The Peter Jackson-produced West Memphis 3 documentary “West of Memphis,” which screened Friday morning at Sundance, presents new witness testimony alleging that Terry Hobbs, stepfather to one of the victims, told relatives he had committed the murders.
Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. and Jason Baldwin were tried and convicted as teenagers for the infamous 1993 murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Ark. Years of appeals led to a deal with prosecutors that allowed them to go free last year, though they were never officially exonerated.
During the “West of Memphis” screening, Echols’ defense team released a statement saying Michael Hobbs Jr., nephew of Terry Hobbs, allegedly told his friends that “my uncle Terry murdered those three little boys.” Those friends, Blake Sisk and Cody Gott, gave a statement to Echols’ defense team under penalty of perjury and were polygraphed about their assertions, which were featured in the film.
“One day Michael picked us up in his truck. He was very quiet and upset. Michael then said to us, ‘You are not going to believe what my dad told me today. My Uncle Terry murdered the three little boys.'”
Additional statements from the witnesses, who contacted Echols’ defense team via an anonymous tipline and whose faces were shown in the film, outline further instances when relatives said Terry Hobbs admitted to the crimes.
“This is critical new information which reveals that the people closest to Terry Hobbs, his family members, may know much more about Terry’s involvement in the West Memphis Three case than they have ever acknowledged,” said Stephen Braga, Echols’ attorney, adding that the new testimony has been turned over to investigators.
The case has spurred four docus in all, including the three “Paradise Lost” films that have questioned the three teens’ guilt from the start. The third installment strongly points the finger at Terry Hobbs, though it doesn’t present evidence nearly as compelling as what was shown Friday at the Holiday 1 theater in Park City.
To illustrate just how effective that new evidence was, attendees at the press-and-industry screening laughed derisively when Arkansas prosecutors defended their continued belief that the three teens actually committed the murders.