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Part I: Damien Echols of The West Memphis Three

Media_5f8b433868ca4319a40b59b102a86150_t607DALLAS, Texas - I have been sitting on this for well over a month at the request the publicist, but today I can finally share this 30-minute interview with Damien Echols and his wife Lorri Davis. Echols is one of the members of The West Memphis Three who was sent to jail for murder back in 1990s and was released a few years ago after evidence showed both he and his two friends accused of the crime were wrongly convicted.

Today, the documentary West of Memphis opens in theaters; click here for showtimes at the Angelika theaters. It was not nominated for an Academy Award, the only reason I can see is that there have been multiple films made about this subject.

Click here for the story of The West Memphis Three.

When we met in a conference room in a Dallas hotel, both Echols and his Davis looked exhausted from the extensive promotional tours they had been doing. Echols struck me as fatigued, and someone who was damaged in a way I can't conceive from his experiences.

This is the first part of the interview.

Sundance_westofmemphis-thumb-300xauto-28697The Big Mac Blog: Was this promotional process more than you thought it would be?
Lorri Davis: We didn’t know what it would entail. We just got off the book tour. We thought we would have a month off in between.
Damien Echols: Yes. At this rate the closest to any down time is the end of December. We haven't been home (in Salem, Mass.) in months.

The Big Mac Blog: How do you define 'normal' now?
Damien Echols: The minute I left prison we have lived like refugees. We left Arkansas I didn’t have a single penny in my pocket and I had nowhere to go. We hit the ground running and that’s what we have been doing for the past year. There are times you get up and think I can’t do this another day. Somethings gotta give.

Lorri Davis: I try to keep reminding people that this is a man who suffered from PTSD. It is like coming back from war. But it’s a part of him. We’re so grateful for all of the attention but we need to figure out a way to balance it.

The Big Mac Blog: What is your life now that you are together all the time and have the “normal” schedule?
Lorri Davis: That part has been easy. We’re together all the time and because of everything we have been through we are able to negotiate things easier. When you go through what we did you have to be able to do things. I’m not saying any relationship is easy but we are primed for anything.

The Big Mac Blog: What did you think of the movie?
Damien Echols: I saw it about a month after I was out. It was three hours of a rough cut. When I did that I was filled with despair. I’m thinking I don’t want to see this again. Do you know what it’s like to watch and talk about and re-live the worst thing of your life over and over and over, every single day? It’s (bleeping) agony. There is nothing about this case that is going to be new to me. We watched it and it held my attention from beginning to end.

2006_06_26_Piccalo_AbuserBecomes_ph_Amy_Berg(Director) Amy Berg (pictured) and I couldn’t get along. We would talk on the phone and she would come to the prison and I’m thinking this girl has no idea. I’m thinking I am talking to a pampered rich girl. She has no concept of what my life is like. When I watched that first cut I thought it was going to be a train wreck but I watched it and I realized she got it and put together something that was amazing. It held my attention and that’s when I knew she did something really, really good.

The Big Mac Blog: Anything cathartic about this stuff? 
Damien Echols: Nothing. The closest thing to cathartic we have done is a show called 'The Moth on NPR. You just get on stage and talk, and tell a story. They approached me about doing this and the rules are no notes, nothing memorized. You memorize the first sentence and it will trigger you into talking. You have your story but it’s supposed to be a flow. I was approached and I thought – why do they want me to talk about this? it’s the worst part of my life. But when I did it on stage it literally felt like it was lighter. And I left something behind when I walked off stage. That was cathartic. 

The Big Mac Blog: This is your story for now – but at some point it will fade and you will return to your life in Salem – what do you want your new story to be?  Will this forever define you?
Damien Echols: No. I refuse to let it. That’s what drives me. This case, we don’t have a sense of closure. If we want to be exonerated and we want the people who did this and the people who did this to us then this is a necessary evil. We have to let the state of Arkansas know we are not going anywhere until you do the right thing.
Once it’s over – it became a passion for me in prison – there is no medical care in there. There were times I’d get really, really sick. Or nerve damage in your teeth from getting hit in the face. There are no caps, route canals, no crowns. None of that. Your choices are live in pain or have them pull your teeth out.
That’s when I like Reiki and became passion about those things. The long term goal when this is over what I’d like to do is have a small meditation center in Salem and share the things with others that helped me survive in desperate times. And be an inspiration to others who are desperate.


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