A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Alford Plea

A Stacked Game of Cards

Death Row

By José I. Ortiz

Autumn’s here, and with it, the Forum on Law, Culture and Society’s annual Film Festival at Fordham Law School. Coincidently, I  attended a film screening at this festival on the same date (October 22) last year. I found a seat (not easy in the filled-to-capacity room) and prepared for what was in store for me this time. I had never even heard of the evening’s film – “The Exonerated” – before seeing it up on the festival’s website.

Before long, Thane Rosenbaum — the film festival’s lively emcee and moderator of the post screening discussion — welcomed us and told us a bit about the film, which helped explain why I’d never heard of it: it was produced by and aired on a now defunct cable network, CourtTV. “Oh boy,” I thought. “This won’t be any good.” I was so wrong.

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A Special Day at New York Law School

West of Memphis Poster

By Meghan Lalonde

After months of hard work, patience, and perseverance, everything came together seamlessly: New York Law School played host to an advance screening of West of Memphis, the new documentary about the West Memphis 3, as well as the story’s focus, the amazing Damien Echols.

But unlike the last time Mr. Echols visited New York Law School, this time around Mr. Echols brought company: his wife and chief advocate, Lorri Davis, who also served as a producer for the film; director, Amy Berg; and his mighty legal team, Steve Braga, Dennis Riordan, and Barry Scheck.

The NYLS Program in Law and Journalism event, “Justice Lost: The Fight to Free Damien Echols”, began in the early afternoon with a special screening of the film, which premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival to great reviews. Before the film screened, a surprise: a video message to our audience from Oscar-winning filmmaker and producer, Peter Jackson, about why he reached out to Ms. Davis and asked how he could help Mr. Echols. (The reason is simple: he saw an injustice and wanted to right it).

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LASIS Welcomes a Special Guest

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By LASIS Staff

On March 21 Damien Echols surprised the LASIS crew with a visit.

It was a moving experience for us, as we’d watched the HBO “Paradise Lost” documentaries, and researched the case that landed Mr. Echols in death row.

Our subsequent pieces about the West Memphis 3 tragedy can be found here, here, and here.

Mr. Echols was convicted and locked up for a triple murder he didn’t commit.  He spent a total of 18 years in prison; he didn’t see sunlight for ten of them.  The lack of sunlight and prison conditions took a toll on his health and his eyes. That’s Mr. Echols in the dark glasses in the photo. (Click photo to enlarge).

We will never forget the afternoon we spent with Mr. Echols, whom we found to be remarkable in every way: intelligent, soulful, honest, gracious, and somehow, despite everything he’s experienced, suffused with a healthy dose of zen.

LASIS Editor Michelle Zierler received emails from many of the reporters marveling at how the day turned out.

Reporter Drew Carroll sent a note at 12:50 a.m. this morning that included this:

“Ironically, I caught ‘Shawshank Redemption‘ on AMC when I got home tonight. It’s always my stock response to “what’s your favorite movie?” I can’t help getting drawn in every time. I always find it moving and especially so today after meeting someone who experienced every atrocity in the film and more. I liked Morgan Freeman’s quote near the end, “some birds are too bright to be caged.” Damien is certainly one bright bird, and we’re all better people for having gotten to know him.”

Mr. Echols was released in August, 2011 on an Alford Plea. We plan on working to help him get a full exoneration.

His memoir “Damien Echols:  Life After Death”  is due out in September, and the film “West of Memphis“, produced by Mr. Echols, his wife Lorri Davis, and Peter Jackson will be released by Sony Picture Classics.

I know I speak for all of the LASIS reporters when I say that our lives are richer after yesterday’s meeting.

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