At the start of this year, Damien Echols and fellow convicted murderers Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley were behind bars, with little hope the three men would ever see the light of day again after a decade and a half in prison for a crime it seemed highly unlikely the three committed.
But there was a Hail Mary pass, and the men were suddenly released. Several celebrities had thrown their weight behind the cause, and even one of the fathers of the murdered boys (the crime for which Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin were convicted) supported their release after evidence continued to pile up suggesting the three men were innocent of the horrific crime. A judge in the case accepted an Alford plea– one that got the West Memphis Three out of jail but did not clear their names in the traditional sense.
Among high-profile supporters of Echols and his co-defendants was Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings films and the upcoming film The Hobbit. Now Jackson is working with Echols tin New Zealand so the three men, incarcerated for half their lives, have a chance to live normal lives after their lengthy ordeal. Jackson says:
“There are all sorts of emotive headlines about Damien Echols, killer, coming to New Zealand, but the reality is that Damien Echols is an innocent man who has spent 18 years incarcerated in a tiny cell… He’s come here to work with us on a couple of things. We’re doing investigative work, we’re doing forensic work … with the purpose of getting a complete pardon.”
Further details of Echols’ trip were not disclosed.