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What do you do if you're a pair of filmmakers who have taken up a cause for 15 years, made two films defending a trio of men you felt had been wrongly convicted of murder, have a third film almost in the can, and events catch up with you? Well, you race to add a new ending -- a happy one, you hope.
That's the scenario facing Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, who co-directed 'Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills' (1996) and 'Paradise Lost 2: Revelations' (2000), which documented the trial and controversial convictions of three teenagers for the grisly murders of three 8-year-old boys in 1993 in West Memphis, Arkansas. Just before the third film, 'Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,' was set to unspool at the Toronto International and New York Film Festivals -- before a premiere on HBO in November -- word came down that a judge has called a surprise hearing for Friday concerning the trio. According to Reuters, the announcement on Thursday fueled speculation among supporters that the hearing could mean good news -- possibly a new trial and release from prison.
Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin were convicted, on circumstantial evidence, of the three murders, which the police described as satanic in nature because the children's naked bodies had been bound and mutilated and the three teens -- 18 at the time -- listened heavily to Metallica albums, wore black clothes and were fans of Stephen King horror novels. Echols is now awaiting execution on Death Row for the murders. Baldwin and Misskelley are serving life sentences. All three have now served about 18 years in jail.
Berlinger and Sinofsky's first two films mobilized a wide swathe of the public to support the three men, including financial support from such show biz stalwarts as Johnny Depp, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, singer Patti Smith, and Dixie Chicks' singer Natalie Maines.
The Craighead County Circuit court in Jonesboro, Arkansas, will "take up certain matters pertaining to the cases" of convicted murderers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., according to a statement issued by Craighead County Circuit Judge David N. Laser, Reuters reported. New DNA evidence filed in the case last month failed to link the crimes to the three men.
So what will Berlinger and Sinofsky do? They've grabbed their cameras and are heading to Arkansas for Friday's hearing -- hoping to add a very happy ending.
Tip o' the hat to Deadline