Punk rock icon Henry Rollins says that he was “in a state of shock” after he found out the about the outcome of the “West Memphis Three” case, in which three men were released from prison after serving 18 years for murder.
The “West Memphis Three” were freed on August 19 after 18 years behind bars when new evidence surfaced that could have led to a retrial.
The three men — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. — were convicted as teenagers in 1993 of the murder of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. But the case was controversial from the start, with accusations that the three teens were railroaded because they liked to wear black and listen to METALLICA.
The men won the support of numerous musicians and celebrities, including PEARL JAM singer Eddie Vedder, NINE INCH NAILS‘ Trent Reznor, DISTURBED, Johnny Depp and director Peter Jackson, as well as METALLICA.
The case inspired the 1996 documentary “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills”, and a 2000 follow-up, “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations”. METALLICA gave the filmmakers permission to use its music in both films.
Rollins — who has worked tirelessly to bring attention to the West Memphis Three’s innocence and has put out a number of releases to benefit their defense fund (including the 2002 compilation “Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs To Benefit The West Memphis Three”, which featured vocal contributions from Chuck D, Iggy Pop, Ice-T, Corey Taylor of SLIPKNOT, and Rollins himself) — wrote in his LA Weekly column, “I found out about the case more than a decade ago. I read about it online and it seemed to me that justice had not been served. After seeing a documentary on the case, ‘Paradise Lost’, with METALLICA providing the soundtrack, I decided I was angry enough to get involved.
“My bandmates and I did a small benefit show and donated all the money to the WM3 Defense Fund. Nice, but a gesture at best. I decided to do a benefit album. With the help of my bandmates, road manager Mike Curtis, Heidi May, Cherokee Studios and many others, we set to work. Soon my phone was ringing off the hook; there were even death threats.
“I thought it best to call in some of the great forces of the universe. We reached out and were amazed to find how many people in the music world were either fully up to speed on the case or, upon hearing the details, immediately ready to contribute. It was incredible. Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Kira Roessler, Chuck D, Lemmy, WEEN, Iggy, Mike Patton, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, Ice-T, Hank III and Tom Araya, to name but a few, stepped up and knocked it out of the park. Soon we had an album done called ‘Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs To Benefit The West Memphis Three’.
“We put the record out. We booked a tour and went around the world with these songs. Keith Morris and I split the vocals on the American leg and then I took it from there, all the way to Tokyo. All the money went to the WM3’s defense, with a lot of it going toward the DNA testing of the crime-scene evidence, which Arkansas wouldn’t pay for.
“This was two summers of my life and a lot of money. But it was nothing compared to the grief of the families who had lost their children, both to murder and incarceration. And it was nothing compared to the unimaginable anguish of Damien, Jessie and Jason, who sat in cages as their lives slipped by.”
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