Saturday, September 03, 2011

But For the Grace of god* Go I

On August 19th, a mere 2 weeks ago, 3 men walked out of an Arkansas court house free men after spending nearly 2 decades in prison for crimes they didn't commit. Of this I am certain...certain that they A) did not commit the heinous crime for which they were imprisoned and B) that they were set free.

If you are not in the know, google West Memphis Three or, better yet, visit the website. Read the case history, read the timeline, find the documentaries and watch them. Read the books written about them and about this case. I won't re-hash the details here. They are readily out there waiting for you from multiple sources to peruse and then decide on your own.

I've been rabidly following this case, like so many others, for 15+ years. I've donated. I've read. I've watched. The story, for me, is most compelling as, I'm sure, it is for so many others who were/are like them...alienated, ostracized, singled out because they weren't like other kids, didn't look like other kids, weren't interested in football games and pep rallies but, instead, sought solace and comfort outside the mainstream.

I would have highly likely been friends with Damien and Jason if they'd grown up in small town Wyoming or I'd grown up in small town Arkansas. I strongly suspect I would have crushed quite hard on Jason (geeky, studious, disillusioned, subversive and yet still optimistic Jason). The Outsiders? We tend to stick together.

When I heard the news on August 18th that the three of them had left prison with all their belongings and they were likely to be freed the next day after a surprise hearing, I cried. I cried when I heard that they'd been released. I sobbed while watching the press conference the three of them held with attorneys, wives, girlfriends, family members, supporters afterward. I bawled like a baby when Damien and Jason hugged after Jason stated he had only accepted the Alford plea agreement after considering the impact it would have on his old friend. Frankly? I'm crying now.

This was HUGE.


You know what?

While it took 18+ years as they languished in prison, they had high exposure through websites, vocal general public advocates, 3 HBO documentaries, and well known celebrity supporters/benefactors (Peter Jackson of The Lord of the Rings fame, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, Metallica, Natalie Maines from Dixie Chicks, Henry Rollins, Johnnie Muther F**cking Depp) and, because of all this, they were freed.

It is probable that without this support, Damien would be dead by now and Jason and Jessie would be fully acclimated to life in prison without hope of release.

For crimes they did not commit.

This ain't justice, how they were released.

But they were, in fact, released, without restriction, to live their lives - FINALLY - as free men. We did that. Those of us who've followed, advocated, and donated over the years.

Unfortunately, there are still many, many men and women wasting away in prison - some on death row - who were subjected to the so-called justice of the "best justice system in the world". Men and women who are innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted.

Think I'm wrong?

I beg you to please PLEASE visit the website of the Innocence Project, read through the profiles, and then, if so compelled, donate to the cause.

While I do not begrudge - under any stretch of imagination - the emotional buoy, love, and financial support the West Memphis Three received in order to secure their freedom (because YAY YAY YAY they are FREE!!!!!!!!!), they are, in their own right celebrities and have received overwhelming help and support as such. There are so many others whose cases weren't compelling enough to garner the attention of HBO.

There are so many others out there for whom we should be fighting.

Prison isn't fun for those who should be there. Can you even fathom what its like for those who are innocent and are fighting without the benefit of so much attention?

Still...congratulations, Jason, Jessie, and Damien. Welcome to the new world. If our paths ever cross, I'd love to give you x's and o's while I treat you to Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

From the website
From the website

* I am not religious. I do not believe in god. But that was the phrase that comes to mind when I think of this case.

No comments: