The West Memphis Three is shorthand for Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin, three men who were convicted of the 1993 murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. They were released yesterday after new evidence questioning their convictions came to light.
Okay, that’s not really true. There were questions about the validity of the charges almost from the beginning. For background information, you can visit WM3.org.
Damien Echols releases this statement after his release.
But Echols, Misskelly and Baldwin haven’t been exonerated yet. They entered an Alford plea, which allows them to plead guilty without admitting guilt. “Although an Alford plea is treated as a guilty plea for sentencing, it cannot be held against the three men in any subsequent criminal prosecution or civil proceeding.”
One of the defense attorneys for the West Memphis Three says their conviction was “part of a satanic panic in small town community.” Prosecutors claimed that the murders were part of a Satanic ritual, and pointed to the three men’s taste in music as evidence.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel was ready to defend the convictions, despite the fact that none of the DNA found at the scene could be linked to any of the defendants, but could be linked to another suspect.
The parents of the victims in this case mixed feelings about yesterday’s decision.
Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger, two documentary filmmakers who have followed this story since 1993, have to make a few changes to their latest documentary on the subject.