If you don’t know the story of the West Memphis Three, a trio of men who were wrongly convicted of murdering three young children back when the defendants were still teenagers, it’s one of the most compelling true crime tales in recent memory. Thankfully, documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have been there for the whole ordeal, completing three riveting documentaries on the subject, titled “Paradise Lost,” the last of which, “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,” captured the sort-of happy ending for the three convicts. The movies have just been compiled into a deluxe DVD box set which hit stores earlier this month, and now we can bring you an exclusive clip from the set.
The clip, from the box set’s voluminous special features, features Jason Baldwin, who, along with Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., was convicted of killing three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas (Baldwin and Misskelley, Jr. were sentenced to life; Echols was sentenced to death), mostly because he listened to heavy metal music. After arduous, prolonged legal wrangling, and nearly 20 years in prison, the West Memphis Three were released, while entering into a morally iffy Alford Plea, which allowed them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that the persecution had accumulated enough evidence to convict them. Their freedom, in other words, is bittersweet.
“My life has been a constant seesawing of extremes,” Baldwin says as the brief clip begins, which is honestly pretty articulate for a guy whose years could have been spent being formally educated were instead wasted behind bars. He then goes on to describe the different attitudes of people on the outside – those who believed in his innocence and others who were ready to condemn.
Like the documentaries themselves, it’s a poignant and heartfelt little bit of footage and we highly encourage you to watch. If anything, the story of “Paradise Lost” is one in which the genuine goodness of the human spirit ultimately triumphs over bureaucratic red tape and small town finger pointing, even if it takes a really, really, ridiculously long time.
“Paradise Lost” Trilogy Collector’s Edition DVD is out now.