West of Memphis
Reviewed by David Savage
Starring: Jason Baldwin, Michael Baden, Holly Ballard
Director: Amy Berg
Running time: 141 minutes (approx.)
In June 1993 three 8 year old boys went missing and were found the next day dead. 3 teenagers – Jessie Misskelley, age 17, Jason Baldwin, age 16 and Damien Echols, aged 18 were arrested and charged with their murders. A crime that shocked the town of West Memphis, Arkansas.
On the 5 May 1993 at around 7pm the three 8 years boys, Christopher Byers, Steven Branch and Michael Moore, were reported missing and were last seen playing together around 6.30pm by neighbours. Searches were started and after a more thorough search the next day their bodies were eventually found naked, tied up and mutilated in a ditch.
For the next month the police had very little to go on but then upon questioning Misskelley without his parents there he confessed to Baldwin, Echols and himself having committing the murders. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life imprisonment while Echols was sentenced to death by lethal injection.
West of Memphis is a film about the fight to stop an innocent man being put to death and freeing 3 men for a crime that they didn’t commit and who had already spent 18 years in prison.
Overall, this is great documentary showing how a botched police investigation and trial sent 3 innocent men to prison. The police were convinced Damian Echols as guilty and were determined to prove it as any cost including ignoring evidence. The film show how a privately funded investigation finds new evidence and even points the finger at a new suspect.
All 3 are now out of prison but only after having to take the Alford plea – a plea which basically meant that they said they were guilty but innocent of the crime.
A very powerful and gripping documentary showing how the murder of 3 young boys ruined the lives of individuals, families and a town.
Available to buy from Amazon here.