West Memphis Three Walk Free under Plea Deal

After spending 18 years in prison for the murder of three young boys, three men who have come to be collectively referred to by California criminal Defense lawyers, the public and the media as the West Memphis Three, have walked free from prison. Their dramatic release came after a plea deal between the men and prosecutors.

The three men, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Junior had all been serving life sentences after they were convicted of the murder of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The murders had taken place in 1993, and sent shockwaves through the state. The naked bodies of the three boys, all eight years old, were found in a canal in a wooded area of West Memphis. The bodies had been badly mutilated and tied.

For police investigating the murders, the finger of suspicion quickly pointed to Eckels, a troubled eighteen-year-old, who had an interest in heavy metal music and considered himself a Wiccan. Eckels as well as his friends Misskelley and Borden were arrested after Misskelley confessed to the murders. They were arrested in spite of the fact that Misskelley’s confession of the crime had major holes that did not match with the information that police had.

Misskelley later withdrew his confession, but it was too late. He was convicted on the basis of his confession in February 1994. Soon after, Eckels and Baldwin were convicted. Out of the three, only Eckels was on death row.

In recent years, there had been a flurry of support for the West Memphis Three from rockers and movie stars. Benefit concerts had been held to raise money for the men’s legal defense. Then three weeks ago, prosecutors and lawyers for Eckels began working on a plea deal. Under the terms of the deal, the men maintained that they are innocent, but admitted that they were pleading guilty to charges of first and second degree murder because it was in their best interests. After the plea deal, the judge sentenced them to eighteen years in prison, which they have already served, ensuring that they were now free.

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