Yesterday I finished reading Almost Home: My Life Story Volume I, the story of Damien Echols written in his own words. Echols is a member of the so-called West Memphis 3, sentenced for the killing of three small children, a crime which the evidence — or lack thereof — suggests they did not commit. Echols is the sole member on death row.
This is not a great book. Echols isn’t a great writer. It’s almost certainly self-serving. It doesn’t shed any insight on the case. It doesn’t even seem to have been thoroughly checked for spelling errors.
Here’s what it is, though: if you’re of the same opinion that I am — that the WM3 is wrongly imprisoned — then this book is a heartbreaking look at what happens when a teenager, a foolish awkward uneducated kid, is ripped out of his own life and thrown into limbo. What he writes, the events he talks about…it’s clear that his life stopped in 1993. Outside of the trial the only dramatic things that happened to him happened in high school. It’s all teenager drama. He’s roughly the same age as me, and all those things I got to do — graduate from high school with my friends, go to college, move away, get a job, get married, buy a home…to grow up, basically — he didn’t get to do.
It’s a credit to him that he discovered zen while on death row, but it’s just crushing to think of this shame — the undeserved ruination of a good part of three lives — compounded on the original tragedy: the murder of three little boys those 16 years ago. If I thought there was an afterlife, I would worry about how uneasily those boys must sleep, knowing their killer is still out there.