The “West Memphis Three” (Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin) were teenagers in 1993 when they were wrongfully convicted of the murders of three eight-year-old boys. Directed by investigative journalist Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil), West of Memphis picks up where Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s three Paradise Lost documentaries for HBO left off. (The film’s biggest mystery is why the producers chose Berg to direct when Berlinger and Sinofsky already had the inside track.)
Sadly, it wasn’t the flagrant display of incompetence on the part of the West Memphis, Arkansas, police department that eventually brought this case to the public’s attention. Were it not for a group of well-intentioned celebrities (musicians Eddie Vedder and Henry Rollins and two of the film’s producers, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh of Hobbit fame) who made available their high profiles, there’s a good chance that our justice system would have seen to it that these boys rotted their lives away in jail. The story is compelling enough, but the two-and-a-half hour running time and standard 48 Hours Mystery presentation might want you to consider waiting for it to hit HBO.