TRUE CRIME FESTIVAL

We have the details on “Death Becomes Us,” NYC’s first festival for the true crime fanatic. For ticket information, click here.

Aired on March 19, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> THE POPULARITY OF TRUE CRIME STORIES AND THEIR FAN BASE HAS EXPLODED IN RECENT YEARS WITH PODCASTS LIKE SERIAL AND DOCUMENTARY SERIES LIKE MAKING A MURDERER HAS SEEN A RESURGENCE.

AT THEIR HEART, THESE STORIES PROVIDE US WITH HEROES AND ANTIHEROES THEN INVITE US TO THINK AND FOR SOME OBSESS ABOUT THEIR NEWEST PASSION, THE CRIMES AND THE PLAYERS INVOLVED.

NOW, IN AN EFFORT TO GATHER ALL OF THESE FANS TOGETHER AT ONCE, NEW YORK CITY IS GETTING A FIRST OF ITS KIND TRUE CRIME FESTIVAL CALLED DEATH BECOMES US.

WHERE THIS NEW AUDIENCE CAN COME TOGETHER TO CELEBRATE THE GENRE.

AND IN TRUE CRIME FASHION, WE'RE ABOUT TO PRESENT THE LINEUP.

JOINING US ARE TWO OF THE FESTIVAL'S MOST INSPIRED PLAYERS, DAMIEN ECKELS IS KNOWN FOR BEING ONE OF THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE, CONVICTED AS A TEEN OF MURDERING THREE YOUNG BOYS AS PART OF A SAY TANNIC RICH CAL IN 1993.

THEY WERE LATER RELEASED.

JOINING HIM, TRUE CRIME DIRECTOR AND CREATOR JENNIFER TISDALE.

I'D LIKE TO WELCOME YOU TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS FOR JOINING US.

THANKS FOR HAVING US.

THANK YOU.

DAMIAN, YOU ARE THE CENTERPIECE AS PART OF THAT FESTIVAL AND I'M NOT SURE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR STORY.

IF YOU COULD GIVE US A SYNOPSIS OF THE LAST 20, 25 YEARS OF YOUR LIFE.

I WAS CAUGHT UP IN WHAT THEY NOW CALL THE SAY TANNIC PANIC CRAZE THAT HAPPENED IN THE LATE '80s, EARLY '90s WHERE THINGS ALL ACROSS THE U.S. WERE BEING BLAMED ON THIS VAST SAT TANNIC UNDERGRAUD.

THEY SAY WE MURDERED THREE BOYS.

I WAS SENTENCED TO DEATH THREE TIMES, THE OTHER TWO GUYS, WITH ONE WAS SENTENCED TO LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE AND THE OTHER ONE LIFE PLUS TWO 40-YEAR SENTENCES.

WE WOULD SPEND ALMOST 20 YEARS IN PRISON, 18 YEARS BEFORE WE WERE FREED ON WHAT THEY CALL AN ALFORD PLEA IN 2011 AFTER DNA TESTING AND NEW EYEWITNESSES CAME FORWARD.

AND JUST SO WE'RE CLEAR, WHAT IS AN ALFORD PLEA?

AN ALFORD PLEALY NEVER HAIRED OF THIS THING BEFORE WE TOOK IT IN OUR CASE.

WHAT IT MEANS LEGALLY SPEAKING, IT MEANS YOU ARE ACCEPTING A GUILTY PLEA WHILE AT THE SAME TIME BEING LEGALLY ALLOWED TO MAINTAIN YOUR INNOCENCE.

THE ENTIRE REASON THAT THIS EXISTS IS SO THAT THE STATE CAN'T BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT THEY'VE DONE TO YOU.

YOU KNOW, NORMALLY WHEN SOMEONE'S FALSELY CONVICTED FOR SOMETHING, THEY'RE AWARDED ON AVERAGE SOMETHING LIKE $1 MILLION FOR EVERY YEAR THAT THEY WERE IMPRISONED.

IF YOU TAKE AN ALFORD PLEA, THE STATE DOES NOT HAVE TO GIVE YOU ANYTHING.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE WORLD OF TRUE CRIME THAT'S GOTTEN SO MANY PEOPLE SO ENGAGED AND SO CURIOUS AND SO FASCINATED?

