Peter Jackson talks about his innocence project: 'West of Memphis'

West-Memphis-poster
Amy Berg: Basically [they were]

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taking on the state of Arkansas. But Peter has this hatred of bullying and people not having a voice and the system crushing people. It hit me when I was interviewing him that he makes these massive films that no one could take on because he has this capacity to handle things that are larger than life. And this case, in a way, was larger than life.

Now that the West Memphis Three are free, the next step is to find the real killer. The film points the finger at one of the victims’ stepfathers [who maintains his innocence].
Jackson: It’s not our job to accuse anyone else of this crime. That’s the job of the state and a judge and a jury.

Damien, do you think the state of Arkansas wants to find the real killer?
Echols : I don’t think most of them care about anything but their political careers. I think justice is completely irrelevant to most of them.

How do you feel about the plea you accepted? Obviously you wanted to get off death row, but it had to be bittersweet because you weren’t exonerated of the crime.
Echols : I still have hope that that will eventually happen. But here’s the thing I had to look at: In the film, the prosecutor talks about us [potentially] filing lawsuits against the state for around $60 million. The thing I had to keep in mind was these people were doing anything they possibly could to keep from having to admit that they made a mistake. They could have easily had me stabbed to death in prison for $50 and then never have to worry about paying out that $60 million. I had no medical care, no dental care, my health was rapidly deteriorating. So between that and the fact that they could have done anything they wanted to at any time, I don’t believe I would have lived to see an exoneration.

Lorri, when you first met Damien he was already on death row. Did you and he have concerns about how things would change when you were finally together on the outside?
Davis: We’ve been to hell and back. And after you’ve been through that, deciding what movie you’re going to see doesn’t seem like a very big deal.

Amy, now that the movie’s about to be shown at Sundance, what do you hope comes from it?

Berg: I hope that the state is put in a position to react. We want them to investigate this case properly. Because right now, the families of the murdered children have no justice and the three guys who were wrongly convicted have no justice, so it’s just a failed system that needs to be repaired.

Damien, what will it be like if you’re exonerated?
Echols: A sigh of relief that it’s finally over and I don’t have that mark on me anymore. I never should have had it on me in the first place. It will be a relief that it’s finally done with and you don’t have anyone looking at you like that anymore.

Fran, Peter, and Amy, will you be there to film that day?
Jackson: It doesn’t have to be filmed, it just has to happen.

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