Johnny Depp Shows Off New Ink And West Of Memphis In Toronto
Star Johnny Depp and a former death row inmate may be an unlikely pairing, but the two have shared ink and a film at the Toronto International Film Festival. Depp is just one of a number of celebrities that came to the aid of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin who spent 18 years in prison for the yet to be solved murders of three 8 year-old boys in Arkansas. Depp and Echols, now free as a result of a little-known legal maneuver called an Alford plea, sported matching tattoos at TIFF before the premiere of the documentary West of Memphis about the case that spawned films, media attention and calls by celebs around the country for their release.
"This one Damien designed. It's one of my all-time favorites and it means quite a lot to me," Depp said, according to the A.P. Echols added that whenever the two meet up, they frequently find themselves headed to a tattoo parlor. "[It's about] celebrating the moment," said Depp.
The case exploded into the the national consciousness in the mid-'90s with the first of what would be three Paradise Lost documentaries, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. The films questioned the guilt of the three individuals who were convicted of the grisly murders by a zealous prosecutor who appeared to play off of local prejudices. The three, especially Damien Echols, were considered social misfits and were accused of Satanism. Echols' penchant for black clothes coupled with the local population's religious fervor and loose application of the rule of law proved to be a toxic brew and the three were imprisoned for years, with Echols in particular facing death for the crimes.
Depp was one in a parade of celebs who demanded the three's release, including Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, musician Henry Rollins, and filmmaker Peter Jackson who produced director Amy Berg's West of Memphis, which is the latest film to tell a narrative that claims a gross miscarriage of American justice.
"You saw those initial documentaries, you make a choice: Am I going to watch the thing and go 'Wow, that's really horrible,' and go out and get a milkshake," Depp said.
The Alford plea, which freed Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin, was a move by Arkansas to allow the three to go free. The maneuver allows them to maintain their innocence while pleading guilty. An effort is still underway to clear their names once and for all.
"[Depp] been with us every single step of the way," said Echols in Toronto. "Since we've gotten out, he's become like a brother to me. And that's one of the things we always do just as part of that bond is whenever you get tattoos like that, it's something you carry with you through the rest of your life and it's really meaningful."
[Source: Associated Press]