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West Memphis victims' families protest 'Paradise Lost' Oscar nod

Jessie Misskelley Jr., James Baldwin and Damien Echols were released in August, which caps the third film in the
Jessie Misskelley Jr., James Baldwin and Damien Echols were released in August, which caps the third film in theDanny Johnston / AP

"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" received an Oscar nod on Tuesday from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for best documentary feature, but not everyone is happy about the honor.

The film, the third in HBO's series about three boys who were brutally murdered nearly 20 years ago in West Memphis, Ark., and the three teens who were convicted on questionable evidence, shows the state ultimately releasing Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. from prison last August. But parents of two of the boys killed are not pleased with the publicity the latest film has received or its Oscar nomination.

Todd and Diana Moore, the parents of victim Michael Moore, had previously asked the Academy to not consider the film. The pair, along with victim Stevie Branch's father and stepdad, sent a letter to reporters and the Academy after the nominations were announced to express their feelings.

"This film should be exposed as a fraud, not rewarded with an Academy Award nomination," the letter stated.

That Branch's stepfather would object to the film is no surprise. "Paradise Lost 3" brings up the question as to whether or not Terry Hobbs, who married Stevie's mom, could have been the killer. (The upcoming film "West of Memphis" also suggests Hobbs may be a suspect.) The filmmakers interviewed neighbors who placed Hobbs with the three boys the day they were murdered, though Hobbs has claimed that he did not see the children that day.

The films have been widely credited with raising doubts about the convictions of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley Jr., collectively known as the West Memphis 3. After 18 years in prision, the men were freed in August after taking the Alford plea, which allowed them to maintain their innocence while pleading guilty in exchange for their freedom.

When talked to Baldwin earlier this month, he said it was "hard to watch the films" and to see "the boys' families go through all of the anguish of that." He noted that tough as it was, "it's necessary to shed light on what happened."

As for the film's Oscar nod, Baldwin told he'd love to see filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky win the trophy. "They went above and beyond the call of duty as filmmakers to keep this case alive and keep it in the public eye," he said. "They deserve some type of award for their efforts, whether it be an Oscar or a Nobel Peace Prize. ... They put everything they had into these films against a lot of opposition."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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