S7E5: Damien Echols Survived Death Row and Now He Is Sharing the Spiritual Practices that Saved His Life with the World
As a teenager, Damien Echols along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley—known as the West Memphis Three—was convicted in 1994 of killing three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, AK. There was no DNA linking the WM3 to the crime, and some of the DNA found at the crime scene even seemed to implicate the stepfather of one of the victims. The case gained national attention soon after the teenagers’ arrests when word was leaked that the murders were committed as part of a satanic ritual. A key prosecution witness in the second trial was a self-proclaimed cult expert who stated that the murders bore “trappings” of the occult. This testimony, combined with testimony about books Damien Echols read and some of his writings, plus evidence that he and Jason Baldwin liked heavy-metal music and several black t-shirts were found in Jason Baldwin’s closet, helped to convict the two teenagers. Damien Echols was sentenced to death; Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life without parole, and Misskelley was sentenced to 40 years. Following a 2010 decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding newly produced DNA evidence and potential juror misconduct, the West Memphis Three negotiated a plea bargain with prosecutors. After serving more than 18 years in prison, all three of the WM3 took the Alford Plea, which meant that the state of Arkansas admitted no wrongdoing. While in prison, Damien was ordained into the Rinzai Zen Buddhist tradition. Today he teaches classes on Magick around the country and works as a visual artist. He and wife Lorri live in New York City with their three cats. He is the author of High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Rowand the *New York Times *bestseller Life After Death and Yours For Eternity(with his wife Lorri Davis). This episode was recorded live in front of a studio audience at the opening of The Church of Rock & Roll.
Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom is a production of Lava For Good™ Podcasts in association with Signal Co. No1 and PRX.