Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines has covered Roger Waters route for an upcoming documentary surrounding the nearly 20-year-long West Memphis Three ordeal. Maines, who had been an outspoken opponent of the imprisonment of the three men, recorded a version of the Pink Floyd classic “Mother” for the documentary West of Memphis: Voices of Justice, which is coming out on January 15th.
The film follows the story of the three accused child murderers who were sent to prison and then exonerated 18 years later. This version of “Mother” features fellow West Memphis Three activist Ben Harper, who plays lap steel on the track. Harper is also credited with producing and recording the song. The pair performed the song on numerous occasions this summer.
The long, highly-controversial West Memphis Three case began when the bodies of three missing eight-year-old boys from West Memphis were discovered in the spring of 1993. Police concluded the boys had been victims of a knife attack. The teen suspects, Jessie Misskelley Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols, all had reputations as delinquents and trouble-makers in the community and were all casually familiar with the three murdered boys. A controversial investigation resulted in all three teens being arrested, tried and convicted of murder. The case had gained national attention, and with that came widespread criticism as to how the investigation was conducted. Many felt the small police force was overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the crimes which led to numerous errors in the investigation.
Several high profile celebrities like the members of The Dixie Chicks were outspoken about the sloppy police work and worked to free the three young men. Other artists like Pearl Jam‘s Eddie Vedder, Steve Earle and actor Johnny Depp became involved in a “Free The West Memphis 3” campaign. In 2000, Vedder and Earle were two of many to contribute to Free The West Memphis 3 compilation album that benefited the legal defense team of Misskelley Jr., Baldwin, and Echols.
In 2010, The Arkansas Supreme Court took newly produced DNA evidence into account which led the defendants to strike a deal with prosecutors. Within a year, all three men entered Alford pleas — it’s a situation where a defendant asserts his or her innocence while at the same time acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence to convict.
-Chris Coyle, KZOK
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