In last week's Insider, we wrote about "Life After Death," the new book by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three. In the later chapters of the book, Echols speculates about the reasoning behind fellow WM3'er Jason Baldwin's brief stand against signing off on the Alford Plea that eventually freed the three men, saying, among other things, that Baldwin "had grown to love prison" and was "looking forward to the next year in prison school," before speculating further that the reason Baldwin finally did agree to go along with the deal was because: "My own case had garnered much of the WM3 publicity, and if we managed to be freed without him, there would be very little interest left in his case."
After press time last week, Echols and Baldwin — who aren't on speaking terms due to Baldwin's involvement in the film version of Mara Leveritt's "Devil's Knot," which Echols objects to — both released statements.
Baldwin went first, discussing the "miracles and wishes come true" he's seen in the past year of freedom before acknowledging that the rift between him and Echols is due to the "Devil's Knot" film. "I have repeatedly reached out to him over the last few months with no response," Baldwin wrote, "but I continue to hope that he will come around. My door will always be open, if and when he does." Near the end of his statement, Baldwin said that he could tell "thousands of stories" about the evil he saw in prison, "but that is not what I want you to take away from this. Instead, I want you to know that what I experienced is so much more than that. I never grew to love prison, but I did learn to love and even forgive the people I lived with while there."
Echols' response was briefer, but still poignant, speaking of the difficult times portrayed in the closing chapters of the book, which he called "the most torturous period of my life."
"After our release from prison, Jason and I had a disagreement over how I was to be portrayed in the film 'Devil's Knot.' The movie unfortunately has driven a wedge between us, but I will always respect Jason and love him as a friend," Echols writes. "I believe Jason was selfless in his decision to go along with the Alford plea that freed us, and I understand how difficult this decision was for him. For that, I will be forever grateful. My intention was not to hurt anyone, but to write honestly about my struggle."
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