Saturday, October 29, 2011


Peter Jackson, New Zealand based director of the film "The Hobbit" speaks of a pardon request on behalf of Damien Echols. Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jesse Misskelly were arrested and incacerated for the 1993 Robin Hood Hills Murders (West Memphis, Arkansas) as Damien Echols spent 17 years on death row.

The West Memphis Three were released in late August 2011 on the "Alford Plea" as all three (Misskelly, Baldwin, Echols) maintain there innocence.

At a news conference on Friday in New Zealand Peter Jackson, the director of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and a coming two-part film adaptation of “The Hobbit,” said he was working with one of the recently released Arkansas men known as the West Memphis Three to help get him exonerated of the crimes for which the three spent nearly 20 years in prison.

Speaking from the “Hobbit” set in Waikato and accompanied by the New Zealand prime minister, John Key, Mr. Jackson said he had received an exemption from New Zealand law that would allow a visit by Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three convicts, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Jackson said at the news conference that Mr. Echols, now 36, was not working on his “Hobbit” movies. “There are all sorts of emotive headlines about ‘Damien Echols, killer,’ coming to New Zealand,” Mr. Jackson said, according to The A.P., “but the reality is that Damien Echols is an innocent man who has spent 18 years incarcerated in a tiny cell.”

He added: “We’re doing investigative work, we’re doing forensic work” that is for “the purpose of getting a complete pardon.”

Mr. Echols and two other men, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley Jr., were teenagers in 1994 when they were convicted of the murders of three 8-year-old boys. The other men received life sentences and Mr. Echols was sentenced to death, though they continued to appeal their convictions. In August all three entered into plea deals that released them from prison after they pleaded guilty to the crimes, even as they maintained their innocence.

Over the years the men have gained many high-profile supporters, including the musicians Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines and the actor Johnny Depp. They have also been the subjects of the “Paradise Lost” films, a series of HBO documentaries, the third of which will be shown in January.
Movie director Peter Jackson, in New Zealand to film "The Hobbit," brought Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three with him and that occasioned some questioning at a news conference there. He particularly was pressed on whether he'd gone through normal channels to get a waiver of a rule that would normally prevent a convicted murderer from entering the country.

Jackson told reporters he was working on a full pardon for Echols, released after a negotiated guilty plea. He also "clarified" that Echols would not have a role in "The Hobbit," news that had caused some unhappiness among those who believe Echols is guilty of the murder of three West Memphis children. Though he pleaded guilty, he did so under an unusual procedure that allowed him to assert his innocence in return for release for time served in the 1993 deaths. He had been condemned to die. His co-defendants Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were serving life sentences when released.

Pardon for Damien Echols? It's unwise to ever say never in the WM3 case. But if Jackson thinks a pardon could be forthcoming from Gov. Mike Beebe or any likely Arkansas successor, I don't think much of his odds.

Thanks-Stay Metal, Stay Brutal-\m/ -l-