UPDATE: A press release from Damien Echols’ legal team, regarding the new case information detailed in the film, is after the jump.
Premiering today at the Sundance Film Festival is a new documentary written and directed by Academy Award nominated filmmaker, Amy Berg (Deliver us From Evil) and produced by first time filmmakers Damien Echols and Lorri Davis, in collaboration with the multiple Academy Award winning team of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. West Of Memphis tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light. This of course is all about the (now proven in court) erroneous incarceration of the “West Memphis Three”.
Now, there are emerging reports that the documentary actually presents new evidence in the murder case. Per Deadline, “I’m hearing rumblings here in Park City that the Sundance documentary West of Memphis will include some new important evidence obtained within the last month that could have direct bearing on the future of the case… Press that screened the film in New York and Los Angeles last Friday were told that a scene was missing from the movie, but weren’t given specifics. I’m hearing the new scene will be included in the print of the film shown for the first time at Sundance this morning at 8:30 AM at a press and industry screening at the Holiday Village. The film has its official premiere today at 4:45 PM at the MARC Theater.”
In the film, “starting with a searing examination of the police investigation into the 1993 murders of three, eight year old boys Christopher Byers, Steven Branch and Michael Moore in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, the film reveals the story from the inside. West of Memphis uncovers new evidence surrounding the arrest and conviction of the other three victims of this shocking crime – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley; all three of whom were teenagers at the time of their arrests and all three of whom were imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.”
“(Mountain Home, Arkansas – January 20, 2012) Terry Hobbs’ nephew, Michael Hobbs Jr., allegedly told his friends “my uncle Terry murdered those three little boys,” according to declarations under penalty of perjury recently given to Damien Echols’ defense team. The three new witnesses were polygraphed about what they stated Michael Hobbs, Jr. told them.
“One day Michael picked us up in his truck. He was very quiet and upset. Michael then said to us, ‘you are not going to believe what my dad told me today. My Uncle Terry murdered the three little boys.’ According to Michael, his dad called this ‘The Hobbs Family Secret’ and he asked us to keep it a secret and not tell anyone.”
Another witness stated, “One night last winter, Michael and I were playing pool in his basement when the third friend asked about the West Memphis Three case which had been in the news. Michael responded by saying, ‘My uncle killed three kids in West Memphis.’ Michael was dead serious when he said this.”
The three little boys referenced in the declarations were found brutally murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. DNA consistent with Terry Hobbs, stepfather of victim Stevie Branch, was later discovered in the knot of a shoelace used to restrain victim Michael Moore. Three eyewitnesses have also provided sworn statements that they saw Terry Hobbs with the three children on the day of the murders, immediately before they disappeared. Terry Hobbs has maintained that he never saw the three boys the day they were murdered.
A third witness stated that he was at Michael Hobbs Jr’s home in 2003 or 2004 when he was told by Hobbs Jr. that the two of them could not go down to the basement to play pool because Michael Hobbs Sr. was down there having a conversation with Hobbs Jr.’s uncle. The witness said that he “ listened with Michael Jr. at the top of the stairs. I heard two men talking. One appeared to be very upset even crying and he said ‘I am sorry, I regret it.’ The other man was trying to console him and said, ‘You are in the clear, no one thinks you are a suspect, those guys are already in prison.’”
Echols’ attorney, Stephen Braga of Ropes & Gray, said: “This is critical new information which reveals that the people closest to Terry Hobbs, his family members, may know much more about Terry’s involvement in the West Memphis Three case than they have ever acknowledged. If this is the Hobbs Family Secret, then what a horrific cost that secrecy has imposed on the lives of so many people – perhaps most significantly Pam Hobbs who deserves to know what really happened to Stevie on the night of the murders, as do the Byers and Moore families. With the secret now out, let’s hope that someone in the Hobbs family has the heart, the soul and the courage to come forward to tell the truth directly. In the meantime, I have given our investigative materials concerning these new witnesses – along with other related information – to District Attorney Scott Ellington for his review and action.”
The new witnesses came forward after seeing a recording of the CBS News 48 Hours special on the West Memphis 3 case. At the end of that broadcast, attorney Stephen Braga was asked what’s next in the effort to gain exoneration for the three after their plea deal. He responded: “Hopefully, some day we will find that smoking gun, that key piece of inculpatory DNA or a deathbed confession or a witness will come forward and say, “You know, this is really what happened.”
Hearing those words moved the new witnesses to contact the West Memphis 3 Confidential Tip Line just a few weeks ago. The new witnesses were then interviewed by the Echols’ defense team, signed declarations under penalty of perjury and passed polygraph examinations concerning what they say Michael Hobbs Jr. told them.”