You never know when life is going to explode in your face, SEB Lectures Programmer Sarah Hogan said.
For ex-prison inmate Damien Echols, that happened at age 18. Echols received a death row sentence for a crime he didn’t commit: the murder of three boys.
After 18 years in prison, DNA evidence cleared Echols of the crime. Authorities released him in August of 2011. Today, WSU students can hear his story first-hand.
People may recognize Echols’ case and name as it was highly publicized, Hogan said. Echols received support from celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder and The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.
The ex-inmate has also appeared on talk shows, including The View and Anderson Live.
“He did a really good job,” Hogan said. “It was really interesting to see how calm he was about the whole thing.”
Justin Lusk, a lectures committee member, said Echols’ story is more than entertainment value.
“It’s also his story of perseverance,” Lusk said.
College students may find they relate to his story, too, he said.
“A lot of us are barely 18 years old,” Lusk said. “We can’t imagine being locked up in prison for the duration of that time.”
The topic of death row is a hot topic and pressing issue, SEB Director Brian Logan said.
“I think that is something that students will be concerned about, or at least they should be,” he said.
Hogan said she looks for speakers who can do more than speak on a hot topic issue. They look for speakers who can engage the audience.
“Let’s go for something that’s still controversial, still is going to get people interested,” Hogan said.
The opportunity to see Echols won’t come around often, Logan said.
“I hope people take the time to consider how many times they’ll have the opportunity to meet someone who was on death row and not fear for their life,” he said.
Echols will speak tonight at 7 p.m. in the CUB Auditorium. The show is free.