I THINK PART OF IT IS THAT WE HAVE SO MUCH ACCESS NOWADAYS.

THE INTERNET AND PODCASTS.

ANYONE WITH AN INTEREST IN SOMETHING CAN PUT IT OUT INTO THE WORLD ANYWAY THEY WANT TO.

BUT I ALSO THINK WE'VE ALWAYS HAD AN INTEREST IN TRUE CRIME, WE JUST HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO DISSEMINATE THE INFORMATION THE SAME WAY.

AND I ALSO THINK PEOPLE ARE IN GENERAL A LITTLE MORBID AND A LITTLE CURIOUS.

TRUE CRIME IS SO FASCINATING BECAUSE IT IS LIKE A -- IT'S A LITTLE BIT LIKE DELICIOUS, WHICH SOUNDS CREEPY, BUT IT'S JUST.

YEAH.

THIS THING.

AND THEN THERE IS, AND THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF IT, THERE'S THE VICTIM ADVOCACY AND THINGS OF THAT NATURE.

WHAT IS THIS GOING TO COMPRISE OF?

SO I REFER TO IT AS A FESTIVAL BECAUSE I KIND OF WANTED TO KEEP IT A LITTLE LESS DRY, LIKE A CONVENTION.

THERE'S GOING TO BE INFORMATION, YOU CAN STILL GET INFORMATION, BUT YOU CAN ALSO BE A LITTLE CHEEKY OR HAVE A LITTLE FUN WITH IT THE MANY LIKE, IF YOU CAN BE PROPERLY FUNNY ABOUT THESE TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE THINGS IN A RESPECTFUL WAY, THAT'S WHAT I HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH AT THE FESTIVAL WHICH IS LIKE LET'S LEARN AND THEN LET'S GET A LITTLE BIT WEIRD.

DAMIAN, TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THE FESTIVAL.

WELL, ONE OF THE REASONS FOR ME TAKING PART IN THINGS OF THIS NATURE IS I ALWAYS THINKS THAT EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO HEARS MY STORY, EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO BECOMES FAMILIAR WITH MY CASE, HEARS ME SPEAK, SAY POTENTIAL JURY MEMBER ON ANOTHER CASE AT SOME POINT IN THEIR LIVES AND CAN POSSIBLY HELP MAKE SURE THAT THE SAME THING THAT HAPPENED TO ME DOESN'T HAPPEN TO SOMEONE ELSE IN THE FUTURE.

FOR ME, IT REALLY IS ABOUT REFORMING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM OR THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT.

IT'S ABOUT SHINING A LIGHT ON THE ASPECTS OF THAT THAT ARE WRONG, ESPECIALLY THE CASES OF PEOPLE WHO ARE POOR, MINORITIES THAT GET SWEPT THROUGH THE CRACKS AND FORGOTTEN ABOUT.

THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IN MY CASE AND SO MANY OTHERS WAS THAT I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO HAVE CAMERAS IN THE COURTROOM THAT CAUGHT THE ENTIRE THING ON FILM.

MOST PEOPLE IN THIS SITUATION ARE NOT THAT FORTUNATE.

AND WE THINK THAT IT'S A RARITY WHEN SOMEONE GETS SENTENCED TO PRISON THAT'S INNOCENT.

BUT YOU HAVE GROUPS THAT ARE NOW ESTIMATING AS MANY AS ONE OUT OF EVERY CONTINUE PEOPLE SENTENCED TO DEATH MAYBE INNOCENT.

NOW, IF YOU HAD ONE OUT OF EVER TEN PLANES CRASHED, PEOPLE WOULD DEMAND THAT SOMETHING BE DONE TO FIX THE SITUATION.

BUT SINCE MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ANYONE WHO ARE CAUGHT UP IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, THERE'S NOT A WIDE OUTCRY FOR IT TO BE FIXED YET.

SO ANY ATTENTION BROUGHT TO THAT I THINK IS HELPFUL.

