antiReviews: Various Artists -- Free The West Memphis Three Case Overview / CD Review By Goth Brooks
Free The West
Release Date: October 10, 2000
Label: Koch Records
1. Steve Earle –
2. Rocket from the Crypt – Wrong and Important
3. L7 – Boys in Black
4. Supersuckers – Heavy Heart
5. Joe Strummer & The Long Beach Dub All Stars – The Harder They Come
6. Tom Waits – Rains on Me
7. Supersuckers w/ Eddie Vedder – Poor Girl
8. Tony Scalzo – Indicted
9. Zeke – Wrathchild
10. Kelly Deal – F***ing Hostile
11. The John Doe Thing – Hwy 5
12. Mark Lanegan – Untitled Lullaby
13. Murder City Devils – She
14. Nashville Pussy – Highway to Hell
15. Killing Joke – Our Last Goodbye
On May 5th, 1993 three 8 year old boys, Michael Moore, Steve Branch, and Christopher Byers, headed home from Weaver Elementary School to their nearby West Memphis, Arkansas neighborhood on their bicycles. A few hours later they were reported missing and an informal search by their parents got underway. The next afternoon a child's body was pulled from a creek in a ditch bank, in an area known as the Robin Hood Hills. Eventually, the bodies of the other two missing boys were found nearby. All three of the boys had been severely beaten and tied in the Hog-Tied fashion, ankle to wrist with their own shoelaces. One of the boys in particular, Christopher Byers, appears to have been the focus of the attack: he had been stabbed repeatedly in the groin area and castrated. All three of the boys suffered massive head injuries.
I sit and write with a heavy heart when I think of how those kids suffered this violent attack, and of the gruesome scene left behind by whoever is guilty of this crime. I've seen the HBO Documentary "Paradise Lost Pt.1", and have read over the crime scene reports and the synopsis of the case at the www.wm3.org website about a thousand times trying to understand where justice was served in convicting Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. of this crime. Jessie Misskelley Jr. was sentenced to life plus 40 years in the Arkansas State Prison System; Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and Damien Echols, the suspected ringleader of this trio, and perpetrator of what his accusers call a "Satanic motivated" crime, was sentenced to die by lethal injection.
The one good reason I can argue the fact that justice is blind in Arkansas is because three teenage boys were convicted of these murders with no solid evidence against them other than the fact that they listened the heavy metal bands like Slayer and Metallica, and wore a lot of black. From what I've read and from the documentary I've seen, I can't conclude the guilt or the innocence of the three defendants in this case. I wasn't there at the crime scene, and I haven't done enough research at this point to have a solid conclusion or a final opinion on the matter.
At this point I can say I think that Damien Echols was someone who was guilty of nothing more than having an identity that was so different than the norm, and that his interest and knowledge of something as taboo as the occult or Satanism made him a prime suspect in the God fearing Southern Baptist town of West Memphis, Arkansas. All in all, I think Damien was more of a dabbler than he was a full- blown practitioner of anything that required elaborate measures, such as Satanic rituals or ceremonies.
There is no real evidence that puts the three defendants at the crime scene at the estimated time of the murders. This is a case full of lack of evidence, what appears to be a coerced confession from Jessie Misskelley Jr., evidence lost, and evidence destroyed or overlooked altogether. Am I wrong in the belief that in order to be convicted of a crime the person has be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? The only solid physical evidence offered in the case actually implicates the stepfather of one of the victims, not the accused. The prosecution botched the case even further by having one of their key witnesses debunked when it was brought out in court that he received his masters and doctorate degrees through mail order, not by attending college.
I've read at least a hundred pages off the www.wm3.org website and can't cover the extent of what I've learned about the case thus far. I encourage you to go to the address yourselves and familiarize yourselves with the case and see what you think, and if you feel strongly enough about it to support the fight to free the West Memphis three. And I almost forgot to mention there's a compilation CD that'll be released October 10th to monetarily benefit the three defendants in hopes of a new trial. Musicians as diverse as Tom Waits and Nashville Pussy have contributed tracks to the CD in support of the West Memphis Three. My personal favorites on this CD are Zeke doing their suped-up version of Iron Maidens "Wrathchild", Blaine Cartwright and Nashville Pussy giving the treatment to AC/DC's timeless classic "Highway to Hell", and those Rockin' chicks from Los Angeles who call themselves L7 making me foam at the mouth with an L7 original called "Boys in Black". These three choice cuts alone are worth the price of the CD.