DALLAS -- We caught up with Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three, and his wife, Lorri Davis, in October. They were in North Texas at the Crescent Hotel on a promotional tour for the film and his autobiography, Life After Death. They now live in Salem, Mass., far from the bad memories, and have mixed feelings about all the attention.
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 relive the worst thing of your life over and over and over, every single day? [Director] Amy Berg 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. But I watched it and I realized she got it and put together something that was amazing.
Anything cathartic about this stuff?
DE: 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. When I did it onstage it literally felt like it was lighter. And I left something behind when I walked off stage. That was cathartic.
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?
DE: No. I refuse to let it. That's what drives me.... 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.
How are neither of you not swallowed by bitterness, resentment, rage and anger?
DE: I was in the beginning. First two or three years in prison.... From the moment your eyes open, it's "I hate everybody." You are being tortured by other people and yourself. There is a quote from Buddhism where they say holding on to that sort of thing is like holding poison in hopes that it will kill the other person. It doesn't hurt anybody but yourself. I had to find a way to get past it. That's what led me to meditation. That and my relationship with Lorri.
How has he changed since he was released?
Lorri Davis: The Damien that was in prison was very disciplined and purposeful. We both were. We were both disciplined by nature. It intensified because there is no quitting and a great deal of grief. Prison is hard so you have to make sure he is safe.
Did any of your loved ones say, "What are you doing -- the guy is in jail"?
LD: I waited four years to tell my family. I wanted to be solid and ground and understanding in what I was doing. I know someone is going to look at me like it was crazy Lorri. I needed someone to realize I am working on a case and that this man is innocent. I was so driven. A little obsession in the beginning. Then it became one decision after another.
During the sentencing, why not stand up and scream "I'm not guilty!"?
DE: People always ask me: "If that were me ..." No, you wouldn't. It's a hostage situation. How many times do you see a hostage screaming? Never. You are hoping that if you cooperate you can come out with the teeth left in your head.
Do you talk to Jason Misskelley or Jessie Baldwin, the other men convicted for the crime, anymore?
DE: Jason and Jessie? I don't have a relationship at all with Jessie, and from what I have heard he doesn't have a relationship with anybody. He closed himself in his house and closed himself off. He had an IQ of 68, and then you dump all of this on him and he's never going to have anything close to a real life. They say he is terrified they are going to find a reason to put him back in prison. Jason, we pass messages back and forth. I'll text all day, but I hate talking on the phone. We text once a week. He's in college now in Seattle and eventually wants to go to law school.
For the full interview with Echols and Davis, go to sportsblogs.star-telegram.com/mac-engel.