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Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has brought one of the West Memphis Three inmates freed from prison after 18 years to New Zealand, to help him work on receiving a full pardon.

Damien Echols was one of three men convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys in Arkansas in 1993. He and the other two men – Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. – were released in August after pleading guilty to lesser charges. Echols was the only one of the three to face the death sentence.

“There are all sorts of emotive headlines about Damien Echols, killer, coming to New Zealand, but the reality is that Damien Echols is an innocent man who has spent 18 years incarcerated in a tiny cell,” Jackson said at a press conference. “He’s come here to work with us on a couple of things. We’re doing investigative work, we’re doing forensic work with the purpose of getting a complete pardon.”

Peter Jackson was one of a long list of celebrities – including Johnny Depp, Natalie Maines, Eddie Vedder, Jack Black and Ben Harper – who helped support the men while they were incarcerated.

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