I first saw “Paradise Lost” on HBO when I was in middle school.  The idea that people would be sentenced to live in prison and death with no evidence that they committed a crime, all because they wore black and listened to rock music and had a benign interest in the occult, was terrifying…especially when I was a kid who listened to rock music and liked horror films (though it was before i started wearing black all the time).

“Paradise Lost 2” came out when I was a junior in high school.  The internet allowed me to follow the case more closely, thanks to wm3.org.  It was astounding how appeal and after appeal wasn’t able to stand up, even when NO DNA EVIDENCE could be found linking the 3 guys to the murders…though there WAS DNA linking of the victim’s stepfather.  

Another decade has passed, and FINALLY it appears these guys might go free.  Even then, what can possibly make up for stealing 18 years of these guys’ lives?  Damien has been raped during his incarceration.  These guys had their lives stolen from them because they had the misfortune to live in a super-religious section of the country where ignorant hicks actually felt some teenage boys’ innocent interest in horror, or the occult, was enough to convict them for murder.  Then again, when have religious people ever cared about little things like “evidence” or “logic” anyhow.

Religion allows people to believe in and accept things without evidence, or reason.  Is in any wonder juries, judges, a police force, and an entire community of religious people could be utterly convinced that three teenage boys were murderers without a shred of evidence?

This is why religion is dangerous. It gives people an excuse not to think.  It tells them following their gut over their brain is a positive trait.

Okay, even though the motive was supposed to be religious in nature, the injustice of the case really has nothing to do with religion. The police screwed up the crime scene, the bodies were removed from the water before the coroner could examine the scene, polygraph evidence was used even though it is notoriously unreliable, the interview of Echols was used as evidence against the boys (even though it wasn’t recorded, so there was no proof that was the Detective said he had said was actually even mentioned by him), Misskelley has an IQ of 72 which made the questioning of him without his parents an unconstitutional interview, Misskelley’s IQ would have made him more susceptible to being coerced into a false confession, Vicki Hutcheson lied to the police (supposedly because the police threatened to take her child from her), there was juror misconduct, and there has been DNA evidence that shows that the stepfather of one of the victims was linked to the crime scene, but the defense has been unable to convince the court of the scientific validity of the DNA results. None of that had anything to do with religion.

As for the new chance at freedom, it isn’t as good as it sounds. They have to admit that they are guilty in order to be set free, which basically means that they won’t be able to get anything from the state for stealing their lives from them. If the state let them go, and didn’t force them to say that they were responsible, then the state could be sued for wrongful imprisonment. This way the state gets to say that they were right all along. They also get to say that if the guys refuse to agree to this, then they must just be monsters who refuse to admit their guilt. Either way, the state is looking at a way to save its own ass.

About Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.