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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful And Disturbing: Eighteen Years Later, The Harrowing True Life Case Of The West Memphis Three Continues
The plight of the infamous West Memphis Three has been the center of controversy for almost two decades now. Upon discovering three eight year old boys murdered and discarded in the Robin Hood Hills area of West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993, a subsequent investigation caused local police to target three teen outsiders for the crime. Based on the most specious of evidence...
Published on January 13, 2012 by K. Harris

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good
I bought this because I really liked the first 2 docs of this series but this one was mostly footage about them and (spoiler alert) at the end when they were freed from prison the movie was over and I thought we would get some life after prison footage and interviews but no not really so I was a little disappointed in this one.
Published 15 months ago by Kevin


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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful And Disturbing: Eighteen Years Later, The Harrowing True Life Case Of The West Memphis Three Continues, January 13, 2012
This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
The plight of the infamous West Memphis Three has been the center of controversy for almost two decades now. Upon discovering three eight year old boys murdered and discarded in the Robin Hood Hills area of West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993, a subsequent investigation caused local police to target three teen outsiders for the crime. Based on the most specious of evidence and a rampant desire to see justice done for such a heinous act, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were convicted and sentenced in 1994 despite a clear lack of physical evidence or motive. Due to Echols appearance, interest in metal music, and fascination with disturbing imagery, the deaths were chalked up to being a part of a dark occult ritual. And a frightened and justifiable mob mentality ruled the day (especially as word of Misskelley's questionable confession circulated).

But the facts never really added up and filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky were on hand to document the proceedings in the disturbing feature (which won them an Emmy among other accolades) "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills" in 1996. As that film highlighted an apparent miscarriage of justice, it caused the West Memphis Three to become a national cause celebre. Graphic and unpleasant, it was a riveting film that brought an unrelenting awareness to the case and the legal system in general. In 2000, the pair released "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" which was largely in response to the first film's reaction. It caught up with the boys in jail, and the focus seems to have been to dig further into the evidence and other possible suspects. It is more speculative in nature, but with all the doubt that surrounding the original convictions--the question is asked why no further investigation has been pursued if justice were a primary concern.

Now "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" puts the concluding note on this tragedy of injustice. Ten years after the second film, this documentary covers all the efforts that have been made in the preceding decade to garner the boys a new trial. New experts, new witnesses, new evidence--and yet it was an incredibly lengthy and disheartening process to get anything past the Arkansas officials who stood by the original convictions. News of what happened in 2010 has been reported extensively in the media, but I still won't reveal the final resolutions depicted within the film. I will say that, once again, this is a stirring document about real world events. The film cuts between modern interviews, to scenes from the original film, to pertinent footage throughout the last ten years. Major players have shifted allegiance (including someone Echols had initially cast aspersions about), a viable new suspect emerges (his testimony is chilling as he is questioned about the murders in his lawsuit against Dixie Chick Natalie Maines for defamation), and the legal system continues to disappoint (even in the face of national scrutiny).

As a stand-alone film, "Purgatory" works fine. It recaps enough to keep anyone in the loop. But as the third part of a trio of films, it is astoundingly effective. To watch all three films is to experience filmmaking at its most powerful. We talk about film having the ability to transform lives, especially documentaries, but Berlinger and Sinofsky have proven it with the "Paradise Lost" series. Eighteen years in the telling, it is their first film that affected everything and led to the final outcomes. The films have become a part of the documentary. Echols even thanks them for putting the case into the spotlight and essentially saving his life from the lynch mob mentality that surrounded the initial arrest. It's strong and powerful stuff, as well as disturbing, and this is a story will linger with you long after the film ends. While I easily recommend this movie, do yourself a favor and get all three to see where filmmaking crosses over into history making. Perhaps the biggest injustice, though, is that the politics and legal wrangling have overshadowed the tragic deaths that precipitated everything. So thankfully, the film wraps with a tribute to the murdered boys. KGHarris, 1/12.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The crime of the 20th - 21st centuries reaches some finality, February 19, 2012
This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY (2012, 120 minutes, HBO Films) - Here is the anxiously awaited 3rd installment of the continuing sagas of Damien Wayne Echols, James Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, Jr., all convicted of murdering three 8-year-old boys in 1993. It wasn't aired on HBO and I just saw it On Demand - the only place it is available right now. It had originally been scheduled to air in January.

