Deal Frees ‘West Memphis Three’ in Arkansas US

West Memphis Three
West Memphis Three

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published: 20th August 2011

After nearly two decades in prison for the murder of three young boys, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., commonly known as the West Memphis Three, stood up in a courtroom here on Friday, proclaimed their innocence even as they pleaded guilty, and, minutes later, walked out as free men. 

The freeing of Mr. Echols, 36, was the highest-profile release of a death row inmate in recent memory. Mr. Baldwin, 34, and Mr. Misskelley, 36, had been serving life sentences.

In keeping with the tenor of this case since its first horrific hours, the circumstances of the release were bizarre, divisive and bewildering even to some of those who were directly involved.

Under the terms of a deal with prosecutors, Mr. Echols, Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Misskelley leave as men who maintain their innocence yet who pleaded guilty to murder, as men whom the state still considers to be child killers but whom the state deemed safe enough to set free.

Despite a half-hour of esoteric legal procedure, the courtroom was charged with raw feeling, and several of the relatives of the victims were ejected for their outbursts. One told the judge he was opening a Pandora’s box in allowing this deal; another shouted that the defendants were murderers and baby-killers.

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One thought on “Deal Frees ‘West Memphis Three’ in Arkansas US

  1. This case was a very interesting one. The three had no alibis. Misskelley confessed three separate times. Baldwin told someone else he committed the crimes. Echols was seen in muddy clothes near the crime scene. He bragged about the murder to two other teenagers, stating he killed the three boys. This was presented as evidence at the trial. Echols also had a history of psychiatric treatment. His reported actions included brutally killing a dog, starting fires at his school, threatening to kill his teachers and parents and stating he liked to drink blood.

    Fibers on the murdered victims’ clothing were found to microscopically similar to things in the Baldwin and Echols homes. The serrated wound patterns on the three victims that were consistent with, and could have been caused by, a knife found in a lake behind appellant Baldwin’s parents’ residence.

    Echols’ stated under cross-examination that he was interested in the occult. A funeral register found in his room with hand-drawn pentagrams and upside-down crosses. Echols’ journal contained morbid images and references to dead children.

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