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LX 08-20-2011 02:02 PM

West Memphis 3 are free


JONESBORO, Ark. — Sentenced to die for the terrifying slayings of three Cub Scouts, Damien Echols once came within three weeks of being executed.

Released Friday under an unusual plea deal after nearly two decades on death row, Echols has co-defendant Jason Baldwin to thank for his freedom — and his life.

Echols, Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley were permitted to plead guilty to murder in exchange for time served, ending a long-running legal battle that had raised questions about DNA and key witnesses — and attracted support from celebrities such as Eddie Vedder.

Although the deal also allowed Baldwin to go free, he was reluctant to accept it. He said he finally did so to save Echols’ life. Echols was the only one of the so-called West Memphis Three on death row, and in 1994 he came within three weeks of being executed.

“That’s not justice, no matter how you look at it,” Baldwin said. “They’re not out there trying to find who really murdered those boys.”

The case was so gruesome it raised suspicions that the three 8-year-old boys had been sacrificed in a Satanic ritual. But doubts about the evidence against Echols, Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley had persisted for years and threatened to force prosecutors to put on a second trial in 2012.

The men entered their pleas under a legal provision that allowed them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict them.

Echols said he knew Baldwin wanted to keep fighting.

“He didn’t want to take this deal in the beginning. I recognize and acknowledge that he did do it almost entirely for me,” Echols said at a news conference.

The two men then hugged, drawing applause from their supporters and lawyers.
If you haven't seen the doc that examines this case - Paradise Lost - I highly recommend it, as well as the follow-up. Paradise Lost 3 is set for release soon I think.

Bill Haverchuck 08-20-2011 03:39 PM

This case sounds familiar. I will have to track down that documentary.

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