West Memphis Three’s Support in the Metal World Is Building
This weekend, actor Johnny Depp will be joining a long list of activists and musicians calling for the reexamination of the 1993 conviction of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley (dubbed the West Memphis Three) for the murder of three children in a small Southern town.
In a pre-recorded interview for CBS’ ’48 Hours Mystery’ airing Saturday, the actor known for not being one to say much beyond the big screen declares, “It’s time to find the killers” and empathizes with the incarcerated Echols, “He comes from a small town in Arkansas. I come from a relatively small town in Kentucky. I can remember kind of being looked upon as a freak or different, because I didn’t dress like everybody else. So I can empathize with being judged by how you look.”
The episode is reported to focus on new DNA evidence and alleged juror misconduct that could exonerate the three. For the metal community, this case has hit home, as many have believed that the three — who were teens at the time of arrest — were rushed by authorities into conviction because they wore dark clothes and loved heavy metal in a conservative town.
The case itself has been plagued with discrepancies and accusations concerning mishandling of the crime scene as well as coercion for confessions and testimonies. All of these were documented in the films ‘Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills’ and ‘Paradise Lost 2: Revelations.’ And directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have now said a third is on the way.
Artists like Metallica, in a rare decision for the band, showed their support by letting the filmmakers use their songs at no cost. Many other artist have recorded songs in order to raise money for the three’s legal cost, like in 2002 when Henry Rollins organized the compilation ‘Rise Above,’ where artist like Tom Araya of Slayer, Mike Patton of Faith No More, and Corey Taylor of Slipknot all covered Black Flag songs.
Many songs have been written to bring more awareness to the case, like the hardcore act Zao‘s ‘Free the Three’ from their ‘Parade of Chaos’ album. Numerous artists have donated memorabilia for auctions like Ozzy Osbourne who in December put signed copies of his book up for a fundraising bid.
Though all three have put up a hard legal fight, all three are still incarcerated — with Baldwin and Misskelley serving life sentences and Echols sentenced to lethal injection. Over the years, many involved in the case — including some members of the victims’ families — have publicly come forward in support of the West Memphis Three, saying they believe they are innocent and point to circumstantial evidence that leads to other possible suspects.