You may recall the story of Damien Echols, who, as a young man, was branded as the mastermind of what has come to be known as the “West Memphis Three.” As teens, Echols and friends Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were fingered as the killers behind the grisly murders of three young boys. Today, Echols is a practitioner of meditation who projects care and thoughtfulness in his words, spoken and written. (As CNN’s David Mattingly notes, people on Death Row, as Echols is, “have a lot of time to think.”) The case has spawned documentary films, activist groups, and books, many of which contend that the WM3 have been wrongly accused and jailed.
Tonight the case gets another high-profile boost, in the form of a CNN news special called “Presumed Guilty: Murder in West Memphis.” It will air at 11 p.m. ET and again on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, and will discuss the possibility of a new, name-clearing trial.
After the jump: sample video from “Presumed Guilty,” as well as a collection of some of the best Prison Dharma articles from the Shambhala Sun’s archives — from people who know the practice from both sides of the bars.
Video via CNN:
Prison dharma: Buddhist principles and teachings, put into practice to give comfort and guidance to the incarcerated. What could be a more worthy cause?
Anyone who’s practiced prison dharma will tell you: It works. So we’ve collected some of the best articles from the Shambhala Sun’s archives, from people who know the practice from both sides of the bars. Just click any article’s title to start reading.
- Forced to Sit — Prisoner Scott Darnell shares his story of finding compassion on the inside.
- Finding Freedom: The Death Row Journey of Jarvis Jay Masters — by Susan Moon.
- Murder, Injustice, and the West Memphis Three — Rod Meade Sperry shares the tale of Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin, and (the now-Buddhist) Damien Echols. Could what’s happened to them happen to any of us?
- A Roshi on the Row — Kobutsu Malone takes Shodo Harada Roshi on an unprecedented visit to Arkansas’ death row, where two condemned men now practice Zen. One of them, Damien Echols — subject of the HBO documentary “Paradise Lost”— is believed by many to be innocent.
- The Great Escape — Yoga and meditation help Pippin Ross escape the hell of America’s oldest prison for women.
- Jamil’s Heart — Through the practice of compassion meditation, Rosalind Harris transforms the grief of her son’s murder into solidarity and friendship with all young African-Americans, whose life of violence and oppression is a national tragedy.
- A Taste of Freedom — “After more than thirteen years behind bars,” writes Fleet Maull, “a prisoner’s short, bittersweet experience of freedom is a reminder of his guru and the free, cheerful state of mind that is available at every moment.”