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Pearl Jam support for West Memphis Three continues after release

TORONTO -- Even though they've now been released, the three men who comprise the so-called "West Memphis Three" are still getting support from Eddie Vedder and the rest of Pearl Jam.

The three men were convicted in the slayings of three Cub scouts nearly two decades ago, but were recently released -- after spending 18 years behind bars -- after years of questions about the evidence in the case.

"Now we are helping them regain their footing, and it's fascinating to see them on the outside world. It's a real joy," Vedder told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were convicted in 1993 for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in Arkansas, but always proclaimed their innocence. Their story was told in the HBO documentary "Paradise Lost," which brought attention to the trial and made a case that the guilty verdicts were unjust. Echols was sentenced to death, while the others got life sentences.

Vedder says Pearl Jam's efforts for their release began at least 15 years ago. He just decided to keep it "under the radar, because the last thing that they needed was a rock band supporting them."

He even visited them in prison.

"It was really difficult to visit someone in prison, and then have to leave, and knowing how they were still going to be there," Vedder said.

Vedder, along with other high profile entertainers that included Johnny Depp, the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines, Peter Jackson, and Henry Rollins, advocated their release and raised money for their defense. Vedder says the idea of musicians and actors coming together to change the system intrigues him: He sees music as a source of power for good.