- NYT’s David Brooks: Obama has ‘manhood problem’ in Middle East
- Ted Cruz thanks Obama for denying visas to terrorists
- Survivors recall chaos, fear in Everest avalanche
- General Mills apologizes for ‘right to sue’ confusion, reverses policy
- Dealer wanted in U.S. for art fraud nabbed in Spain
- Easter morning delivery for space station
- Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76
- Probe could complicate Rick Perry’s prospects
- Ukraine, Russia trade blame for eastern shootout
- Obamas head to church on Easter morning
‘West Memphis 3’ plead guilty to murders to win freedom
JONESBORO, Ark. — Three men convicted in the nightmarish slayings of three Cub Scouts went free Friday, nearly two decades after they were sent to prison in a case so gruesome it raised suspicions the children had been sacrificed in a Satanic ritual.
Doubts about the evidence against the trio had persisted for years and threatened to force prosecutors to put on a second trial in 2012.
Instead, the so-called West Memphis Three were permitted to plead guilty to murder in exchange for time served, ending a long long-running legal battle that had raised questions about DNA and witnesses — and attracted support from celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder.
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley entered the pleas under a legal provision that allowed them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them.
“Although I am innocent, this plea is in my best interest,” Misskelley said.
Echols had been on Arkansas’ death row and in 1994 came within three weeks of execution. All three men were placed on 10 years’ unsupervised probation. If they re-offend, they could be sent back to prison for 21 years.
Prosecutor Scott Ellington said it would be “practically impossible after 18 years to put on a proper trial in this case. I believe this case is closed, and there are no other individuals involved.”
The victims’ families were notified about the pact ahead of time but were not asked to approve it.
“That’s not justice, however you look at it,” he said.
“It’s not perfect,” he said of the arrangement. “It’s not perfect by any means. But it at least brings closure to some areas and some aspects.”
He said the three would continue to work to clear their names.
Circuit Judge David Laser acknowledged the case was complex, and that both the victims’ families and the supporters of the three men had suffered. He said Friday’s deal would serve justice “the best we can.”
“I don’t think it will make the pain go away,” Laser said.
TWT Video Picks
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- EXCLUSIVE: FBI blocked in corruption probe involving Sens. Reid, Lee
- Tactical advantage: Russian military shows off impressive new gear
- USAID documents cite Hillary Clinton in chaos of Afghan aid
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Yelp.com's ethics questioned
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.