by Max Brantley
I did notice this:
* WEST MEMPHIS THREE MOVIE: The New York Times has a positive review of "West of Memphis," the new documentary on the West Memphis Three murder case. Stephen Holden calls it a work of "fierce documentary advocacy." Key points will be familiar to long WM3 watchers here — inspiring for its "semi-happy" ending of the release of three men from prison. "Infuriating," too.
“West of Memphis” is infuriating because, in the deal that was worked out, the State of Arkansas agreed to accept an Alford plea, whereby the defendants could assert their innocence and go free while still pleading guilty. The compromise saved face for the prosecution by acknowledging that there was enough evidence to convict them. Only one of the three, Mr. Baldwin, balked at agreeing to the deal.
Even more angering than the partial vindication is the film’s vision of unequal justice in America. The men might still be rotting away in prison, were it not for support from filmmakers like Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (“Lord of the Rings”), who became involved and reached into their deep pockets, and celebrities like Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp, Natalie Maines and Henry Rollins, who rallied around the cause. The film gives no statistics about the millions spent for legal and forensic expertise, but it was the kind of defense that only the rich can afford.
The review inaccurately refers to Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington of Jonesboro as the "original prosecutor" in saying he still believes the defendants guilty. He wasn't, though he asserts as the Alford plea deal requires that they remain guilty in the eyes of the law. The documentary, as has been reported before, points a finger at another potential suspect, but no more convictable evidence than sent the WM3 away.
So back to Christmas for me. Have to warm up the monkey bread and make "juniors," a young child's fractured name, permanently adopted by the family, for the Orange Julius concoction that's part of our standard Christmas morning. Then there's a relish tray to make and shrimp to peel to open the prime rib feast that awaits nid-afternoon.
Moths have gotten to our heirloom felt Christmas stockings (heirloom in the familial, not artistic sense. They look more like outsider art, which is part of the charm, with a handmade candy cane on one that looks more like a striped boomerang than candy.)
But I don't detect any fraying of the fabric of our happy, healthy family gathering. At 7 a.m., the kids — 27 and almost 33 — are still sound asleep, a far cry from childhood days. It's all I can do not to rouse them to get the festivities underway.