If you’ve never seen the Paradise Lost documentaries, you need to Netflix them right this second. The short version is, riding high on the Satanism panic of the late 80s and early 90s, town weirdos Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were convicted of killing three kids in Memphis in 1994, despite little physical evidence, and a father of one of the victims who seemed suspicious, to say the least. Echols was on death row, Baldwin and Misskelley were serving life terms. That is, until today, when the three were released after 18 years in custody, thanks to some legal appeal I don’t really understand.
Early word from those in the courthouse indicate that all three took an Alford plea, under which the accused do not admit guilt, but acknowledge that the prosecution may have sufficient evidence to convict. [BoingBoing]
The so-called West Memphis Three agreed to a legal maneuver that lets them maintain their innocence while acknowledging prosecutors likely have enough evidence to convict them.
Two of the victims in the 1993 killings were drowned, the third corpse was mutilated, sparking rumors they had been sacrificed in a Satanic ritual.
Echols was sentenced to die; Baldwin and Misskelley received life terms. Misskelley initially confessed, but defense attorneys claim police took advantage of his low IQ. [AP]
I don’t know how you could ever atone for putting guys behind bars for the best year’s of their lives, but I imagine the process will start with a very heartfelt “my bad” letter.
The West Memphis Three is free. And yet the Seven Mary Three are nowhere to be found. Justice can be so… cumbersome.