I cannot claim anything like a comprehensive knowledge of the details surrounding the infamous 1993 triple murder of three 8-year-old boys from West Memphis, Arkansas, whose bodies were found dead and partially mutilated in a drainage ditch in the Robin Hood Hills. I first learned of the crime after hearing “Free the Three,” a stridently opinionated song by the hardcore band Zao.
The song’s title is a reference to the three men eventually convicted of having committed the murders as part of a Satanic ritual; Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin, who came to be known as The West Memphis Three. The chorus features vocalist Dan Weyandt repeating the phrase, “You lie, you lie, you lie and they pay.” Not too objective, but visceral and compelling.
Echols was condemned to die for the crime, and Misskelley and Baldwin received life sentences, despite serious allegations of a mishandled investigation, limited forensic evidence, and a jury foreman apparently hell-bent to convict. Certain members of the victims’ families subsequently came to doubt the guilt of the men serving time for their sons’ murders.
Today, in a surprising and emotional reversal, the West Memphis Three were released from prison. It is difficult for me to imagine a more hopeless scenario than being wrongly imprisoned and sentenced to a death for a crime one did not commit. I wonder how Dan Weyandt feels today.