Letter to AMPAS from victims’ parents
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature this morning. In response, four parents whose children were murdered by Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley wrote an open letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences January 24, 2012
….We are the parents and step-parent of Michael Moore and Stevie Branch, Jr. On May 5, 1993, our sons, along with their friend Christopher Byers, were brutally murdered. Three teenage boys, now men, were convicted of the crime: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley. An HBO documentary film crew came to our town, West Memphis, Arkansas, to chronicle the aftermath of these murders and the trials of our sons’ killers. That film, Paradise Lost, was followed by two sequels – Paradise Lost II: Revelations and Paradise Lost III: Purgatory. We are writing to the Academy now to express our sadness, disappointment, and outrage over the decision to nominate the latest film, Purgatory, for an Academy Award in the documentary film category.
Despite the spin and controversy fabricated by defense attorneys, documentary filmmakers, and celebrities, certain aspects of the past 18 years are irrefutable. Three precious eight-year-old boys went for a bicycle ride on May 5, 1993, and never came home. They were murdered in a most vicious and horrifying manner. Jessie Misskelley has admitted to taking part in these terrible crimes three times on record and at least three additional times off the record
….While we were grieving for our children, the HBO film crew assured us that they only chronicled the events as they unfolded, and that they believed the defendants to be guilty. They earned our trust, and then they violated it. Director Joe Berlinger aptly referred to himself as a “storyteller first, a journalist second…” an accurate description given the fable he has conjured. Berlinger decided within “five minutes” of meeting Damien Echols that he was innocent and immediately set out upon a mission to prove it, truth and facts be damned. The fabricated innocence of the defendants made for a better “documentary” than the truth that these three teenagers killed our children for nothing more than a sick thrill.
….Directors Berlinger and Sinofsky lied to grieving parents. They have callously accused not one, but two, grieving parents of their own sons’ murders. They manipulated viewers into believing that these trials were a witchhunt, showing only very carefully selected snippets of trial testimony. The trials of our sons’ murderers lasted twenty-two days. Despite having over 140 hours of footage in their possession, Berlinger and Sinofsky ultimately showed viewers less than one hour of trial footage and led viewers to the false conclusion that there was no evidence produced that the three defendants were guilty. They neglected to include virtually all of the evidence against the defendants, regardless of the fact that two juries and the Arkansas Supreme Court deemed that sufficient evidence of their guilt existed.
Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow morning (24 Jan 2012), and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is a frontrunner for a Best Documentary Feature nomination.
Todd and Dana Moore, parents of murder victim Michael Moore, wrote a public letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences urging them not to honor Paradise Lost 3.
….We are horrified to learn that a documentary that glorifies Michael’s killers, Paradise Lost III: Purgatory, is among 15 documentaries being considered for an Academy Award. Because of public pressure that exploded due to gross misrepresentations of fact in two previous documentaries, Michael’s killers were unjustly able to enter into a plea agreement, were released from prison, and now pose additional threats to society. This third documentary further insulted the families of these three boys and may lead to further injustice. We implore the Academy not to reward our child’s killers and the directors who have profited from one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated under the guise of a “documentary film.”
….Consider what happened to John Mark Byers. He was Christopher Byers’ adoptive father. Confrontations between Mr. Byers and Echols’ supporters at hearings were staged. Of course, Berlinger and Sinofsky were there to film these episodes. Berlinger and Sinofsky would transport Mr. Byers to the hearings and wire him for sound beforehand. Furthermore, Berlinger and Sinofsky maneuvered Mr. Byers and Echols’ supporters in order to film the anticipated confrontations. Later, after the cameras were packed away, Mr. Byers acted like a different person. Instead of being belligerent, he was affable. When asked about his change in demeanor, Mr. Byers stated that he was supposed to act that way when the cameras were present. Mr. Byers was quoted as saying he received $500 per hour for “exclusive interviews.”