DO YOU ALSO THINK THAT PERHAPS SOMETIMES CELEBRITIES WILL GET INVOLVED WITH CERTAIN CASES, THEY'LL BECOME ADVOCATES.

I FIRST DISCOVERED YOUR CASE BECAUSE A DOCUMENTARY WAS MADE OUT OF IT THAT AIRED ON HBO PARADISE LOST, AND SEVERAL CELEBRITIES FROM THE '90s PARTICULARLY MUSICIANS WERE ADVOCATING ON YOUR BEHALF AND THAT'S HOW IT CAME ON TO MY RADAR.

BUT I'M WONDERING HOW CRUCIAL AT LEAST RIGHT NOW DO YOU SEE THAT FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO GET THEIR CASES -- TO GET THE ATTENTION THAT THEIR CASES MIGHT NEED TO GET A SECOND LOOK?

I THINK IT'S ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL.

WE HAD PEOPLE HELPING US THE ENTIRE TIME I WAS IN PRISON, YOU KNOW, JOHNNY DEPP, HENRY RAWLINGS, MARGARET CHO, THE DIXIE CHICKS.

PETER JACKSON AND FRAN WALSH.

WE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MOUNT AN ADEQUATE DEFENSE IF NOT FOR THOSE PEOPLE.

EVEN THINGS LIKE DNA TESTING, IT'S NOT AUTOMATICALLY DONE BY THE STATE FOR FREE.

WE HAD TO PAY TO HAVE THE DNA TESTED IN OUR CASE, WHICH CAME UP TO SOMETHING LIKE $200,000.

YOU KNOW, MOST PEOPLE IN PRISON HAVE NOWHERE NEAR THAT SORT OF MONEY.

SO IF IT WASN'T FOR OUTSIDE SOURCES WHO WERE ABLE TO BACK US UP, I WOULD MOST LIKELY BE DEAD RIGHT NOW.

FINAL QUESTION FOR BOTH OF YOU, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WOULD REALLY WANT PEOPLE TO TAKEAWAY HAVING ATTENDED THIS FESTIVAL?

WELL, THAT THERE ARE MANY, MANY ROADS TO TRUE CRIME.

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT, YOU KNOW, LISTENING TO, YOU KNOW, 8,000 EPISODES OF A PODCAST ABOUT SERIAL KILLERS, THOUGH I HAVE ALSO DONE THAT.

I THINK IT'S GOOD TO REMIND PEOPLE OF THE VICTIMS AND THE THINGS, AGAIN, THAT DAMIAN IS TALKING ABOUT THAT YOU CAN DO TO KIND OF CHANGE THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, HOPEFULLY, BECAUSE IT IS INCREDIBLY AN ALARMINGLY FLAWED BEYOND, YOU KNOW, HEARING AN INTERESTING STORY, YOU'RE GOING TO MAYBE LEARN HOW TO MAKE SOME REAL CHANGES, IF YOU WANT TO.

ALL RIGHT.

DAMIAN, LAST WORD?

I WOULD SAY JUST THAT THE SYSTEM IS NOT AS IMPARTIAL AS MOST PEOPLE WOULD BE LED TO BELIEVE.

YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE A LOT OF INNOCENT PEOPLE IN PRISON ON DEATH ROW.

AND TO NOT AUTOMATICALLY ASSUME THAT JUST BECAUSE YOU SEE SOMEONE ON TV BEING CHARGED WITH A CRIME THAT THEY'RE AUTOMATIC T GUILTY OF SOMETHING.

I WANT TO THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US, DAMIAN FOR CONTINUING TO SHARE YOUR SORRY WITH THE WORLD.

IT'S INCREDIBLY COMPELLING AND I THINK IMPORTANT.

AND THE FESTIVAL, I MEAN.

IT'S A FESTIVAL ALL RIGHT.

IT'S SOMETHING FOR PEOPLE TO GO OUT AND VISIT.

THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

THE TRUE CRIME FESTIVAL DEATH BECOMES US RUNS MARCH 20th THROUGH THE 24th.

FOR TICKET INFORMATION VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT 'METROFOCUS'.ORG.

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