Free the Jackson Five

The title is a joke, but the subject is not. It’s more important than any loudmouth politician or pro-globalization rant of mine you’ve suffered, now or in the future. This is about the lives of three men, all incarcerated, one of them awaiting execution, who have been failed by our justice system. This is about The West Memphis Three.

I’m no liberal. I don’t have a strong opposition to the death penalty. I cry no tears for Mumia. I approach everything with a strong dose of skepticism. And I believe these guys are innocent.

If you’re not familiar with the case, here is my 30 second version. Three young boys were brutally murdered in West Memphis, Arakansas, in 1993. After a lengthy interrogation, the police were able to coerce a confession out of one young man with an IQ of roughly 70. This man, in his confession, implicated two acquaintances. The confession was recanted prior to trial, but it was too late. These three, who had no history of violence, were convicted of murder. The evidence, other than the “confession”, was that the young men wore black t-shirts and listened to heavy metal.

Does this sound unbelievable? It should. I didn’t think a jury like this could be found anywhere in America. I was wrong.

The whole sordid tale is documented in several sources, most notably the Paradise Lost I & II documentaries, available at decent video stores everywhere. Or you may want to read Damien’s book, written from death row.

What does this have to do with San Francisco? I’m glad you asked! July 23rd has been designated as WM3 Awareness Day. Events are happening in major metros all over the US, and ours is no exception. SF’s own Jello Biafra and a bevy of other performers will be at the Swedish American Music Hall on Market, next to the Nerd. See you there.

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