For Immediate Release:
Contact: Alice Leeds; 212-874-0675; email@example.com
*** MEDIA ADVISORY ***
(FOR EVENT TUESDAY, DEC. 11)
Film Screening and Public Forum on ‘West Memphis Three’ Case Tuesday Night Builds on Advocacy Campaign to Free Three Men Wrongfully Convicted in 1993 Murder Case
‘We have been overwhelmed by public support over the last two weeks, and this event will bring together existing supporters while reaching more people who want to learn how they can help correct this grave injustice,’ campaign organizers say
(LITTLE ROCK, AR; December 10, 2007) – People from across Arkansas and Tennessee will gather Tuesday night (Dec. 11) in Little Rock for a film screening and public forum on overwhelming new evidence that the men convicted of murdering three West Memphis boys in 1993 are innocent.
The event is being held on the 33rd birthday of Damien Echols, who is on death row for the murders despite strong scientific evidence of his innocence. Tuesday night’s event will include a film screening on the case and the new evidence, a question-and-answer session on the case and the campaign to help free the three men who were wrongfully convicted, and a group letter-writing session.
The letters and petitions targeting Arkansas Governor Mike Beeebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel are a continuation of a campaign – “Evidence = Innocence. Arkansas Take Action!” – that started late last month to harnesses widespread community support for the West Memphis Three into letters and petitions to state officials who have the legal authority to review the strong new evidence in the case and could support efforts to overturn the convictions. People attending the screening will also write birthday cards and notes to Echols – telling him they hope this will be his last birthday is prison, since the new evidence should finally lead to his exoneration.
“We have been overwhelmed by public support over the last two weeks, and this event will bring together existing supporters while reaching more people who want to learn how they can help correct this grave injustice,” said Capi Peck, a small business owner in Little Rock who is coordinating the campaign. “As we celebrate Damien’s birthday and enjoy the holidays with our friends and families, we are more hopeful than ever that justice will finally prevail in this case. The Arkansas Take Action campaign reflects a growing public consensus that these three men are innocent – and now we’re taking action to correct this injustice once and for all.”
Following are details on Tuesday night’s event:
What: Screening of a specially-created new film that combines highlights from the popular “Paradise Lost” documentary on the case with highlights from a presentation of the new scientific evidence in the case), followed by Q&A session on the case and the Arkansas Take Action campaign.
Petition-signing, letters to the Governor and Attorney General, and cards with birthday wishes to Damien Echols will also be done by the group throughout the evening.
Who: People from across Arkansas and Tennessee are attending the event.
Capi Peck and other organizers of the Arkansas Take Action campaign will speak about the case and campaign.
Damien Echols has prepared special remarks for the event, which will be read after the film.
When: Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 7-10 p.m.
Where: Market Street Cinema
1521 Merrill Drive, Little Rock
Donations of $10 per person to attend the screening will benefit the West Memphis Three
Defense Fund. More information on the case, the powerful new evidence of innocence, and the
Arkansas Take Action campaign is at www.wm3.org.
About the Arkansas Take Action campaign
At the end of November, a cross-section of Arkansans launched an unprecedented campaign to engage the community in helping overturn the convictions of Echols and two other men in the case. Specific components of the campaign include:
· Personal letters from concerned Arkansans asking Arkansas Governor Mike Beeebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to support efforts to overturn the convictions of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin. People are sending letters to the campaign organizers, who are collecting them to deliver together.
· A petition drive asking Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to carefully review the new evidence in the case and join efforts to overturn the convictions.
· A statewide visibility campaign, with posters, t-shirts and buttons carrying the “Evidence = Innocence” message and directing people to a website (www.wm3.org) with more information on the case and the campaign.
· Community events over the next few weeks to continue building the campaign, culminating with a massive rally at the State Capitol on December 19, when the letters and petitions will be delivered to Beebe and McDaniel.
The campaign puts a formal structure onto a community movement that began in the days after October’s court filing in the case that outlined overwhelming evidence that the three men were wrongfully convicted. “The more ordinary Arkansans hear about the new evidence in this case, the more outraged they are – and the more committed they are to do something about it. This campaign grew out of conversations we’ve all been having in our own living rooms, shops and restaurants over the last month,” Capi Peck said.
About the West Memphis Three case and the new evidence
On October 30, a 500-page writ was filed in federal court in Little Rock by Echols’ attorneys. It included overwhelming new evidence that Echols is innocent. (While the filing pertains only to the case of Echols, who is on death row, it also shows that Misskelley and Baldwin were wrongfully convicted.) The filing included DNA test results on dozens of pieces of evidence in the case – which showed no link to the three men who were convicted, but did implicated Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of one of the victims. The filing also included in-depth analysis from some of the nation’s leading forensic experts, showing that wounds on one of the victims was caused by animal bites after the murders (not from knives, as the prosecution had contended). Affidavits from several witnesses and experts in the filing contradict every piece of evidence that was used to convict the three men.
Three eight-year-old boys were found dead in a drainage ditch in Robin Hood Hills, a local wooded area near their homes, on May 6, 1993. Less than a month later, 17-year-old Jesse Misskelley “confessed” to the crime and claimed that Echols and Jason Baldwin sexually abused and beat the victims. Police asked Miskelley, a minor with an IQ of 72, to come to the station to “help” with the case, and his interrogation was unconstitutional. Many of the details of his confession (including the time of day the crimes were committed) did not match the facts of the crime. Misskelley was tried and convicted of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder in February 1994. Baldwin and Echols were tried together after Misskelley’s trial, and they were convicted of three counts of murder in March 1994. The following day, Echols was sentenced to die, and he has been on death row ever since. Baldwin and Misskelley are serving life sentences. Since 1995, each of the three has filed a series of appeals on several grounds.
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Alice Whitman LeedsPublic Relations in the Public Interest52 Riverside Drive, 8-CNew York, NY 10024Ph: 212-874-0675Mobile: 917-523-5029 email@example.com