In 1993, a horrific triple child murder was discovered in West Memphis, Arkansas, but the reaction to it precipitated a horror of its own. This film follows up on the story of the three boys, called the West Memphis Three, who were convicted for this crime with questionable evidence. For years, the boys’ fate sparked a mass movement striving to prove their innocence while the state is equally determined to avoid admitting it could have been wrong. Through the swirl of new evidence and suspects, the Three tell their own tale about enduring this injustice against the opinions of the victim’s families in a debate that eventually came to an inadequate resolution.
Kenneth Chisholm ([email protected])
User Reviews: A powerful, if frustrating, conclusion to the Paradise Lost films which chronicle the extremely questionable conviction of 3 high school aged young men for the horrible murder of three little boys. Despite the fact that the case against the three was absurdly weak, seeming to be based as much on the idea that they acted ‘strange’, or listened to heavy metal music as in any hard evidence (the strongest ‘evidence’ being a recanted confession given by one of the young men with an IQ of 72, who was questioned without council for 12 hours, and with no recording or transcripts of what went on in the first 11 hours. And even then, the confession was full of factual mistakes).
This third film picks up with the men having been in prison for 15 years, and finally moving towards possible exoneration under pressure on the Arkansas justice system from across the country and even the world. Mostly the film focuses on the uncovering of yet another possible ‘real’ killer (although the 2nd film also did so and pointed convincingly at the wrong man, showing just how hard it is to ever fully know the truth). It also shows the lengths to which those involved in the first trial, especially the judge, put their own reputation and their inability to admit error, or even questions, above a search for true justice.
The film has it’s flaws; it spends a lot of time re-capping the story, and never seems to acknowledge how confusing the issue of guilt is, as the 2nd film showed in seeming to point at the wrong man for being ‘weird’, just as the trial did with the 3. Also the dramatic conclusion feels tacked on and incomplete – not the fault of the filmmakers, as much as of timing. The film was essentially done when the directors had to race to Memphis to film a climax that ended up more like an epilogue than it should.
But this is an important document of just how easily the legal system can fail when prejudice and self-interest come into play – as they will continue to do as long as we are human and frail creatures.