Categories: Essays
Written By: Billy Sinclair

           Happy endings always make me happy. I’d rather be happy than sad, miserable, and depressed—and that’s exactly what I would have been had the third round of the West Memphis Three documentary, Paradise Lost, captured an Oscar. I have nothing personal against the documentaries’ directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, but I do resent their turning the case of three admitted child killers into a cottage industry. But there’s a bright side: they have just about milked that cow tit dry, and perhaps they will now get on down the road with some meaningful documentary work.

            The fact that the “Purgatory” lost to the “Undefeated” makes the outcome all the more satisfying. Undefeated is about real people—kids who dealt with their deprived existence through courage, determination, and excellence on the football field. These young men, and the coach who inspired them, deserved to be recognized, even celebrated, for their extraordinary life efforts.

            Our society has a long, sordid history of glorifying criminals: Jessie James after the Civil War, Billy the Kid in the Old West, and John Dillinger during the Depression. The worst the times are, the more we heap glorification upon the worst kind of killers. It is understandable that Todd Moore, and his wife Diana, whose son, Michael, was one of the three 8-year-old Cub Scouts brutally murdered by the West Memphis Three cohorts, were upset about the Oscar nomination of Purgatory. They asked the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to bar it from Oscar consideration. The Academy naturally refused, saying Purgatory met all the eligibility requirements.

            “It would not be possible for the Academy – its leadership, executive, or administration – to insert itself into this process without risking the integrity of this longstanding procedure and of of the awards themselves,” wrote Rob Epstein, who chairs the Documentary Branch Executive Committee, in a letter to the Moore’s this past December. “I would not trivialize your pain by asking for your understanding, but I do hope this has clarified the organization’s role in the Awards process.”

            Of course, Pam Hobbs, who has waged a relentless effort to tie the murder of the three boys around the neck of her ex-husband, Terry Hobbs, had no objection to the Oscar nomination for Purgatory. She’s become even more determined to lynch her ex-husband for the murders after viewing another documentary, West of Memphis, which appeared in the Sundance Film Festival last month to glowing reviews. She has asked West Memphis prosecutors to re-open the case, and prosecutor Scott Ellington, who accepted the “plea deal” brokered by West Memphis Three attorneys, said he’s reviewed the “new evidence” provided by WM3 lawyers and it did not persuade him to re-open the case. He said the real killers pled guilty—and I agree as I have said many times since the guilty pleas were entered last August.

            I have not viewed West of Memphis but will as soon as it is available through Netflix. I doubt seriously it will change my mind. The WM3 case is one that can be spun a thousand ways about who killed those three kids: Mr. Bojangles, John Mark Byers, Terry Hobbs, David Jacoby, local raccoons, or perhaps a transient band of Cyclops. As I said, this case has become a “cottage industry” within the entertainment industry to glorify killers, profit from crime, and enhance career resumes.


  1. Donna Marie Says:

    violent behavor chasing child with a ax

    some all of it up

    calling parents stupid

    entering hospital

    Hospital heard him make threats treated for bipolar

    Ok these are just some of the medical records from echols all from 1993 right before the children were killed 1993


    homisidal and suisidal

    Hurt someone

    first meeting

    Most group kiilings are because they feed off of each other. Jason and Damien feed off each other. And as for Jessie I think …He just didnt think they were going to them. And couldnt live with the guilt. Look at Jessie last confession. The bottle of whiskey was right where he said it would be.The details of the one child moving while he was drowing.

    Great Job of the producers for making 3 killers look like rock stars :)

  2. Donna Marie Says:

    Oh by the way I dont know to many people that will see West Memphis .(even if it is free) And I am thinking the new moive Devils Knot will bomb at the box office.Living in a larger city with our own crime problems . No one wants to see something based on 3 killers. And most kids here are just waiting for the part 2 of Breaking Dawn. Or for Taylor Lautner to make a film.

  3. Sharon Says:

    Excellent article Billy. I will maybe be watching West of Memphis thru Netflix also. Won’t spend a penny of my $ to see it in the theaters. It’s funny, most of the people in the area where I live know nothing of the wm3 killers nor care to know. Hope it stays that way and they all eventually fade away into obscurity.

  4. Dave L Says:

    You three are a joke to society! All that BS you have there but the State still let them walk out of prison. LOLOLOLOLOL .. .. . .seems like the state of AR made a mistake letting them leave. But anyhoo, they were/are innocent and they are free men now. So you can all go still suck on that one. Yes, free, no jail, they are out to do whatever they so please. Hell even go to New Zealand to do work. I love it. Sucks to be you farm hands. THE GOOD GUYS WON & ARE OUT FREE \m/


  5. LLcoolS-A Says:

    Dave, love your mature comments. The WM3 may be out of prison but legally they are all still convicted murderers and will remain so. They are fighting for exoneration, but that will never happen because they have no proof that will hold up in a court of law that someone else committed the crimes. If they can’t prove that, then they will not be exonerated. Furthermore, the WM3 and all their followers should be thanking the state for even accepting the defense’s plea. They got lucky because Ellington was a new and inexperienced prosecutor that didn’t want to deal with the case.

