Monday, August 22, 2011

The West Memphis Three and Me

A mixed bag of emotions.  A mixed bag of really strange and wonderful and not so wonderful things all at once.  Just when you think the roller coaster is pulling into the station for it's last go-around, someone takes a hammer to the loose spikes on the rickety old thing and new passengers hop in the cars for another ride.

Most importantly, on Friday, August 18, 2011, the West Memphis 3 were released after spending half their lives-- 18 years-- behind bars.  If you don't know about the case, I highly suggest reading up on it at the very least, but also watching the Paradise Lost documentaries.  Those docs certainly changed my life.

Long ago, I caught the HBO original Paradise Lost documentary on late at night (insomnia was at an all time high back then).  I was probably sitting there in all black, maybe a Marilyn Manson t-shirt, heavy eye makeup, etc.  I was a little goth teenager in a small Southern Maryland town.  Even my own uncle (or drunkle as I like to refer to him) accused me of being a "devil-worshipper" which was completely bonkers since I didn't even believe in a devil!  Regardless, their story touched me because I identified with the accused on many levels, but realizing the power of a documentary changed my life.

I ended up going to school originally for photography, but once I took a video class, I was sold and never looked back.  From the moment I picked up a video camera, I was making mini-documentaries.  All of this was truly because of Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger's unique and deeply committed style of filmmaking and storytelling.  I was lucky enough to meet Bruce in a film class I took in college and proceeded to overload him with questions about Paradise Lost, the case, the teens accused, and the crazy stepfather character in the films.  I asked how he could possibly be so professional and keep his cool while uncovering injustice right and left.  Other students in my class looked at me like I had lost it (or snorted an eight ball of cocaine before class because of the speed of my questions), but they clearly hadn't seen the films or else there wouldn't have been one side-eye-- all eyes would have been locked in on the celebrity/hero that was sitting at the head of our classroom.

This case has held a special place in my heart for a long, long time.  I have never been so interested or sickened by a case...  The fact that these boys (I call them boys because they were when they were arrested, but they are pushing 40, now) are finally walking free makes me cry.  It hurts my heart to think about all of their lost time.  What awful things they had to endure for the past 18 years...  and the fact that they are on the streets walking free right now--  if anyone had any doubt that these boys actually murdered 3 children, there's NO WAY they would be free.  Thank christ for Peter Jackson (yes-- Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson) and his film partner who funded the defense in new forensic and DNA testing for the past 7 years which brought up enough evidence to prove the boys could in no way be linked to the murders.

I would do just about anything to hug them.  All three of them.

I cried as I watched them speak.  I cried again watching them walk out of prison-- Damien feeling sunlight on his skin for the first time in 10 years--  And I'll probably continue to cry for them as more and more information is released proving just how wrong Arkansas was for locking up these three innocent men.

I cry for the families of the victims, too.  It's hard to watch old footage of them screaming for death penalties and talking about how they would love to rip their faces off and murder the wrongly accused teens, but what other outlet did they have?  None--  Now, just so everyone knows, almost every parent of the victims (except the one who's DNA was found at the crime scene) says the WM3 are innocent and has asked their forgiveness...  That's saying something.

Anyway, this overshadows anything else going on in my life currently.  I'm certainly at another point after hitting my one year anniversary in Connecticut of re-thinking some things and re-evaluating where I want my life to be/go, but that's for another post.  Right now, my heart is full of love and hope for the WM3.


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