DAMIEN ECHOLS was born in 1974 and grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. His wrongful conviction, sentencing, and eventual release as part of the West Memphis Three case is the subject of Paradise Lost, a three-part documentary series produced by HBO, and West of Memphis, a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.
The West Memphis Three are three men who – while teenagers – were tried and convicted, in 1994, of the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Damien Echols was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment. During the trial, the prosecution asserted that the children were killed as part of a Satanic ritual.
In July 2007, new forensic evidence was presented in the case. A status report jointly issued by the state and the defense team stated: "Although most of the genetic material recovered from the scene was attributable to the victims of the offenses, some of it cannot be attributed to either the victims or the defendants." On October 29, 2007, the defense filed a Second Amended Writ of Habeas Corpus, outlining the new evidence.
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. On August 19, 2011, they entered Alford pleas, which allowed them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Judge David Laser accepted the pleas and sentenced the three to time served. They were released with 10-year suspended sentences, having served 18 years and 78 days in prison.
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.
Damien is also the author of High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row and the New York Times bestseller Life After Death and Yours For Eternity (with his wife Lorri Davis).
Connect with Damien Echols - @DamienEchols
This episode was recorded live in front of a studio audience at the opening of The Church of Rock & Roll