Ex death-row inmate at Jackson premiere

By Hana Garrett-Walker

Damien Wayne Echols and Peter Jackson. Photo / file
Damien Wayne Echols and Peter Jackson. Photo / file

After attending New Zealand's premier of West of Memphis in Wellington last night, one of the men which the movie is based on will now head for the Auckland screening.

West of Memphis is based on the real-life story of three American men who spent 18 years behind bars for the murder of three boys.

The men were released last year.

Damien Echols - one of three men dubbed the West Memphis Three - worked with Sir Peter Jackson to produce the film.

Its New Zealand premier screened at the New Zealand International Film Festival last night, which Echols and Sir Peter attended.

They will both head north to attend the only Auckland screening of the film at the Civic Theatre on Thursday.

Last night Echols tweeted: "I just want to thank everyone who was at the screening tonight. It was so, so welcoming. My heart is full.''

This morning he tweeted excitedly about Auckland's screening before an audience he said would be twice the size of Wellington's, about 1800 people.

West of Memphis first showed at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Jackson has had a longstanding association with the case after becoming personally involved in proving the men's innocence more than a decade ago.

Echols was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley Jr was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994 for the murder of Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers.

Last year the three reached a deal with prosecutors that allowed them to enter Alford pleas, meaning they could assert their innocence but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict them.

Echols has visited New Zealand before as Jackson's guest.

West of Memphis, directed by Amy Berg, recounts the long legal campaign to get the three men out of jail, as well as shaping a case for overturning the convictions, and for the arrest of the actual killer.

- APNZ

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