The parents of one of three West Memphis, Ark., boys found dead 18 years ago have appealed to Oscar organizers to withdraw from consideration a documentary about the men convicted in the murders.
In a letter sent Nov. 22, Todd and Dana Moore requested that Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory be removed from a list of documentaries members of the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are viewing to determine the finalists for the Oscars.
The film, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, tells the story of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, the men convicted in the murders.
It is the third film in a series about the trio, dubbed the West Memphis Three, and continued a campaign for their release from prison on grounds that evidence was fabricated.
'Because of public pressure that exploded due to gross misrepresentations of fact in the two previous documentaries, Michael's killers were unjustly able to enter into a plea agreement, were released from prison and now pose additional threats to society' —Todd and Dana Moore
Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were released in August after spending 18 years in jail. Their sentences were set aside and they plead guilty to lesser charges.
In October, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory appeared on an academy list of 15 documentaries in the running for an Oscar nomination. The five nominees announced in January will be drawn from this list of 15.
The Moores claim Berlinger’s films have glorified their son Michael’s killers. Michael was eight when he was found naked and bludgeoned in a ditch, along with Stevie Branch and Christopher Byers.
"Because of public pressure that exploded due to gross misrepresentations of fact in the two previous documentaries, Michael's killers were unjustly able to enter into a plea agreement, were released from prison and now pose additional threats to society," the Moores write in their letter.
"We implore the academy not to reward our child's killers and the directors who have profited from one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated under the guise of a documentary film."
The academy has not responded.
Berlinger defended his film, saying he stands by his conclusion that the trio is innocent. He admitted that he started on the first documentary with the idea that the men had committed the crimes, but later concluded the justice system had erred.
The Moores granted an interview for the first film of the series, but claim in their letter to the academy that the filmmakers "misled" them.
"We appeared solely in the first film because the directors lied and told us their purpose was to protect children," the letter says.