Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were handed down sentences ranging from life in prison to life plus 40 years to death (Damien Echols was given the death penalty where Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life) after being convicted of murdering and mutilating 3 second-grade boys, namely Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers
Friday, they walked free.
This case has been the subject of a number of documentaries and the center of a huge amount of controversy. HBO produced 2 documentaries – “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hill”s and “Paradise Lost 2: Revalations” wherein a number of factual discrepancies, evidentiary issues and flat out lies were brought up.
Over the last 18 years, since the “West Memphis 3” were imprisoned, many advocate groups, celebrities and private individuals have joined the fight to free the 3, who were convicted under very suspicious circumstances and based on extremely thin (and sometimes non-existent) evidence.
For those 18 years, Damien Echols has been fighting to get off of death row while lawyers for Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley have been frustrated in attempt after attempt to get exculpatory evidence admitted and a new trial allowed.
Now, in what can only be described as a bitter-sweet victory, the WM3 are out of prison and free to return home after accepting a plea bargain offered to them on August 19 which saw them all sentenced to “time served” and released. This “Alford Plea” required the 3 to plead “no contest” to new charges, meaning that they do not admit guilt but concede that the prosecution has enough evidence to mount a case against them.
Peter Jackson, who has taken a major interest in this case now has a team of investigators searching for more evidence in order to identify the killer or killers and finally put this case to rest.
I, for one, think it’s about time and can’t wait for this one to actually get solved.
For more information on the case, visit www.wm3.org