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In 1993, the brutal murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas left the community reeling with fear and anger. Suspicion focused on three teenaged misfits whose taste for heavy metal and the occult made them easy targets. The prosecution made them out to be satanic devil worshippers who had taken part in a ritual killing. The three teens - Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley - became known as the West Memphis 3. And despite a lack of evidence, they were convicted of murder. Damien Echols, the alleged ringleader, was sentenced to death.
Three years later, 'Paradise Lost', directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, brought national attention to the case. The documentary raised questions about the guilt of the West Memphis 3. People like Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines from the Dixie Chicks all took notice and began raising awareness about the story. Our own Atom Egoyan has signed on to make a feature film about the case - it'll star Reese Witherspoon, as a mother of one of the victims.
Last August, as Berlinger and Sinofsky were putting the finishing touches on 'Paradise Lost 3' - a film that played at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, and presents the most convincing evidence yet pointing to the innocence of the West Memphis 3 - a bombshell dropped. After spending almost two decades in prison, the West Memphis 3 walked out of an Arkansas courthouse as free men. A Hollywood ending? Not quite. For the West Memphis 3, freedom has come with a heavy cost.