Local WEST OF MEMPHIS Screenings Shine Light on Developments in West Memphis 3 Case
For the past six weeks, more than two dozen special free promotional screenings in Arkansas and Tennessee of West of Memphis- the investigative documentary directed by Amy Berg in theaters December 25, 2012- are helping to reignite the case and shine a light on new developments in the investigation surrounding the "West Memphis 3."
These special screenings provided a unique opportunity for local audiences, including elected officials who attended last night's screening in Little Rock, Arkansas, to see firsthand the inner workings of the defense team and the investigation funded by Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. New evidence featured in the film eventually led to Damien Echols', Jason Baldwin's and Jessie Misskelley Jr.'s release from prison more than a year ago.
The free Arkansas screenings and the ongoing investigation have caused many people who are familiar with the case to reexamine their initial beliefs. Prosecuting Attorney, Scott Ellington, who has screened the film, has publicly stated that he will investigate any credible evidence provided to him by Echols' defense team. At an Arkansas hearing last week, the state admitted on record that there is an ongoing investigation in part due to the affidavits containing new evidence around the case and captured in the film. As the special local screenings wind down, Crittenden County Circuit Court Judge Victor L. Hill ruled this week that Ellington's ongoing investigation should continue.
According to the decision by Judge Hill, "The prosecutor has the right and obligation to ascertain whether a miscarriage of justice might have occurred…That is his prerogative and he might even be said to derelict in that duty if he failed to conduct such an investigation."
After attending the local screenings, reporters who have covered the case are learning new facts that they weren't previously aware of.
In an email, veteran journalist Ken Heard stated, "At first, way back in 1994, I believed the three kids did it. I covered the beginning of the case strictly on the police side and didn't really get the other point of view. But after covering Echols' Rule 37 hearing a few years ago and seeing new evidence, I changed my mind. This movie helped solidify it. I guess at first I just couldn't fathom living in a world where police were that inept and the original defense attorneys were basically limited in what they could do due to finances and lack of experience."
Pam Hobbs, one of the parents of the children murdered in West Memphis in 1993, attended a screening in Blytheville, Arkansas, as she waited for Judge Hill's ruling on her Freedom of Information Act request to view her son's belongings.
As documented in the film, the West Memphis 3 Tip Line continues to remain very active in obtaining new evidence in the case and evidence received has been turned over to Ellington.
The film features sworn statements from three men who allege that Terry Hobbs' nephew, Michael Hobbs Jr., told them "my uncle Terry murdered those three little boys." According to one witness statement, "One day Michael picked us up in his truck. He was very quiet and upset. Michael then said to us, 'you are not going to believe what my dad told me today. My Uncle Terry murdered the three little boys.' According to Michael, his dad called this 'The Hobbs Family Secret' and he asked us to keep it a secret and not tell anyone."
Director Amy Berg says, "These special screenings have continued to shine a light on the injustice convened on Damien, Jason and Jessie. Although the three men are out of jail, they are not free and we encourage everyone to join the effort to exonerate them. This story is far from over."
West of Memphis, which was recently shown at the Toronto Film Festival and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, will formally open in New York and Los Angeles on December 25, 2012.