West Memphis 3 go free, HBO’s ‘Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory’ gets a new ending

08.19.11 6 years ago 7 Comments

Bob Richman/HBO

Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelly, known as the West Memphis 3, were set free on Friday (August 19) morning, as HBO set a January 2012 premiere date for the third documentary focusing on their contentious case.
The three men served 18 years in prison following their convictions stemming from the a trio of 1993 killings. 
The acclaimed 1996 documentary “Paradise Lost:  The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” cast doubts upon many aspects of the case against Baldwin, Echols and Misskelly. Directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky continued their investigation with 2000’s “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations.”
The filmmakers were already deep into “Paradise Lose 3: Purgatory,” but Berlinger and Sinofsky were in court on Friday as their latest documentary got a new ending.
“Eighteen years and three films ago, we started this journey to document the terrible murders of three innocent boys and the subsequent circus that followed the arrests and convictions of Baldwin, Echols and Misskelly,” Berlinger said in an HBO statement. “To see our work culminate in the righting of this tragic miscarriage of justice is more than a filmmaker could ask for.”
Adds Sinofsky, “Today, we, along with HBO, are humbled to be a part of this remarkable outcome.”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and run the fall festival circuit before its January 2012 airing on HBO.
While the “Paradise Lost” documentaries called into question the validity of the West Memphis 3 verdicts, it should be noted that Baldwin, Echols and Misskelly were not exonerated in the Friday ruling. Instead, they entered what are known as Alford pleas. In an Alford Plea, a criminal defendant maintains innocence while simultaneously acknowledging the ability of the prosecutor to prove the charges given the evidence at hand. It’s effectively a guilty plea without an admission of guilt, while simultaneously precluding the need for the new trials which could have been a possibility later this year. Judge David Laser sentenced the three ment to the 18 years already served and they were given 10-year suspended sentences.
For a sense of the degree of face-saving in this plea, check out post-release statements by prosecutor Scott Ellington and from Echols. 

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