At only 18 years old, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. are sentenced to life in prison and Echols even to death for the murder of three children. A long fight against the sentence begins, wearing down and aging three young men terribly. With prominent support from Henry Rollins, Pearl Jam, Johnny Depp, Peter Jackson and numerous other prominent and private helpers, it finally succeeds after 18 years to get the so-called West Memphis Three free. Echols tells his story in records from that time.
A case that has caused a worldwide sensation and horror, although it was not even about the victims, the three children, not yet ten years old, who lost their lives through a violent crime. There are more victims, their parents and relatives, but it is not about them either. All this is a different story, which hardly finds room here, only in two or three subordinate sentences a little sympathy is thrown at those who have lost their children. There are three other victims and they are the West Memphis Three who were convicted of the crime. Damien Echols is considered the main culprit and is sentenced to death at only 18 years old without even committing the crime. At the beginning of the book he describes a deprived childhood with much hatred, rejection and abandonment. Constantly being on the losing side, being the outsider, reading a lot and eventually discovering his love for metal, which he will later be accused of and used as an argument against him. It is a frightening documentation of dislike and prejudice that is here. Every village needs its scapegoat and the weak become it without ever having an advocate on their side. Echols has to deal with blind cops and a biased Justitia, somehow trying to get through life and living the American nightmare of poverty, violence, addiction and failure. This is not an isolated case, not a unique story that only happens to him, it is experienced every day, sometimes these stories make it into the newspaper, sometimes they get international attention, usually when it is too late, when there are victims, deaths. A fight against windmills that cannot be won. His path ends in death row, in filth, further violence, in the feeling of being at the mercy of others and alone, in hunger, under the arbitrariness of the guards, who somewhere along the way between the parking lot and the prison corridor have forgotten that there are people vegetating, hoping, waiting, with dignity, regardless of whether they are guilty or not, with a last vestige of rights. No one has it easy in jail who has assaulted children, that is one of the unwritten laws, and the perpetrators are at everyone’s mercy, often the guards let the prisoners work it out among themselves, sometimes they also intervene and let them feel that no one is allowed to assault a child.
What remains is an impressive book that has a lasting and thought-provoking effect. The German audiobook version is read by David Nathan, who conveys what Echols has to say in a calm, matter-of-fact and, in the right places, forcefully emotional way. The book alone is not enough; it is advisable to see the films that accompany it and to familiarize oneself with the case and to see the history of the West Memphis Three as a reminder to question things and break down prejudices. Echols is now free, working as an author, ceremonial magician and film producer.
>>> German version <<<