This compelling albeit slightly muddled documentary sequel begins by retelling the story of "The West Memphis Three" - Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley - and the horrible crime of three young boys' murders. At first I thought this was retread, but I quickly realized this was a vital documentary tool to catch up a viewer who might be new to the story.

The documentary does an excellent job of stunning the viewer by explaining how the case exploded in everyone's faces in the mid-2000s. New evidence was discovered and all of it re-examined; among the evidence was DNA and a new look at the victims' bodies. 46 minutes in, the infamous John Mark Byers, stepfather of one of the victims and one-time suspect, is interviewed yet again - this time on the side of three convicted men. Having gone through a similar witch hunt as the Three, Byers now rallied for their release. (After seeing the second documentary, the wife and I strongly suspected Buyers.)

What happened? The very first documentary, Paradise Lost - The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (see my review), drew public attention like nothing else since the O. J. Simpson or Michael Jackson trials. In 2007, four great forensic scientists were brought forward in a press conference to speak of the new evidence they'd reviewed. Among the evidence was a total lack of any DNA from the Three - but they did find somebody's DNA. There was also the fact that the original judge, David Burnett, had apparently somewhat politicized the case for his own benefit. He made the mistake of suppressing evidence of the innocence of the Three, allowing only evidence of their guilt.

The documentary does an excellent job revisiting the parents of the murdered children - including Terry Hobbs, yet another stepfather of another of the victims who seems to be suspected because his DNA was found on the boys' bodies. Though Hobbs is interviewed, the rest of the story is glossed over, though they address the defamation suit he brought against the Dixie Chicks for mentioning him in a press conference they gave. (He lost that case.)

It is riveting, truly explosive, to hear about the evidence that ultimately led to the release of the Three: an ongoing witch hunt, an obsession with satanic cults (there is no such thing as a 'satanic murder", the film informs us), a years-long obsession with Damien Echols and his pseudo-satanic, Goth activities, gross police incompetence and mishandling of the crime scene/evidence. A total yet not very surprising shock. Many of the community simply said the wrong people were in jail.

The film settles into its conclusion comfortably: with all this and a hearing to talk about a retrial set for December 2011, the Three were suddenly brought into court, made a special plea and released with time served. (See my review of Paradise Lost 2 - Revelations for more about this.)

As the attorney put it, no court would allow this at all if they thought the Three were guilty. The analysis of the new evidence in 2007 propelled this case to its happy ending; even more startling was that the court summoned the Three early and released them. You'll be riveted by this documentary, which is perhaps the most compelling and sad story of justice's miscarriage of the 20th century - bleeding into the 21st century. Saddest of all, the Three are technically guilty while having maintained their innocence throughout 18 harrowing years in prison. The newly suspected individual, Terry Hobbs, will walk free because no one else can be tried for the murders.

The Big Cheese at HBO is calling for a 4th documentary, stating that there is much documentation not released yet. A film based the story of The West Memphis Three is in the works. More power to them - not enough can be explained about this awful, harrowing case. The public needs to see the way the justice system can still be manipulated with skill and without proof of any wrongdoing.

Judge David Burnett, severe and uncompassionate, is now a senator. Good thing for justice and for the Three. What is worse than anything is that a murderer walks free and the three little victims will remain without justice. Only an echoing agony. Get this fantastic film, if you can't get the first two at least get this: it catches up with the original players and flashes back enough to explain it all. I loved it.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The DVD has cool special features, and the film... legendary and revelatory, August 14, 2012
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This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
This "Paradise Lost" trilogy is beyond documentary film making. A better description of the films would be that they are legendary journalistic heroism that are philanthropic education for the American public, in regards to the horrors that CAN arise from the U.S. justice system when it fails.

