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Life After Death
by Damien Echols


Overview - In 1993, teenagers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.--who have come to be known as the West Memphis Three--were arrested for the murders of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas. The ensuing trial was marked by tampered evidence, false testimony, and public hysteria.  Read more...

 
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Overview

In 1993, teenagers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.--who have come to be known as the West Memphis Three--were arrested for the murders of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas. The ensuing trial was marked by tampered evidence, false testimony, and public hysteria. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison; while eighteen-year-old Echols, deemed the "ringleader," was sentenced to death. Over the next two decades, the WM3 became known worldwide as a symbol of wrongful conviction and imprisonment, with thousands of supporters and many notable celebrities who called for a new trial. In a shocking turn of events, all three men were released in August 2011. Now Echols shares his story in full--from abuse by prison guards and wardens, to portraits of fellow inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience, spirituality, and perseverance that kept him alive and sane while incarcerated for nearly two decades. In these pages, Echols reveals himself a brilliant writer, infusing his narrative with tragedy and irony in equal measure: he describes the terrors he experienced every day and his outrage toward the American justice system, and offers a firsthand account of living on Death Row in heartbreaking, agonizing detail. "Life After Death" is destined to be a riveting, explosive classic of prison literature.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780399160202
  • ISBN-10: 0399160205
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press
  • Publish Date: September 2012
  • Page Count: 399
  • Reading Level: Ages 18-UP

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-06-25
  • Reviewer: Staff

Wrongly convicted at 18 along with two other teenagers and sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark., Echols spent nearly two decades in prison before being released in August 2011. In this searing, finely wrought memoir, Echols recalls his poverty-stricken childhood, the trial of the West Memphis 3, and the harsh realities of life on death row. Sent there in 1994, Echols journaled consistently, though many notebooks were destroyed by guards. Echols describes death row as the equivalent of solitary confinement, his only human contact the infrequently allowed visitors from the outside world. Even sunlight and fresh air were denied at Varner Super Max, the facility he was transferred to in 2003. Echols recalls his less than ideal home life, with a mother who cultivated drama and a stepfather he despised (the feeling seems to have been mutual). The most affecting sections are Echols’s philosophical musings on all he has lost, his thoughts often influenced by Zen Buddhism. In one journal entry that survived the guards’ purge, Echols contemplates what he misses the most while in prison. The answer is a heart-wrenching and simple commentary on American prison life: “In the end it’s not the fruit I miss most... I miss being treated like a human being.” (Sept.)

 
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