lead correspondent for the piece. Among those interviewed are some parents of the victims, Echols and his wife Lorri Davis, Devil’s Knot author Mara Leveritt, local supporters, and actor Johnny Depp.