West Memphis Three Are Free
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, three men convicted of killing three 8-year-old Cub Scouts and dumping their bodies in an Arkansas ditch changed their pleas Friday. Because of a plea bargain, the three men are being freed immediately. The defendants, the West Memphis Three, agreed to a plea that lets them maintain their innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence against them.
They were each credited with time served, and Echols is being freed from Arkansas’ death row. They were placed on 10 years’ probation and if they re-offend they could be sent back to prison for 21 years.
Baldwin and Echols each pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. Misskelley pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. Through a legal maneuver known as an Alford plea, the three men were allowed to maintain their claims of innocence. An Alford plea is a guilty plea in criminal court, where the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence. Under the Alford plea, the defendant admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The West Memphis Three have a long way to go if they want to clear their names.
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