Hearing about Damien Echols doing an appearance and signing was strictly luck. We had just watched part of Paradise Lost: 3 and I had just happened to see a tweet from Changing Hands Bookstore in Arizona. Damien had done a signing there the night before and Changing Hands provided a link for the rest of his tour stops.
I clicked on the link in the tweet at the same time that I got an email from Book Soup with a list of events. Damien’s was the first listed. Hubs called to make sure that tickets were still available. They were.
We got up to UCLA early. The event started at 7, we got there just after 5 and there already people lined up. Book Soup was still putting together their table, so we got in line and proceeded to wait. Both for will call and entrance into the theatre.
Book Soup came through the line before 6, giving out vouchers and tickets. At the time of the order, we had only purchased one book. We quickly added another one.
Damien and Dave Navarro [the moderator] got on stage around 7:15. They started talking about the book, only briefly touching on the case and focusing mostly on how Damien coped with being on death row.
The thing he missed the most is the rain. There was a kitten that was kept as a pet and passed around from cell to cell to keep it a secret from the guards. Damien still has no idea how it got inside.
Being locked in solitary on death row for over 10 years, Damien started to lose his eyesight. He had trouble focusing on things further than 4-5 inches in front of him. It also left him sensitive to camera flashes and bright lights in general due to not seeing sunlight.
He had to enter a plea of guilty to be released. After the DNA evidence was released and proven not to match Damien, Jason or Jessie, the state prosecutor said they could drag on the new hearing, leaving the men to stay in jail for 5-10 additional years.
Damien said that it was now up to the three of them to promote the truth, that the state was not going to change the record as Arkansas shows the case as closed. He doesn’t like to talk about what happened, but he is aware of his new found celebrity.
The talk ended after about and hour and we were all herded outside, to the courtyard to where the signing table was set up.
They had a handler to hand the book to Damien. When I got up to him, he shook my hand [and every single person who had attended]. I thanked him for spending his time and he thanked me for attending. There wasn’t personalization, but he did take pictures.
While Damien Echols is soft spoken, he is extremely articulate and somehow after surviving the horrible ordeal, remains a truly humble person. His story is amazing and inspiring.
If you’re not familiar with the WM3, briefly, they are Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley who in 1993, were arrested and wrongly convicted for the murders of three eight year old boys.
They spent over 18 years in prison before being released in August of 2011.
For detailed information, check out: http://www.wm3.org/