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Charles Montaldo

'West Memphis 3' Released

By August 20, 2011

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Three men convicted in 1993 of the brutal slayings of three 8-year-old Cub Scouts have accepted a plea arrangement in which one of them was taken off death row and all three of them released from prison. Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin all entered Alford pleas in exchange for sentences of time served plus 10 years probation.

They became known as the "West Memphis 3" by those who had long believed in their innocence.

After a 1996 HBO documentary aired questioning the convictions of three men, several celebrities funded a legal effort to try to win them a new trial. A new hearing in the case was scheduled in December after none of the DNA evidence collected in the case matched the defendants.

No One Else Involved?

Rather than retry an 18-year-old case, prosecutors decided to offer the plea deal.

"I believe that it would be practically impossible after 18 years to put on a proper trial in this case," Prosecutor Scott Ellington said. "I believe this case is closed and there are no other individuals involved."

Under an Alford plea, defendants can maintain their innocence while admitting that prosecutors have enough evidence against them to secure a conviction. All three men insisted they are innocent at Friday's hearing.

Misskelley Confessed to Crime

"Although I am innocent, this plea is in my best interest," Misskelley said, who at one time when he was 17 years old confessed to the crime and implicated Echols and Baldwin.

Misskelley was tried separately and refused to testify against the other two. His confession was not admitted into evidence, but defense attorneys later claimed that the jury in the Echols-Baldwin trial heard about the confession anyway.

Misskelley later recanted his confession and defense attorneys pointed out that several aspects of his confession did not match the facts of the case. Some were completely inaccurate.

More Evidence Cited

Usually, a judge will not accept a guilty plea from a defendant who maintains innocence, but under an Alford plea, defendants can claim innocence while admitting that the state has enough evidence to convict them.

Evidence the state had against the three included:

  • Statements from two people that Echols bragged about the killings.
  • An eyewitness put Echols at the scene.
  • Fibers from the boys' clothing was found in Echols' home.
  • A knife was found in a pond behind Baldwin's home.
  • Echols' knowledge of details not released by police.

'It's Not Perfect'

At a new conference after the court hearing, Baldwin said he was reluctant to enter the Alford plea to crimes he did not commit, but he agreed to do so to get Echols off death row.

"That's not justice, however you look at it," Baldwin said.

Echols thanked Baldwin for his plea and said the three would continue to work to prove their innocence.

"It's not perfect," he said of the Alford plea agreement. "It's not perfect by any means. But it at least brings closure to some areas and some aspects."

See Also:
'West Memphis 3' Set Free After 18 Years Behind Bars

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Discuss The West Memphis 3 Case

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Comments

August 24, 2011 at 8:42 am
(1) amanda61 says:

Don’t really know much on these demented men, not once did they consider the fear, harm, hurt that these men put those young boys in, not once after they abused and murdered the boys did they consider what they did to the families. not once did they feel guilt or remorse .
The way you stated they confessed to the crime they committed ,but were released because of their innocence
I suppose they will also get new ids too like these other murderers got, so they can make a new life for themselves

August 24, 2011 at 8:59 am
(2) deborah dyess says:

those predators are free and 3 babies are dead! THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN EXECUTED! thet may still be by someone seeking justice for those boys. God will judge them and they will pay in the hereafter.

August 24, 2011 at 9:39 am
(3) moira o'crotty says:

these men were released because of public outcry at the unfairness of being sentenced to death row or life without when there is no dna evidence. innocent people are “murdered” on death row when dna is NOT used…but my issue is this, we continue to allow people to go free when it is life lost but not when there is $$$ involved. in washington we lock up non violent thieves for LIFE yet released murderes and rapists. when will life be of more value?

August 24, 2011 at 1:08 pm
(4) amanda 61 says:

agree with your statements , wondered myself when will someone really know who the real murders are , who are the real ones who are innocent. maybe its true money is at times the root of all evil . to free evil and to pay evil.

August 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm
(5) jc78 says:

I think it was the step-father of the 8 year old who was murdered. I saw the documentaries and he acted strange.

August 26, 2011 at 9:11 pm
(6) Sharon54 says:

Again I really don’t know what kind of justice that is………….to let those 3 free after killing those kids is beyond me and like the other comment they will get their justice in the end when they face a higher power…there has to be something terribly wrong with people who do this not only to kids but to human beings and the hurt and suffering they put on the parents is unimaginable….I have never had children but suffered the loss of my sister to cancer back in 97 and to see what myself and my dear parents went through was just devastating…it hurt me so much to see what my parents went through and to see them struggle each day to get through this time of grief and I am so glad that they are all together now in Heaven…God Bless the ones that went to soon and are in the arms of Him now

August 29, 2011 at 9:35 am
(7) William Leverette says:

I don’t know whether these guys are innocent are not. What I do know Is that people do lie. It was said that Echols was bragging about the murders. Does’t really mean he did it. Some people lie to certain people and say things to people to impress. Yea, I know bragging about murdering 8 year olds isn’t really that impressive to a mature audience. But theres alot of people out there that would be impressed. Some people say things to make other people scared of them when the person bragging about it wouldn’t really do it. Its just human nature. I remember when the majority of people in society we’re really mature. Now, it’s like alot has changed in the world and there’s more immature people now in the world that are full of themselves and just want to impress others. Now I know there’s alot of evidence pointing at Echols like the hair follicles found at his house. That is hard to say he didn’t do it with that kinda evidence. Now I don’t know all the details about this case because I just read in to when I got the newsletter in my email about this case in particular. So all I’m going on is what was sent to me. But, it says there was a knife found in the pond behind Baldwin’s place. Ok, so what. Theres no telling what you’ll find in ponds, lakes, rivers, and stuff. If I found an old tire iron in a pond am I going to assume it was used in a murder? No, I’m not. Well that’s all I have to say about this case. Like I said, I don’t know the full details, just what was sent to me in the newsletter in my email.

February 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm
(8) Dee says:

Below on this page is the related article, The Robin Hood Murders. It is worth reading. Murder has to be proved ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. Was it? You decide.

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