West Memphis Three Free from Prison After Guilty Plea, Insist on Innocence

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Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. - who were convicted of murdering three Boy Scouts in 1993 and who have come to be known as "The West Memphis 3" - were released today after serving 18 years in prison.

In an odd, legal twist, the trio entered a plea of guilty in court... and were subsequently set free.

West Memphis 3 Mug Shots

The case grew in stature and publicity over the last few years, as new DNA evidence came to light that cast doubt on the conviction. Two documentaries were made about the West Memphis 3, with celebrities such as Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines insisting on a retrial, and even showing up in court today.

The families of two of the victims even joined forces with the defense, proclaiming that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley Jr. were innocent.

Following the threesome's guilty plea, the lead prosecutor on the case issued a statement, excerpts from which read:

"In light of these circumstances I decided to entertain plea offers that were being proposed by the defense. I NEVER considered ANY arrangement that would negate the verdicts of those two juries. Guilt or Innocence was NEVER ON THE TABLE.

"Today's proceeding allows the defendants the freedom of speech to SAY they are innocent, but the FACT is, they just pled GUILTY. I strongly believe that the interests of justice have been served today."

This arrangement is known as an ""Alford plea," with defendants essentially admitting there was enough evidence to convict at the time of the trial, yet maintaining the right to state their innocence.

Immediately following their release, Damien and Jessie held a press conference and insisted they served 18 years for a crime they "did not commit." Jason is yet to comment.

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[@steph August 21st, 2011 1:09 PM- "Ummmm....i believe they are guilty...And if they are innocent why arent they looking for the real,killer? Think about it... I thought about your comment and thought...Ummmm...this girl is stupid..

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I live in west memphis. I actually know what's goin on in this town. They cimmited the crime and they are going to burn In hell one day and everyone that is supporting them too. God knows the truth. I know police officers that were there that day. Its really pathetic how you have a very detailed confession about what they did to those boys and everyone thinks they made him say it. You wouldnt believe how these boys grew up. They hung dogs and cats and wrote 666 in blood on people trailors. Itsjust so wrong that there free

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They had to do a plea bargain because the state would be bankrupted if they ever sued for wrongful conviction. At least one of them was raped repeatedly in prison, theres not enough money in the world to compensate for what happened to the WM3. Also, since they pled guilty, the real killer (probably the step father) can rest easy knowing that they can never be tried for this case.

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I have read the original book & viewed the documentary & Johnny Depp special etc. I always thought it was the stepfather. I feel these 3 were blamed because they were easy targets & one of them was slow.

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Ummmm....i believe they are guilty. One of the guys didnt want to do this deal that would set them free but ended up giving in probably cuz he was bullied. Jiust because there was no dna matching them doesnt mean they are innocent people. Our justice system is so messed up. And if they are innocent why arent they looking for the real,killer? Think about it...

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finally!! There are so many innocent people in prison. Im glad they are free but now the hard part begins. They are gonna have a hard time adjusting to the outside world. I hope they get therapy to help them cope.

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I'm glad they got released but they pled guilty so that means they can never sue for money and always be a convicted felon but inkow that if I was in prison for 18yrs for something I didn't do I'd jump on any chance I could to be released, good luck guys and I'm sure they'll be ok finacially, if casey anthony can get away with murder and move into 5 million dollar house and given 70 grand I hope these guys get something along those lines as well

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I watched a documentary on this not to long ago, and it seemed to me right away that these poor teenagers were targeted because of their looks and a little bad behavior. How they snowballed the one boy and told him that he was going to get charged alone if he didnt start giving names. He did what any scared teenage boy would do, he told them what they wanted to hear. Finally after all these years they are free to live their lives. I feel for them because 18 yrs of their lives were wrongfully taken form them. Glad to hear they can at least have the rest of their lives back but that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

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Weren't they looking at the step father of one of the kids??? well keep looking now and hopefully these guy sue the Sate ass off!!!!! and the prosecutor!

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I don't know who did it, but i hope they burn in hell ! This case has made me sick from the time i first heard about it, those poor little boys !