Peter Jackson Helped West Memphis Three Defense


'The Hobbit' director and partner Fran Walsh bankrolled key defense investigations and celebrated as the trio were released on Friday.

SYDNEY -- In the midst of shooting The Hobbit , Peter Jackson took time out to celebrate the release of the West Memphis Three, as it was revealed that he and partner, Fran Walsh, helped bankroll the investigation for the trio’s defense over the last seven years.

Writing on his Facebook page on Sunday, Jackson said he and Walsh were celebrating after having watched live the release of the three from Arkansas State Prison at 3 a.m. New Zealand time.

“We wanted to see Damien, Jason and Jessie walk free. That did happen, but not before we had to sit through a self righteous lecture from Arkansas State Prosector, Scott Ellington. Kind of tarnished the joy of seeing them released. I need to vent,” Jackson wrote.

Describing the case against the trio as farcical and a miscarriage of justice, Jackson also confessed to having to “suppress a deep anger” due to the circumstances of their release.  

“Let's not think for a second that justice was served today.  Far from it,” he wrote

“So the 'Alford Plea' was entered, and Damien, Jason and Jessie walked free this morning - all that was missing was justice. Justice did not play a role in the proceedings this morning ... not to the 3 men who have been robbed of 18 years, not to the 3 young victims and their families, and certainly not to the people of Arkansas, whom the system is supposed to serve."

“There's also a triple child killer who has walked free for the last 18 years ... seemingly an unimportant detail in today's white-washing job,” Jackson wrote.  

Activist group Free West Memphis 3 said the support of Jackson and Walsh had been "instrumental" in the release of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley after 18 years.

According to a statement from the group, Jackson and Walsh, “funded key investigative efforts on behalf of the defense, in an effort to prove the wrongful conviction of the three men in prison.”

 "As we became more familiar with this case, we began to understand there was a powerful will to see three innocent young men die in prison, thereby compounding what was already a terrible tragedy," Jackson said in the statement. "We felt any support we could lend, to stop this from happening, was worth our best efforts and there are many, many others who have done the same."

Jackson and Walsh funded an extensive private investigation over a number of years, which led to uncovering crucial new DNA evidence; they were instrumental in hiring some of the country’s leading forensic experts to re-evaluate the case and uncover new witnesses, all of which contributed to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision to reopen the case.

Jackson’s spokesman, Matt Dravitzki, told New Zealand newspaper The Dominion Post on Sunday that Jackson and Walsh were moved to help after seeing HBO documentary Paradise Lost.

"Peter and Fran have funded seven years of investigation into trying to get these guys freed," he said. "They saw Paradise Lost eight years ago and that put them into action."

The couple's interest was not professional, and they had no plans to turn the trio's story into a film, he said.

"It simply comes from them being in a position that they're able to [fund] that. It's humanitarian entirely - it's philanthropic."

He did not say how much the couple had spent on the case.