I wrote this on Friday, August 19th but didn’t feel like posting it until now. I guess I kept hoping that Damien, Jason or Jessie would be giving an interview so I’d have more to write. But I imagine they are quietly enjoying freedom so on to the story…
This morning I woke up to the news that The West Memphis 3 were heading into court today… with the seemingly inconceivable possibility of being set free.
There are many people who have more eloquently explained the case of these three men in Jonesboro, Arkansas who have served 18 years in jail for crimes they did not commit. Mike introduced me to the case, and the legal quest, a few years ago. And, as you might know me to do, I became passionately invested. And the more I read about it, the more upset and angry I became.
When the amazing photographer Leslie Lyons was looking for subjects for a project, I wore Mike’s “Free The West Memphis 3” t-shirt. Leslie visited a handful of cities and took hundreds of pictures but when she lined up work for the gallery show, she chose my image. I couldn’t help but feel haunted while wearing the shirt, and I guess that came across on my face. I own a 4′ x 3′ version of the print but here’s the image from Leslie’s website:
There are two documentaries about the case (with a third set to air at the Toronto Film Festival in September… guess it needs to go back into editing) that I highly recommend.
And today, at around noon EDT, they were freed. There are some elements to their release that I disagree with, I am overwhelming happy. Happy tears, as my mom would say. And watching the three men at the press conference was amazing. They were trying to pay attention to the question but clearly they wanted to leave. To walk outside without handcuffs, in new shoes and holding the hands of people they love. Things I take for granted every day.
I suppose there’s the idea that we are powerless, that we cannot effect change. There is so much happening so fast and social media is so pervasive… but in this case, people can make a difference. The small chatter or injustice turned into a giant roar after two decades of brewing incredulousness. And the lawyers and the courts hear the noise. DNA investigations began and the buzz of a new trial grew from faint idea to real possibility.
And while the decision this morning doesn’t still 100% well with me (why did they have to admit to anything?), I know from my father that justice at any level is not perfect. But three men who entered jail as minors walked out into the sunshine as free men in their mid-30s. No one can give them back the time they lost but I for one cannot wait to see what they do with the time they have now. It’s going to be amazing.
We have the power to change things. It might not be easy and it might not be fast- but it can happen. I have always been a fighter. Yes, I have moments when I forget that, times that are tough or stretch of less than vibrant action, but I do not give up. Neither do Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley.
The homepage of their website is amazing:
Wishing you sunshine and as much freedom (in every way) as your heart can hold,