Life after Death: Eighteen Years on Death Row by Damien Echols - review by Robert Chesshyre

Robert Chesshyre

Prison Break

Life after Death: Eighteen Years on Death Row

By

Atlantic Books 399pp £12.99 order from our bookshop
 

Damien Echols, the author of this book, didn’t eat a piece of fruit or step outside for eight of his eighteen years on death row. Echols and two others were railroaded by an inefficient and corrupt small-town police force for the murder of three eight-year-olds. At eighteen, he was the oldest; cast by the cops as the ringleader, he was sentenced to death in the state of Arkansas. (This was shortly after Bill Clinton, while still governor of that state, had refused clemency to a killer who had shot away half his brain and had so little grip on reality that he set aside part of his last meal to eat after his execution.) Echols’s two co-defendants received life without parole.

There are gaps in Echols’s story, but it is clear that the three teenagers were victims of a dreadful miscarriage of justice, so much so that eventually they attracted campaigners, including well-known actors and musicians – Johnny Depp and Henry Rollins among them. The police had persuaded themselves that the

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