It was a special movie premiere for Johnny Depp at the Toronto International Film Festival last week — one that had nothing to do with a film of his own, but rather the Amy Berg-directed, Peter Jackson-produced West of Memphis, which tells the story of the 1993 murder case in West Memphis, Arkansas that saw teenagers Damien Echols, 18 at the time, sent to death and Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley — then 16 and 17 years old, respectively — serving prison sentences over the mysterious deaths of three 8-year-old boys.

After Depp, Eddie Vedder and the Dixie Chicks brought publicity to the case, along with HBO directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, who made three different documentaries in the 18 years that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were incarcerated, exposing the miscarriage of justice at the trial and the lack of hard evidence to convict the boys, the "West Memphis Three," were released in a complicated legal deal called the Alford Plea, in which they could maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict them — in effect, pleading guilty.

It may sound like a paradox, but it meant that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley — now 37, 35 and 36, respectively — could walk free after 18 years and 78 days in prison just over a year ago.

Echols, who has since come out with a new memoir, Life After Death, walked the red carpet at Toronto with Depp, who had tirelessly pushed for Echols' release while he was incarcerated, holding interviews that raised awareness about the case.

"We sat next to each other and watched the whole thing because he wanted to watch it from beginning to end just to see what the crowd's reaction was going to be and what parts they reacted to the most," said Echols, who was accompanied by his wife, Lorri Davis, reports People. "It was pretty amazing."

And Echols was glad Depp was there. "Everybody loves Johnny," he said. "So he thought if he could come and bring more attention to the movie by being there, then that's what he would do."

West of Memphis hits U.S. theaters on Christmas Day.

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