This film was never meant to be the "final chapter" of the Berlinger and Sinofsky series on the West Memphis 3 case. When the film was practically 100% finished, a surprise hearing was called regarding the case. The hearing was prompted by the fact that the original trial judge David Burnett (who was also the judge for EVERY SINGLE APPEAL HEARING regarding this case) denied the WM3 an evidentiary hearing, despite allegations of juror misconduct in the original trial, recantations of testimony used in court, and DNA evidence that excluded the three defendants from the crime scene or the bodies AND pointed in a different direction that the police never investigated. Burnett's decision caused the defense to go to the Arkansas supreme court to show that Burnett was in error. The defense team succeeded and received an evidentiary hearing for the 3 men in prison, a hearing in which David Burnett was finally NOT going to be the judge that the West Memphis 3 would have to appeal to. The cops and District Attorney's office knew there would be a retrial, and that the defense would likely win. The unexpected hearing was called four months before the new evidentiary hearing. If you don't know how it turned out, I won't spoil that part here. Just know that because of that hearing, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" became the final installment that the film making team would ever make.

Now, we have the DVD and not only is the film a revelatory piece of brave journalism and a highly entertaining film, it also has good special features. The bonus material features deleted scenes from the original "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills" film, as well as interviews with the West Memphis 3 and the film makers, and previously unreleased footage that is incredibly valuable... most notably, we see the film makers finally address the false testimony of Vicki Hutcheson, who said she went with Damien Echols to a Satanic Esbat / occult meeting, in an attempt to play detective. The bonus features show her recantation of the testimony (as well as past of the testimony) on video and when it was addressed at the "new evidence press conference" in 2007, accompanied by her own statement, presented by attorney Dennis Riordan, which she admits "Every word was a lie" and details her drug use at the time of the testimony. Also, the "Hollingsworth testimony" that is alluded to in the first film (but not shown) is included, and shown to be total hogwash.

I could talk about this case forever, but I won't. You should watch this entire trilogy, but part 3 is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen, and the bonus materials are simply awesome. Historic documentaries and heroic journalism led to an outcome of compromise, which really satisfied no one more than 50%. If you know the case, don't hesitate to pick this DVD up and make sure you check out the very valuable special features, which provide further evidence of corruption, incompetence and indifference of the police and the justice system in this case. A wholly satisfying view, with a great message, along with the ability to teach the American public some things they need to know about cops and courts.

The West Memphis 3 Case was a tragic miscarriage of justice, and it's been filmed from the beginning. Everyone should see all 3 films in this trilogy. A heart-wrenching tale, while showing the strength of the human spirit even in the face of injustice. This story changed my life, and I hope you are moved too.

In my opinion, we have to EXONERATE these men! And go find the real killer.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Phenomenal Closing Chapter on This Series, May 26, 2012
This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
In 1994, three teenagers in West Memphis, Arkansas were accused and convicted of murdering three 8-year-old boys. These events were captured from the beginning by documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky and released in 1996 as Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. The documentary and the 2000 follow-up Paradise Lost 2: Revelations made a compelling case that they were innocent and fifteen years since the story was told, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory brings a bittersweet close to the saga.

Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley (known collectively as the West Memphis Three) spent over 18 years in prison for murdering Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore, a crime they claim they didn't commit. The "Free the West Memphis 3" movement enjoyed celebrity support, with some actually paying for the three's legal proceedings. Berlinger and Sinofsky initially travelled to West Memphis to follow the trial, believing the three were guilty. What they caught on film stunned them and that first documentary is credited with getting people involved in helping free the three men. This is the third and final (?) film in the series. It was already completed when the three men were surprisingly freed last August and the directors quickly returned to the editing room to give the film an ending with more finality. This surprising epilogue added 12 minutes or so.

The doc is separated into three chapters (Past is Prologue, What's Old is New, and All Means All) and an epilogue. If you have not seen the previous two, there is no need, but it does make the end of the journey seem more extraordinary. Aside from bringing to light all of the newfound information, there's a recap of the entire case. The horrifying opening is set to Metallica's atmospheric "Sanitarium," while it goes over the crime scene video and summarizes the case, mixing old and new interviews. This includes previously unseen courtroom footage and depositions, as well as major details like Misskelley's controversial confession that provided the first link in a chain of events leading to their conviction.

The chief investigator of the case disputes their innocence and offers those who believe in it to look at what wasn't shown in the documentaries. He begrudgingly admits that it's all public record, but seems to assume that all opinions are based solely on the films. We're also shown footage of celebrities like Johnny Depp, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks voicing their support.

