A packed house at Off Square Books on May 14th greeted author Damien Echols with a standing ovation after he spoke about his experience on Death Row, and his memoir, Life After Death.
Echols, one of three Arkansas youths charged with the murders of three
children in 1993, spent 18 years in prison, a decade of which was on
Death Row. The case became well-known after two documentaries, “Paradise
Lost” and “West of Memphis,” raised questions of their guilt. DNA
evidence disproved their involvement, and with the rallying cries for
exoneration from supporters, some quite famous and influential, the
three were released from prison in 2011 -- but only by virtue of the
Alford Plea, a kind of split-the-baby-in-half knife of “justice” which
allows them to declare their innocence but maintains the guilty verdict
imposed by the State of Arkansas, thereby protecting the prosecution and
the state from the damages of civil litigation many believe they are
due. There was talk of forming a “Mississippi Alliance for Arkansas to
Do Better” that supports complete exoneration of the West Memphis Three.
Life After Death is the story of Echols’ childhood, his imprisonment, and the spiritual survival skills he cultivated while on Death Row (Buddhism, meditation and reading, always reading).