Description from TIFF 2012 catalog by Thom Powers:
How do you maintain hope against all odds? That question lies at the heart of this in-depth study of a gross miscarriage of justice that put three innocent men in prison and sparked an almost two-decade battle to set them free. Academy Award® – nominated director Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil) offers an inside look at the story of the “West Memphis 3,” chronicling their trial, conviction, and the subsequent investigation that generated the movement to prove their innocence, which involved everyone from grassroots supporters to celebrated artists and musicians.
Berg traces the story back to its beginning in 1993, when three boys were found murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. After a shockingly brief investigation, the West Memphis Police Department charged eighteen-year-old Damien Echols and two other teenagers, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., with the killings, targeting them for being outsiders with a taste for heavy metal music and the occult. After controversial trials, Echols was sentenced to death, while Baldwin and Misskelley were given life imprisonment. For years, legal appeals brought no result. Finally, in 2005, The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and his wife and producing partner Fran Walsh funded a vigorous investigation that brought renewed hope to the defense campaign, and eventually led to a dramatic turn of events that is captured in this film.
Echols serves as a producer on West of Memphis, along with his wife Lorri Davis. The two met in 1996, while he was in prison and she was drawn to his case as a supporter. In this Mavericks event, we present West of Memphis followed by a live conversation with key people involved with both the case and the film, including Berg, Echols, Davis, and Johnny Depp, as well as Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Their determination is a case study in the power of hope.