Most importantly, the film continues its investigation into whether the three received a fair trial, as well as the bias that may have hindered their release. The judge who heard their appeals and denied all of them presided over their original trials. During the original trial, a defense lawyer pointed out that a testifying occult expert lacked the education necessary to be labeled an "expert." The judge's response, few would argue, is ridiculous.

There are new interviews with the victims' families, some of whom are still skeptical about the public support and believe, without a doubt, that the right men are in prison. In fact, Todd and Dana Moore wrote a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to request the film be removed from consideration. One parent isn't skeptical however and that may be the documentary's biggest surprise.
In the two previous docs, one man was honed in on and became a prime suspect in the court of public opinion. His passionate, over-the-top declarations of hatred for the three men and the mysterious coincidences in his life around the time of the murders didn't help. This man is John Mark Byers, who now has "Free WM3" stickers adorning his truck and admits he "lead the bandwagon" when it came to believing the three boys were guilty. I was aware of Byers' newfound convictions, but to actually see him proclaim their innocence and read a letter he received from Damien Echols (who publicly stated that he believed Byers to be the killer) is quite surreal. He's much more sedate now too, but no less passionate about their innocence than he was their guilt. Thankfully, he's less over-the-top. The negative focus on a parent has not ended with Byers, but instead directed its gaze towards another stepfather.

The center of attention is now Terry Hobbs, whom Natalie Maines publicly accused of murdering the three boys. Hobbs sued Maines and videos of his deposition are included here. Hobbs is a man of contradictions. His alibi for the night the three children disappeared has been disputed, he claims not to be violent but it's revealed that he hit his wife and shot her brother. He claims not to have seen his son that fateful day, but a neighbor, who was never questioned by police and was unaware of his claims, says she saw him with the three boys on the day they went missing. Most damning is that a hair was found on one of the shoelaces used to tie the boys and it could match Hobbs.

Certainly, the documentary railroads Hobbs in the same way West Memphis railroaded the WM3 and the previous documentaries railroaded Byers. It paints Hobbs in an unfavorable, dishonest light and many will walk away with the belief of his guilt...Just as they did Byers. In his interview footage he often seems weary and cynical of the situation, making this whole ordeal unfortunate if he's truly innocent.

John Mark Byers certainly believes he may be guilty and in a display that suggests more intelligence than we've seen before, he holds up a homemade sign presenting evidence of Hobbs' guilt and his innocence. The former side is much heavier on facts than the latter. He explains his case with passion and (maybe unintentional) humor, but it's an undeniably strong, but mostly circumstantial, case.

While, arguably, more people believe the West Memphis Three are innocent than guilty, there have been complaints that these documentaries are biased in their favor. Berlinger and Sinofsky deny the notion, saying they began the project convinced of their guilt. Almost any documentary will contain bias, so it's certainly possible that these films pass over certain information. With all of the facts a matter of public record, you should certainly form an educated opinion by doing some reading instead of basing all your views on what you see here. However, with this closing chapter in the saga, it's clear that these documentaries make a more compelling case than one based on simple guilt or innocence.

In the United States, anyone accused of a crime must be given the right to a fair trial. In some situations, killers with strong DNA evidence implicating them have been released on the basis of a mistrial. No one likes seeing a killer walk, but it's great that we live in a country that affords us the privilege of proving our case without bias and beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley are innocent becomes irrelevant in light of the facts.

Regardless of their guilt or innocence, these men should never have been imprisoned based on the juror misconduct, unreliable witnesses', shoddy detective work, misinterpretation of evidence, and witch-hunt climate that took place at their trials. Three months before new evidentiary hearings were to begin; the state of Arkansas released these men by allowing them to enter Alford pleas, a rare legal move where the accused maintains their innocence while entering a guilty plea.

This freed the three after 18 years of imprisonment, while freeing the state of Arkansas from admitting they were wrong, behind held responsible in court, or delivering the real killer. Baldwin claims he didn't want to accept the deal and did so only because of Echols' death sentence. The film closes with Baldwin saying "this isn't justice."

During the press conference immediately following their release, Echols' lawyer says that the state of Arkansas admitted the WM3 were innocent by allowing them to Alford pleas. Three months before an evidentiary hearing (that would be the men's last legal option), they allowed them to walk in a way that kept them from being sanctioned. It's hard not to buy into this; why would Arkansas let three men walk if they were so convinced that they were guilty of brutally murdering three children?

