an interview

damien echols

The following interview was conducted between Damien Echols and Rick Staton in May, 1996.

RICK: Please state your age, date of birth, and full legal name with an explanation as to why you changed it. Some people seem to be intimidated by the suggested link to "that movie," hence the connection to the so-called "ritual slayings." Were you a fan of "The Omen" films?

DAMIEN: I am 21 years old, my birthdate was December 11, 1974. My full name is Damien Wayne Echols. My name was changed to Echols when I was adopted and I chose the name Damien because of Father Damien the priest who spent his life in the Hawaiian islands taking care of lepers. No, I was not a fan of "The Omen" movies; l found them to be quite boring.

RlCK: How long have you known Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. ? Please list any and all incidents of unlawful activity with these people.

DAMIEN: Jason Baldwin has been my best friend for the past six or seven years. I have only met Jessie Misskelley a few times; we were on speaking terms but were not really "friends" because I never truly knew him. The present situation is the only brush with the law that I have been involved in with either person.

RICK: If you have any theories about the actual killer(s) of Christopher Byers, Steve Branch, and Michael Moore, please elaborate.

DAMIEN: I have no doubt that the actual killer is John Mark Byers. He had the knife with his son's blood on it not to mention the fact that he could never keep his alibi straight. It was also proven in court that whoever killed those children had the skill of a surgeon and Byers was a jewel cutter. There was also testimony that his knife could have made the wounds on the children because the blade was consistent with the cut pattern.

RICK: Please offer your opinion of how "small-town mentality" and/or "poor man's justice" figured in to your conviction.

DAMIEN: People assumed that I was guilty and had made up their minds beforehand, simply based on my taste in clothes, music, etc. In a larger city, I would never have even been noticed but I happened to be in a small, conservative, traditional town where I was looked at as a 'freak.'

RICK: Do you have any faith in our present system of justice? Do you look forward to the HBO documentary, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills", and its potential to shed new light on the case?

DAMIEN: I have absolutely no faith in the justice system. My faith is placed in the hope that people will realize that they are about to execute an innocent man. I'm extremely optimistic about the HBO documentary. It has already helped a tremendous amount; I have been steadily gaining support since it was previewed in several cities.

RICK: Please list what you consider to be the three greatest misconceptions about you as suggested by the media.

DAMIEN: The first would be the belief that I am a Satanist. I am not, nor have I ever been, a Satanist. I am a Wiccan and anyone familiar with our religion knows that we would never harm a child. The second is that I am only interested in things of a "dark sided" nature. I don't deny that I love a good scary book or movie as much as the next guy but I'm as normal and human as anyone else. I have other interests besides horror. The third is that the media portrayed me as "cold," "uncaring," or "unfeeling." I have the same emotions as you. I laugh, I cry, I love and I fear, just like everyone else. But I was in a very stressful situation; I was confused and frightened and I was being accused of things I did not do. I was trying to stay as calm as possible but that doesn't mean I wasn't feeling anything.

RICK: Did you ever "confess" or admit-jokingly or otherwise-to committing the murders of these three boys?

DAMIEN: No, and it would have been impossible for me to have done what they testified because police records show that I was already in jail during the time frame brought up in that testimony.

RICK: What's your opinion of the Arkansas Department of Corrections?

DAMIEN: It's the most corrupt place I've ever seen; everything involves politics. I have just finished up a lawsuit with them concerning their abuse against me. I've witnessed the abuse of many other inmates since I've been here also but they get away with it because no one cares about these men. They are society's rejects so they have nowhere to turn for help.

RICK: What would you do if you were released immediately? Would you pursue a career of any kind?

DAMIEN: I would love to travel and meet in person all the people who have offered their love and support. As far as a career, I would love to eventually own a secondhand bookstore. I love to read and it would be pretty peaceful. I just want to do something calm and quiet; I've had enough "excitement" to last a long, long time.

RICK: Have you many friends that believe in your innocence? Considering how the media made you look, are you sensing that some correspondents are only after a "brush with celebrity?"

DAMIEN: Everyone I have become friends with believes in my innocence. I can usually weed out those who only want a "brush with celebrity." It's very upsetting to me when I hear from people who don't really care one way or another and just want an autograph or something like that. it's extremely depressing.

RICK: Why were you so "cocky" or defiant during the whole trial phase? It's believed by many to be a major factor in your conviction.

DAMIEN: Because I knew that no matter what everyone else believed or thought, I knew I was innocent. I knew the truth and I refused to allow anyone to degrade me for something l knew wasn't true. The public opinion didn't matter to me because I knew the truth. It wouldn't have mattered how I acted because the public had already convicted me before the trial even started.

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