An Open Letter to Damien Echols

Original Writing

Damien,

I doubt you’ll even see this post, let alone read it but I want to share your story, and the effect it’s had, with everyone I know. I find myself even asking people if they’ve heard of the Robin Hood Hills murders simply to talk about you.

I was first introduced to the case when I saw Devils Knot on TV. Naturally, one’s interest peaks when hearing a film is based on a true story, so hear me out before you dismiss this as just another superficial fangirl who only got her information from wikipedia and the wm3 website. I didn’t realise the enormity of the case, or the horrendous details of it either until I carefully researched the murders inside out, including looking at crime scene photos, crime lab photos/reports, evidence reports and interview transcripts.

Watching Devils Knot in no way influenced my view on your guilt or innocence, Damien. It was just another ‘true story’ drama. Understanding the details of the case helped me come to the conclusion that you are innocent. But I’m not writing this to tell you how well I know your case because no one knows it better than you. People are so quick to judge you as being guilty, even having the audacity to cite evidence and reports, but we’re all bystanders in a fight that should never have been initiated in the first place.

Your life was stripped from you for nearly two decades and you still managed to find the strength to share your experience with the world. Critics say your biography isn’t written well, it doesn’t flow or have “transition”, and it’s “bitter.” If I spent 18 years in prison, I’d be bitter too, to say in the least. More so than not, I’m finding people attacking your style of writing and I think people are forgetting that you are a human being first.

What’s more enchanting is your ability to find light in your darkest hours. You pushed forward despite the ever-growing number of obstacles pulling you back, and that’s something I can’t possibly fathom. I’m full of nothing but gratitude and admiration for you.

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: thank you. Thank you for finding it within yourself to share your brightest and darkest hours with the world, and for standing true to yourself in the face of disgusting corruption. I can only wish you a lifetime of peace with the monsters who put you in those cells and with the battles you fight on a daily basis.

And to the three angels who lost their lives in such devastatingly tragic circumstances, I pray you are resting peacefully. May you get the justice you so desperately deserve. You will never be forgotten.

Anisah

 

Life After Death, by Damien Echols

Book Reviews

“If you walk up to a man on the street and punch him in the face, you go to prison for assault. Do the same thing to a man in prison and you get demoted.” (Echols, 244)

“Time is marked with an hourglass filled with snow instead of sand.” (331)

“I am excited today, and happy. Not for any particular reason, other than the fact that good things are coming. Good things are always coming; sometimes we just forget it.” (340)

All my life I’ve heard people say “Why would God allow this to happen?” I think it’s because while we can see only the tragedy, God sees only the beauty. While we see misery, Divinity sees us lurching and shambling one step closer to the light. I truly do believe that one day we’ll shine as brightly as the archangels themselves.” (342)

I’m writing an open letter to Echols in my next post, but I couldn’t leave this one open ended without a little explanation. The quotes above are too breathtakingly beautiful for that.

I’ve just finished reading Echols’ biography Life After Death (2012) and despite the strong probability of me saying this about other books, I feel this one has somehow managed to simultaneously take my breath away and change my outlook on life. These quotes referenced above made me stop in my tracks simply at the sheer beauty of Echols’ mind, and his ability to open up after the ordeal he endured for nearly two decades. His view of the world, which I expected to be so tarnished by his 18 years locked in a cell and awaiting execution on Death Row, is utterly perfect in its simplicity and naivety.

We all have role models and inspirations in our life. Damien Echols: you are mine. You are the epitome of strength and resilience, and I wish you could see for yourself the effect your words have had on me, and my life.

Thank you for sharing your experience with the world, and with me.

Anisah