A man convicted in the United States of murdering three young boys is innocent, according to Sir Peter Jackson who intends to get the man pardoned.
As a convicted murderer Damien Echols was not by law allowed to travel to New Zealand but Sir Peter, who has just finished filming in Hobbiton near Matamata for the Hobbit, said he applied for an exemption for Echols' behalf through the same channels as anybody else would.
Sir Peter laughed off suggestions Echols was a guest of his in the country to play a role in the Hobbit, but said he was here instead to work with Sir Peter and partner Fran Walsh on "projects" to prove his innocence.
"There's all sorts of loaded headlines about Damien Echols coming to New Zealand but the reality is Damien Echols is an innocent man," Sir Peter said at the film, set today.
"He spent 18 years incarcerated in a tiny cell and Fran and I fought - along with many other people - for seven or eight years for his freedom".
Echols was here to "work with us on a couple of things", Sir Peter said.
"We're doing investigative work. We're doing forensic work. We're still ongoing for the purpose of getting a complete pardon."
Echols and two others were convicted in 1994 of killing three 8-year- old Cub Scouts whose bodies were found in a West Memphis ditch.
Despite their guilty pleas, new crime tests from the crime scene in 2007 proved negative for the trio's DNA and showed others were present when the three boys were murdered.