  6. Thomas R. Says:

    This website is turning into trash because it has become by design “WM3 Fanatics Forum.” Whatever one thinks about the guilt of these guys, REALIZE that the snow covering this case has melted and getting into hissy fits about the outcome does not serve anyone. Recycling WM3 makes for a few hits but after awhile this is going to get old and people are going to migrate elsewhere. Isn’t this website suppose to be about issues related to capital punishment? Just makes me wonder how come no one but me had contributed to Billy’s posting on death sentences given to women or some other topics, but people argue about a case which according to the law of the land is resolved.

    Those who work in the field of law understand that plea deals happen all the time and in this case the Alford plea was approved by a judge. Instead of expanding energy on the WM3 perhaps it would serve us better to discuss (and affect changes) in the statutes (loopholes) that govern such plea deals? Just a thought Billy. Best regards…

  7. Billy Sinclair Says:

    Thomas R – Thank you for your observations. As usual, they are pretty much on point. You measure public perspectives and emotions about criminal justice issues by the input peopl are prepared to offer. I have toyed with writing a book about the WM3, but really didn’t know if I want to invest both the time and energy involved in such a project. I have posted a significant of pieces about the WM3 case to measure the public perspective about the case. With your observations, I am still no closer to a decision, but I thank you for them. They will be given serious thought.

  8. Katie Carpenter Says:

    Maybe this page will stop being a WM3 fest when Billy stops writing nonsense about them.

  9. Billy Sinclair Says:

    Katie Carpenter: As long as there are foul-mouthed dimwit supporters like you, there will always be enough inspiration to keep the public discourse about W3 case alive. Hope you enjoy your vacation from reality!

  10. Thomas Rykala Says:

    Billy – I am sure that if you finally decide to write the book, judging from some corners, it will definitely be a sought-after item. In the meantime, please continue to post reflections on other death penalty matters, which you have done superbly.

  11. Sharon Says:

    @ Katie Carpenter…anymore intelligent posts to make?

  12. Kelly Schrader Says:

    Even though I am a supporter, I like reading your blogs. I’m a little curious as to what your opinion is about the DNA evidence, or some of the witnesses from the original trial recanting their statements?

  13. Billy Sinclair Says:
    Re-released in hardback in March 2012 and now available on your Kindle in less than a minute. The New York Times Book Review called it a “numbing tale of crime, punishment, and redemption.”

  14. KBRIT09 Says:

    I am not here to debate whether the WM3 are guilty or innocent. I can have my opinion, but that means nothing because I wasn’t there. I do not know any of the people connected to this case, so to constantly judge their every move, or to paint myself as some all knowing being who can decipher if someone’s soul is black or white would be shameful. What I do feel a lot of times while reading the “nons” and “supporters” is a great deal of sadness. People seem to have ignored that irregardless of what we think they have done or not done, their rights were violated. The trial that convicted them was a trial that took away constitutional rights. The prosecution, judge, and jury hiding behind the “corrupt by good intentions” boulder is pathetic. Corrupt is corrupt no matter what it is you think you are fighting for or who you are fighting for. Doing it dirty, being dishonest, and ignoring another person’s rights will usually come back to bite you in the end. If the prosecution was so absolutely sure these three boys killed those three babies, they should have taken the proper steps and built a strong case surrounded by platforms of honor, truthfulness, and the mind set that everyone is supposed to be not guilty until charged and only AFTER a fair trial has been done. The law states that if it can be proven that one’s constitutional rights have been violated during a trial that convicts them they have a right to either have the charges dropped or gain a new trial. As far as I am concerned they were able to prove that and rightfully asked for a new trial. The prosecutor decided he did not want to take that route for whatever reason’s so the next step was throwing away all charges or coming up with a deal. People who are angry at the outcome should be angry at the way this case was fought. The investigative team and prosecution at that time did not run a tight ship, and knowing the law like I would assume they would have to know it being in their positions, they still took huge risks and gambled with the future outcome of this case. We are nothing without our principles or good morals…..nothing. The law is nothing if we chose to ignore it or manipulate to fit our needs when necessary. There was not enough evidence to convict them. There was more than enough reasonable doubt and the jury convicted the two by evidence that had been deemed fruit from the poisonous tree by the judge who was following the letter of the law. This case should have been thrown out all together. I first heard about this case back in 95′ while in high school and decided to do a paper on it for my sociology and american government classes. I did not choose it as a subject because of it’s examples of “what all is right ” either. I will pray as much as I can for those babies. My heart shatters when I think of what was done to them. I cannot imagine the pain their true loved ones felt. I am a mother and this case is my worst nightmare. I am sure it is a lot easier for me to say that I would have demanded fairness for these boys if I thought they did that to my babies because it has not happened to my babies. Reading about some of the parents who felt they never heard convincing evidence that these kids did it and the fact that they had doubts troubles me. Terry and Pam Hobbs made several comments on it. Accusing people of wanting to make money off of their children’s deaths just because you don’t understand their actions is sickening. To the people who have done that I want to know what gives you the authority to do that? I have never come across a recipe on how one is supposed to act when their children have been brutally murdered. I have also never seen one for teenagers facing life in jail or loosing their life. I would love a definite answer to what happened to those kids, but that may never come. I put most of that blame on the wmpd, prosecution, jury, and judge. THEY failed those little boys that they felt they were seeking such swift justice for. The Alford Plea was their penance. Okay, I am done with my rant now. Thanks to those who took the time to read it.

  15. Kelly Schrader Says:

    @KBRIT09, I totally agree with everything you said. Even if they are guilty the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, and I do not believe they fulfilled that duty.

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