THE THREE: From left, Misskellley, Echols and Baldwin.
The murder of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis on May 6, 1993 — and the arrest and imprisonment of three older Crittenden County boys for the murders — has spawned its own culture. A pair of documentary films, “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” and “Revelations: Paradise Lost 2,” helped raise awareness to what many see as discrepancies in the case.
When the rock ’n’ roll world found out no physical evidence linking the boys to the crime was introduced in the trial — but the facts that the accused listened to rock music and wore black T-shirts were — some musicians and others got involved to raise awareness of the case. The convicted soon became known as the “West Memphis Three” — as well as the “WM3” acronym.
An album called “Free the West Memphis Three” was released in 2000. Among the participants were L7, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Killing Joke, Joe Strummer, Steve Earle and Tom Waits.
Lead singer Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers was the album’s executive producer; the Supersuckers appeared on the album and Spa-ghetti performed at Little Rock club Vino’s while in town for a protest against the case at the Arkansas Supreme Court.
In fall 2002, another West Memphis Three album was released, called “Rise Above.” Organized by singer and author Henry Rollins, the benefit double CD is also a tribute to Rollins’ former band, influential punk rockers Black Flag. Iggy Pop, Rancid, Queens of the Stone Age, Slipknot and Chuck D. are among the artists appearing on the album.
“I came up with the idea of doing an album’s worth of Black Flag songs and getting all these cool singers in on the deal,” Rollins explains. “I figured what could be better than to have none other than Chuck D. of Public Enemy kind of call out West Memphis, Arkansas, and put the place on the map? So I emailed Chuck this pleading letter: ‘Please be on our record.’”
Chuck D. agreed, rapping, “West Memphis, Arkansas — get ready to go worldwide. Let’s get it on!” on the album’s title track.
“Devil’s Knot,” a book on the West Memphis case by Little Rock journalist Mara Leveritt, was released in October 2002. “We have a situation where their civil rights — First Amendment rights to read books, to listen to particular kinds of music, to express themselves by their clothing styles — were used against them in trial to speak to their state of mind,” Leveritt says.
More than a dozen years after the murders, interest in the West Memphis Three case seems stronger than ever. The DVD of the two docu-mentaries on the case was released in the UK last month. Damien Echols, the only of the three to be sentenced to death, also had his autobiog-raphy published in June. A “WM3 Worldwide Awareness Day” is planned for Saturday, July 23. Arkansas events are planned at Downtown Music, Blank Generation, Vino’s Brewpub and at Fayetteville’s Omni Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology.
“Free The West Memphis Three”
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by Ellie Wheeler, Leslie Newell Peacock, Leslie Newell Peacock, Jonathan Wilkins, Jane English, Eric Wilson, Benjamin Hardy, Chris Hancock, Meredith Martin-Moats, Carlton Saffa, Mara Leveritt, Catherine Crisp, Dan Rahn, Walter Manger, Special Sanders, Jack Wagoner, Nate Bell, Jacob Pesicek, Lilyan Kauffman, Tara DeJohn, Max Farrell, Jeff Short, Mike Steeley, Phil Beuth, Omaya Jones, Tobin Williamson, Stephen Koch, Lucy Holifield, Randy C. Forst, Stephanie Smittle, David Sanders, Mark Christ and Stephanie Spencer
Also, Red Octopus at the Public Theater, Alcee Chriss III at First Presbyterian Church, Harvestfest in Hillcrest, the Arkansas Times Hog Roast, Wildflower Revue at South on Main and Made By Few in Bentonville.