Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder was among the supporters of the West Memphis Three to witness their release from prison at the Craighead County Courthouse in Arkansas on Friday. The “three” — Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin — were convicted of murdering three 8-year-old boys in 1993 but forensic evidence introduced in 2007 and July 2011 showed that DNA collected at the crime scene did not match the defendants.
Vedder had been advocating the men’s release for years in various forms.
The singer, along with the band the Supersuckers, recorded the single “Poor Girl” for a Free the West Memphis Three benefit CD that was released in 2000. (Henry Rollins also spearheaded a benefit CD for the cause, Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three, in 2002.)
In 2005, Vedder donated signed items to be auctioned off for “West Memphis Three World Awareness Day” on July 23 of that year.
Last August, Vedder and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks participated in Voices for Justice: A Rally in Support of the West Memphis Three in Little Rock, Ark.
Vedder, along with Johnny Depp and Metallica, believe the trio were wrongly convicted based more on their interest in heavy metal and Stephen King books than the actual facts surrounding the case, notes MTV. The 1996 documentary “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” and a 2000 follow-up “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations” sparked their initial interest in the case.
On Larry King Live in 2010, Vedder said, “It took years of educating myself and reading and even helping funding new discoveries that allowed me to have what now I feel is 100 percent belief in their innocence. Now we’ve really got more evidence, and now with conviction we can say without a doubt these young man don’t deserve to be [in prison.]”
Vedder sat next to Echols’ wife Lorri in the front row of the courtroom on Friday. He put his arm around her during the proceedings, reports CBS, and embraced Echols once he was released.