These films were paramount in gaining attention and support for the West Memphis 3 and are evidence of what a powerful medium the documentary can be. This makes Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory a powerful cinematic statement and a triumphant, but imperfect end to the trilogy. The documentary is just as fascinating and enlightening as the previous two, only growing dull when the film begins covering information you may already be aware of. The triumph and imperfection also applies to the true end to their story, although if whoever is responsible for the murders is caught, there may be more to look at.

This may be the most poignant and, ultimately powerful documentary in the trilogy because it finally concludes a story many have followed for sixteen years or more. I'd make a case that the Paradise Lost trilogy as a whole makes for one of the most compelling and important documents in cinematic history. These films changed everything for these three men. Those few still convinced of their guilt won't find much to enjoy here, but those who have followed this story for years will rejoice and perhaps even shed a tear. This is a phenomenal closing chapter and a terrific documentary, one of the best documentaries and one of the best films of last year.

GRADE: A-
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free at last!, July 11, 2012
This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
This video tied everything together for me. Knew nothing of this case and read a TC book about it years ago( title forgotten) it was written as if these boys were guilty,I remember thinking.wow! So little evidence

I came across the first documentary on HBO I kinda thought they did it.Damien's attitude..the confession.it almost had me convinced.
The second documentary swayed me the other way.I was just unsure but leaning much more towards innocence.I learned that ALOT of people make false confessions after all that pressure from police( who knew?)
After this documentary I am totally convinced.I have grown up ALOT my self over 18 years and looking back I don't know how I could of ever thought them guilty..because of gossip,Satan worship sites that didn't exist! Kids dressing in black..small town ignorance at it's best.
I am so happy that these men are now free,so sad that they were robbed of their youth,but very much in awe of the strength that they showed through this ordeal!

I know the real killer will never be caught because the state will never admit that they were wrong But I only hope the worst for him.
I hope those three can get on with life,so much to learn.I can imagine walking out of prison after 18 years.God bless these guys and give them long,happy,productive lives!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Documentary, January 21, 2012
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This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
I really enjoyed this documentary, by the end of it I actually had a tear in my eye. I really hope they film another one yrs from now catching up with the guys after they were released from prison. I'm def. buying this to add it with the first two films I already own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This could happen to anyone, January 7, 2013
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This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
Every person in a western democratic society should be upset by this story, as it could happen to anyone. The downfall of any society is when corruption has reached the law. Please consider donating to the WM3 as they still require fighting funds for their exoneration. They will certainly not be getting a handout from any tax payer (i.e. there is no Government funding for them) unless we give it willingly because we strongly believe in justice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Conclusion, December 21, 2012
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This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
Good conclusion to the end of the series. If you get a minute read Damians book, it will change your life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paradise Lost 2, December 18, 2012
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This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
Amazing story and a must see to believe the judicial problems in this country. You can truly get railroaded even today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars justice?, December 13, 2012
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This review is from: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (DVD)
I remember watching the first Paradise Lost film back in the day. I remember thinking how it was presented in a way that was so brutal and real. When I saw the evidence footage of the victims my heart sank. This is not a documentary film series that I recommend for anybody with a weak stomach or other sensitivity to viewing real unedited evidence or hearing about brutal crimes. The series is about as real and brutally honest as it gets. The first film felt like it was biased at first but left you absolutely puzzled as to wether the convicted really did the crime or not. The second film opened up the idea of other possibilities about what happened and gave you a better sense of the possibility that the boys were innocent and that a double and deeper injustice was taking place. This third film solidified the fact that the accused were innocent and that it was the orchestration from a ignorant police investigation. It is unbelievable to watch the hard headed beliefs of a police chief and judge their inability to change those beliefs, even when real hard evidence was falling on their laps. It was their undeserving pride in their profession and pseudo style justice that has led to this. The end result, which at first seems like a victory, leaves you still feeling angry that true justice may never be found for ALL the victims and families. I won't say anything else but to say that this is probably one of the best documented cases ever filmed, and that anyone who is open and willing to endure a few haunting and painful images as well as emotional story should not miss out on this series.
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Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory by Bruce Sinofsky (DVD - 2012)
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