The West Memphis Three, three men who’ve been imprisoned since 1993 for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark., despite a lack of forensic evidence, have reached a plea deal. According to the AP, a judge today accepted the plea bargain that will allow Damien Echols, who’d been on death row, and Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., both serving life sentences, to maintain their innocence while acknowledging prosecutors had sufficient evidence against them. Prosecutor Scott Ellington told the AP the men had been placed on 10 years’ probation and could face 21 years in prison if they re-offend.
Hollywood has long shown its support for the trio, most notably with Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s 1996 award-winning documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills.
In February 2010, Johnny Depp defended them in an interview with 48 Hours Mystery, adding his name to a list of celebrity crusaders that includes Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Deadline reports Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh will today reveal that they’ve been financing private investigators and forensic experts to aid investigative efforts for years.
Berlinger and Sinofsky, who made a 2000 sequel Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, will premiere their third documentary, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, at the Toronto film festival. HBO confirms Berlinger and Sinofsky were in court today to witness the ruling, and film a new ending for the movie, which will debut on HBO in January 2012. “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 a statement. “To see our work culminate in the righting of this tragic miscarriage of justice is more than a filmmaker could ask for.” Added Sinofsky, “Today, we, along with HBO, are humbled to be a part of this remarkable outcome.”