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The West Memphis Three

Written by: FFT Webmaster | October 14th, 2011

The West Memphis Three At NYFF

It was an amazing moment on Monday evening at the New York Film Festival when the West Memphis Three, Arkansas men who gained their freedom following a nearly two-decade ordeal, joined directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky on stage before the screening of the film PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY. This is the third film in the series that documented the trial and push for appeal for Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr, who as teenagers were tried and convicted of a murder they say they never committed. The first PARADISE LOST film released in 1996 made a strong plea for the contradictory evidence and forced confessions that the youths claimed had been coerced by local police officials and an overzealous district attorney’s office. The second in the PARADISE LOST series in 2000 followed the long appeals process as the men continued to maintain their innocence while serving life sentences in the county jail.

This third film in the series, which premiered at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival, was presented in New York with a ten minute addendum f footage shot at the August 19 hearing where under a deal with Arkansas prosecutors, the men pleaded guilty to the murders and were set free. As in many such cases, DNA evidence exonerated the men and several of the witnesses recanted their original testimonies, laying claim that they had been pressured by local police and public officials. For their part, the latest turn of events is a vindication for the co-directors, who have worked tirelessly in the past 15 years to keep the case in the public eye. The series was produced by the HBO Documentary Films division, which will present the newest version and its earlier entries next month on the pay cable network.

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