Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were dubbed the "West Memphis Three." The three Arkansas men were teenagers when in 1993, three eight-year-old boys (Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore) were savagely murdered. Despite a lack of DNA evidence, Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin were convicted of the murders. However, celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Demi Lovato and Eddie Vedder, petititioned to get the case reopened.
Depp said, "I firmly believe Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley are totally innocent." Echols was on death row, while the other two were sentenced to life in prison. Depp said he could relate to the West Memphis Three because he grew up in a small town where he was judged on his appearance.
He believed the teens were judged unfairly because they were considered "weird" by townsfolk. All three dressed in black, were fans of Stephen King books and liked heavy metal music.
Director Peter Jackson funded an investigation into the 1993 deaths. The murders were believed to be part of a Satanic cult ritual, due to one of the boys having been castrated. On August 19, 2011, Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin were released from prison after reaching a plea deal called "The Alford Plea"in which they admitted their guilt before a judge in return for their freedom, while at the same time being allowed to maintain their innocence.
Jackson spent considerable time and money requesting their release. He wants to continue to investigate the crime in order to get them exonerated and find the real killer. He wrote on Facebook at the time: "Let's not think for a second that justice was served today. Far from it... All three men had to accept the conditions of the pleaif one refused, they would all stay in prison, probably for another 2 to 3 years, until their inevitable retrial, which would have almost certainly found them innocent... There's also a triple child killer who has walked free for the last 18 years."