Monday, December 31, 2012

'Paradise' Found


  Saw "West of Memphis" yesterday at the Angelika, Amy Berg's detailed documentary about the infamous West Memphis 3, a trio of misfit teenagers in Arkansas who were charged with the "satanic-cult" murder of three 8-old-boys in the early '90s. For those who are not familiar with the case -- another conviction based on a bogus confession of a mentally retarded teenager -- it's a great all-in-one place to learn about it. (Peter Jackson and the supposed ringleader of the crime, Damien Echols, co-produced it.) And for those who have been haunted by the case since HBO's shocking documentary "Paradise Lost" (1996) -- where Jackson, Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp and several other high-profile people first learned about the case and began questioning the prosecutors' actions -- and its two sequels, it will bring you up to date on the three guys' release from prison in 2011. And it will also reveal shocking new evidence that implicates one of the boys' stepfathers, who was only questioned in recent years after trying to sue Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks for defamation after she mentioned that new testing showed that Mr. Hobbs' DNA matched a strand of hair caught in one of the shoe laces used to hog-tie the boys. Like "The Central Park Five," you will be horrified at the miscarriage of justice in this most-horrifying of cases. But as Damien Echols points out while still in prison, this type of railroading of the dirt-poor and under-educated is far more common than people want to believe.

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