ON May 5, 1993, three eight-year-old boys – Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore – went out to play on their bicycles and never returned home.
The following day, the youngsters’ bodies were recovered from a muddy creek in Robin Hood Hills: all three were naked, bound hands to feet with their shoe-laces.
West Memphis’ deeply religious community sought justice and the finger of suspicion pointed at 18-year-old Damien Echols, a heavy metal fanatic with an interest in white witchcraft, and his two friends, 17-year-old Jessie Misskelley Jr and 16-year-old Jason Baldwin.
The accused vigorously protested innocence but a jury found them guilty and sentenced Baldwin and Misskelley Jr to life and Echols to death by lethal injection.
More than 18 years after they entered prison, the men were released on a special plea deal after DNA evidence cast doubt on the convictions.
The case of the West Memphis Three has inspired numerous documentaries including Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s exhaustive Paradise Lost trilogy and Amy Berg’s tour-de-force 2012 feature West Of Memphis. Devil’s Knot dramatises emotionally charged proceedings from the point of view of PI Ron Lax (Colin Firth).
My rating 8/10
Check your local cinema for show times.