By Ken Tucker
Updated July 30, 2020 at 06:12 PM EDT

It’s rare for Johnny Depp to show up on TV since… well, since 21 Jump Street. But his presence on TV Saturday night achieved his goal: I wouldn’t have watched this week’s 48 Hours Mystery called “A Cry for Innocence” were it not for the presence of Johnny Depp. This CBS “news” show frequently trades in tawdry crimes told in melodramatic ways. But here was an example of star-power used as a force for what seems like good — justice, even.

Depp is convinced that three young men convicted of the murder of three eight year-old boys in 1993 are innocent: “1,000% innocent,” Depp told 48 Hours Mystery in a new interview. The actor says “the urgency is that… Damien [Echols, one of the convicted], is on his last appeal” before being put to death.

“I related to Damien,” said Depp to the CBS cameras. That is, the feeling of “being a freak, or different” as an adolescent.

Depp and other celebrities including Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks have joined with many people who are trying to compel the state of Arkansas to re-open the investigation of the murders. 48 Hours Mystery interviewed Damien Echols, now 16 years on death row. The hour-long show echoes the belief of many that the stepfather of one of the boys should be considered a suspect.

As Owen Gleiberman pointed out earlier this week, there has already been a persuasive, acclaimed film made about this case, the 1996 documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. On 48 Hours Mystery, Echols credits the film with keeping the case alive.

The presence of Depp on a prime-time news show, even one buried on a Saturday night opposite the Olympics, may help the accused just as much as that film.

“The clock is ticking,” says Depp.

Did you watch? What did you think of Depp’s interview, and what’s your opinion of the guilt or innocence of the so-called “West Memphis Three”?

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