A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: death row

Life After Death for Damien Echols

By Meghan Lalonde

Today’s New York Times ran a positive review for Damien Echols’ new memoir, Life After Death.  Mr. Echols served nearly two decades on death row, over half of them in solitary confinement, for murders he didn’t commit.

The Times’ review’s praise is well deserved, and follows stellar reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and more.

Before seeing Mr. Echols’ handwritten photocopies of  Mr. Echols’ diary entries from his time in prison (reproduced in the book), New York Times reporter Janet Maslin suspected that the book was ghostwritten.

Can’t say I blame her.

Life After Death is a beautiful, and powerful read.  Could a high school dropout like Mr. Echols have written it himself?

Indeed he could, and did.  I’ve had the opportunity of meeting Mr. Echols more than once, and he is a remarkably, even exceptionally, intelligent and thoughtful man.  Reading the book was like listening to Mr. Echols speak — his charm, wit, and soulfulness permeate throughout.

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LASIS Welcomes a Special Guest

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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