Music and politics, politics and music, whichever way you word it the two don’t seem to go together. However in 1993, music helped convict three teenagers of the murders of three eight year old boys.
On May 5th in a town in West Memphis Arkansas, Christopher Byers, Michael Moore, and Steven Branch were brutality murdered and found in Robinhood Hills, bringing sorrow to the families of these three eight year old boys.
Not far from the crime scene three teenagers, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelly, otherwise known as the West Memphis Three or WM3, were unaware that their lives would change so dramatically.
The police quickly suspected these boys as the murderers because of their image. Being brought up in a bible belt town, the trio stood out. Known for wearing black, listening to Metallica, and reading Stephen King books, they were considered odd.
Without any evidence, the three were brought in for questioning. Misskelly was questioned normally, even though he had the IQ of 72, which happens to be the equivalent of a five year old. Hours later, a confession was given and Misskelly was released.
Although the teenagers all had alibis, the judge dismissed them all as nothing more than hearsay. During court proceedings, a note book belonging to Echols had been brought in. Sprawled along the pages were some lyrics to songs by Metallica and Pink Floyd. The book also had a few lines from the play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, written by William Shakespeare. These were all considered evidence for proof of satanic worshiping.
The West Memphis Three were finally convicted of the slaughter of the children not long after being accused. Now fifteen years later, music, the very thing that helped condemn them, is standing up to fight for their freedom.
Many celebrities and musicians have worked tirelessly to bring awareness to this case in hopes to set the wrongfully convicted free. Michael Graves, formerly of The Misfits and a New Jersey native himself, has become a big supporter of the West Memphis Three. Playing many events for them, the vast majority of his touring has been charity work. After traveling to Arkansas, Graves co-wrote a song with Echols, entitled “Frostbite”. His work as a musician has really brought attention to this case.
Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Henry Rollins, Margaret Cho, and Robert Smith have all been main defenders of the West Memphis Three as well. Showing up for court cases, donating money, and playing charity events are all a part of this fight for freedom. Some even auction off personal possessions to raise money to donate to their defense fund to help pay for lawyer fee’s.
Everyday people, like Kathy Bakken, Grove Pashley, Lisa Fancher, and Berk Sauls have made this all possible by creating the website www.wm3.org to inform everyone about the case. Others, like Paige Haggerty and Anje Vela, have done their part by raising money and hosting charity events. They’re an inspiration to others, showing everyone if we all band together and stand up for what we believe in, anything can happen.
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Don’t take my word for it though, read the books, watch the movies, form your own opinion about the case, but remember injustice for some is injustice for all.
– Hope Soul