The filmmaker and his partner Fran Walsh have been quietly funding the West Memphis Three investigation for years after they joined celebrities like Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines among those keen to prove the men accused of the murder had been wrongfully convicted.
The West Memphis Three – Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Damien Echols – were set free on Friday after admitting guilt to the murders. They promptly staged a press conference and insisted they had spent 17 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit, but agreed to a plea deal to escape prison.
And Jackson and Walsh never doubted the trio’s innocence and paid for an investigation to find the real killers.
Jackson’s manager Ken Kamins tells EW.com, “When Peter and Fran got involved, they had to decide how to best serve the case. Damien, Jason, and Jessie had great public advocates in Eddie, Johnny (Depp), Natalie, Henry (Rollins)… and everyone else who was raising money and bringing public attention to the case. Peter and Fran, therefore, decided to put their attention into funding and spearheading DNA work, hiring forensic and other experts, plus extensive private investigations into all aspects of the case.
“Because Peter and Fran’s role required a very close relationship with the defence lawyers, in particular Damien’s team, they have always respected and understood that their role had to be of a confidential nature.
“They have worked very closely with a number of Damien’s attorneys and over the years they have become close friends with Damien and (his wife) Lorri. They have always believed that if they could get Damien free, Jason and Jessie would benefit too.”
And now the men are free, Jackson and Walsh plan to keep funding the search for the real killer or killers.
Kamins adds, “This work is ongoing. Peter and Fran are heavily involved in ongoing investigations, and the release of the guys is far from the end of the story.”