Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

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Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is a 2011 documentary film and sequel to the films Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations. The three films chronicle the arrest, 18 year imprisonment, and eventual release of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, otherwise known as the West Memphis Three.

Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky update the case of the West Memphis Three since the release of Paradise Lost 2: Revelations in 2000. Damien Echols’s defense team has hired some of the most renowned forensic scientists to collect DNA and other evidence that had never been tested during the 1994 trials in hopes of getting a new trial. The defense teams and supporters of Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley have uncovered new details that occurred during the trial that led to guilty verdicts against them. One important fact is the allegations of jury misconduct with the jury foreman discussing the case with an attorney during the Echols-Baldwin trial and bringing Misskelley’s confession into deliberations even though it was not let into evidence. The forensic experts have uncovered DNA and new witnesses that draw suspicion from Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of one of the murder victims. A hair found in the ligature that bound one of the victims is a match to him, he has told several conflicting stories about his whereabouts during the time of the murders, and he has a history of violence against his wife and possibly his stepson. While many are convinced he should be considered a suspect, the West Memphis, Arkansas Police Department has only questioned him and to this day does not consider him a suspect.

Appeals for a new trial based on the new evidence have been denied by the original trial judge. But in November 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court threw out that ruling and granted an evidentary hearing scheduled for December, 2011, to decide if the evidence is enough for a new trial. This brings new hope to the defendants and their supporters that they will finally get the fair trial they never got. However, in August, 2011, four months before the hearing is to take place, the prosecutors and defense lawyers talked over a plea deal that would allow the three men to walk out of prison, on the condition that they plead guilty but can maintain their innocence. They reluctantly accept the deal, after 18 years and 78 days, they walk free from prison.

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