Damien Echols on the West Memphis Three, exoneration and Life After Death

damien echols life after death thumb.jpeg
Is there life after death? After eighteen years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, most of them spent in the debilitating confines of death row, Damien Echols plans to find out.

In 1993 Echols, then eighteen, and two other Arkansas teenagers were arrested and charged with the murders of three children. The trials of the West Memphis Three, as they became known, offered little evidence but plenty of hysteria over alleged satanic rituals and teens who wore black clothing.

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- Music can free your soul, but can it spring the West Memphis Three?

As the supposed "ringleader," Echols was sentenced to death. Stirred by a series of HBO documentaries on the case, a number of musicians and celebrities -- including Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Johnny Depp -- launched public campaigns and helped to generate widespread outrage over the convictions. Last year new DNA evidence and the prospect of a new trial compelled state officials to release the trio while denying them full exoneration.

Echols comes to Denver this week to promote his poignant and astonishing memoir of his years in solitary confinement, Life After Death (Blue Rider Press). Movies are also headed to theaters about the case, including the documentary West of Memphis (produced by Lord of the Rings impresario Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh) and Devil's Knot, starring Reese Witherspoon. I caught up with Echols for an interview prior to his appearance at the Tattered Cover on Friday October 26, where I'll be hosting a conversation with the author about his work.

Westword: This is a memoir of a special kind. It's about eighteen years in prison, but it's also about the places you went in your mind to escape from prison. What role did your childhood memories play while you were in solitary confinement?

Damien Echols: It's all you have. Most people are constantly making new memories, and they have things they're going to cherish, even if it's just having a conversation with a friend over a meal. On death row, you don't even have that. You don't collect memories you want to save. So what you end up doing is going back and looking at childhood, trying to squeeze every ounce of nourishment out of those times, just to keep you going. You get handholds in memory you don't get walking around in the outside world.

After your first years in a maximum security prison, you were moved into a supermax, with less interaction with other inmates. Was that a huge adjustment for you?

It was better in some ways because it was a bigger prison, so the guards couldn't focus in on just one person and torture them as much; I guess they have to spread the malice out a little more. It gave you a little more privacy. But you see people who are being driven insane from the isolation, too. A judge ordered that a federal inspector be allowed to come in and look at the prison, and he said it was the worst conditions he'd ever seen outside of Guantanamo Bay.

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Tattered Cover LoDo

1628 16th St., Denver, CO

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6 comments
Ms125
Ms125

All of the facts I posted are true.  They are from court case documents, police reports and mainstream news articles. People can visit callahan 8k or wm3truth com to find the actual documents backing up all of this information.  Make sure to read both sides of the case.

nemopunk15
nemopunk15 topcommenter

I might just have to find my way to Denver this Friday.

 

Also, the facts of the case are available far and wide, MS125 is LYING about basic well known information.

Bella_Bella81
Bella_Bella81

@damienechols really looking forward to the book signing on Friday! Can't wait to meet you and give you a poem I wrote for you.

Ms125
Ms125

For those not familiar with the West Memphis Three case, here's some information on the case: Many people believe the West Memphis Three were guilty as charged.  They were found guilty by a unanimous jury the first time and plead guilty last year instead of waiting for a trial.

 

Echols was not found guilty because of his clothes or musical tastes. He was found guilty because of the repeated confessions and braggings that the three committed the crime. Misskelley (one of the 3) confessed FIVE times, three times to the detectives, once to the police and once to his own lawyer. All of the West Memphis three had failed alibis.

 

Echols had a history of threats of violence, violence, psychiatric treatment and psychotic behavior. His reported actions included brutally killing a dog, starting fires at his school, threatening to kill his teachers and parents and stating he liked to drink blood. See court documents exhibit 500 for evidence of this. Echols' stated under cross-examination that he was interested in the occult. Echols' journal contained morbid images and references to dead children. Police took a necklace from Echols when he was arrested. An outside crime lab later found blood from two distinct DNA sources on the necklace. One source was consistent with Echols himself. The second source was consistent with both victim Steven Branch and co-defendant Jason Baldwin (one of the 3). A car load of people saw Echols in muddy clothes near the crime scene. Echols went around bragging he committed the crimes to at least three different people after the crimes were committed.

SuePerakis
SuePerakis

@damienechols Good aticle. Keep them coming. Painful yes, pressure on Arkansas yes as we'll.

Bella_Bella81
Bella_Bella81

@Ms125 please get your facts and info right before shareing what you think you know. This is not true to what really happend and to those of you that read this persons comment please watch the documentaries and do your own research to what really happend. If you want to share the story and give insight fine but please don't post your assumptions and try to pass them as true facts when in reality they are not true to what happend. It's not right and very disrespectful to these three guys that actually lived it.

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