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'Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory': Father Of Slain Cub Scout Says Oscar-Nominated Film Glorifies Convicts

Paradise Lost 3

JEANNIE NUSS   02/24/12 06:57 PM ET  AP

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Todd Moore isn't sure whether he'll watch the Oscars this weekend, when a documentary about the murder of his son and two other Cub Scouts could win an Academy Award.

Moore and his ex-wife, Diana, believe "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" glorifies the three men convicted in the Arkansas' boys' deaths and asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to bar it from consideration for an Oscar. The academy refused, saying the film met the basic eligibility requirements and was being viewed and evaluated by members.

"It would not be possible for the Academy – its leadership, executives, or administration – to insert itself into this process without risking the integrity of this longstanding procedure and of the awards themselves," wrote Rob Epstein, who chairs the Documentary Branch Executive Committee, in the letter dated Dec. 13. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter this week.

Epstein thanked the family for writing with such candor and said he could only begin to imagine the anguish they've suffered.

"I would not trivialize your pain by asking for your understanding, but I do hope this has clarified the organization's role in the Awards process," he wrote.

The film, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, is the third in a series of HBO documentaries about the killings of Michael Moore, Stevie Branch and Christopher Byers in West Memphis. The three men convicted in their 1993 deaths, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, entered a plea deal last year that cut their prison term to time served and let them still claim innocence.

"They're probably going to wind up winning," Moore told the AP on Friday. "Hollywood seems to glorify people like this."

Berlinger, one of the film's directors, has expressed sympathy for the Moores, but said they're directing their anger at the wrong people.

"They should be upset with the State of Arkansas, not the many independent journalists and filmmakers who have examined this case and have come to believe in the innocence of The West Memphis Three," Berlinger said in an email.

Not all of the slain boys' parents share the Moores' point of view. Branch's mother, Pam Hobbs, has said she asked the state to reopen the case after seeing new evidence in "West of Memphis," a documentary about the case that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month.

Prosecutor Scott Ellington, who handled the plea deal, said he's reviewing material he's received from defense attorneys but is "not yet inclined to reopen the case." He has maintained the boys' killers have been caught and convicted.

Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were convicted after Misskelley unexpectedly confessed and implicated the other two, describing sodomy and other violence. Misskelley, then 17, later recanted, and defense lawyers said he got several parts of the story wrong. An autopsy found there was no definite evidence of sexual assault, and Misskelley said the older boys abducted the Cub Scouts in the morning when they had actually been in school all day.

After the first "Paradise Lost" film aired in 1996, a number of celebrities joined an effort to free Echols, who had been sentenced to death, and the other two, who were sentenced to life in prison.

In their letter to the academy last year, the Moores said the plea deal was unjust and that the third "Paradise Lost" film could lead to further injustice.

Todd Moore said it's been "living hell" as more films come out about the murders.

"It's kind of like an open wound," he said. "It starts to heal, and all of a sudden something else comes out."

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Follow Jeannie Nuss at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss

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Filed by Kia Makarechi  |