Life After Death by Damien Echols

Book Title: Life After Death
Author: Damien Echols
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Age Appropriate: Adult
Stars: 4 Stars

Description: In 1993, teenagers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.—who have come to be known as the West Memphis Three—were arrested for the murders of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas. The ensuing trial was marked by tampered evidence, false testimony, and public hysteria. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison; while eighteen-year-old Echols, deemed the “ringleader,” was sentenced to death. Over the next two decades, the WM3 became known worldwide as a symbol of wrongful conviction and imprisonment, with thousands of supporters and many notable celebrities who called for a new trial. In a shocking turn of events, all three men were released in August 2011.

Now Echols shares his story in full—from abuse by prison guards and wardens, to portraits of fellow inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience, spirituality, and perseverance that kept him alive and sane while incarcerated for nearly two decades.
This book was full of “I’s”: Interesting, infuriating, internal and most of all, inspiring.
Interesting: I was already familiar with the WM3 case from the HBO documentaries, but this story told a more personal side of Echols childhood, events leading up the arrest and his time spent on death row. I loved hearing the story from his perspective.
Infuriating: At times it was hard to stay impartial when you hear how poorly the kids were treated by the authorities. Plus how prejudice and bullying lead to circumstances that spun wildly out of control. I know many people think, “this could have been me.” Which I believe is why the WM3 garnered so much support over the years.
Internal: Echols opens up and shares snippets of what feelings and trials go through the head of someone on death row. Granted, this is by no means a “woe is me” story, yes there are times of despair, but there are also times of astounding beauty.
Inspiring: How can someone who spent 20 years wrongly imprisoned be so passionate, full of life and filled with positive energy? It was a long difficult road, but Echols came out the other side mostly intact. If only all of us had that strength.

4 thoughts on “Life After Death by Damien Echols

  1. This is a great article. We have bee fowloling what happened to Damien since the TV broadcast some years back. My son has been wrongly convicted of a crime and sits in prison right now. They tried to make it look like he was some kind of freak since he had Lord of the Rings collectibles in his spare bedroom. Much like they did Damien. If we could only get some help with our case.

    • I couldn’t be happeir that they are finally, finally free, but I agree with you that the strange plea they had to make in order to finally get out and the state’s plans to continue considering the case closed are both very disturbing. I read in the NY Times that the WM3 s legal team plan to pursue complete exoneration. I sure hope they do. And if they do, though I’ve never considered myself a particularly litigious person, I hope they then sue the pants off the state. 18 years in prison and on death row for dressing differently and because of preposterous hysteria. It’s a horrendous case of injustice to say nothing of the fact that the person or people who did slay those three little boys is still out there and has been this whole time.

  2. I do not know if these men are innocent or not. I do know, hewover, after watching all the documentaries & articles that they were convicted without a shred of evidence. They were railroaded from day one, and no one else was properly investigated. They should never have been convicted, and the West Memphis police department is left with some serious egg on their faces. I wish the best of luck to these three men and hope they can restart their lives. They spent a great deal of time wrongfully in prison. Luck to y’all <3

  3. After viewing the first Paradise Lost, I was farily convinced that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were guilty. Then I saw the second film and began to question their innocence and believe the crazy stepfather Byers probably did it. When I finished the third chapter, I began to suspect it was the other stepfather Hobbs. So one thing is clear, the films have been powerfully persuasive propaganda. It’s a sad tragedy and we may never know the truth.

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