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Damien Echols, left, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., center, and Jason Baldwin sit at a table before a news conference at the Craighead County Court House in Jonesboro, Ark., Friday after the three were released after pleading guilty to the 1993 deaths of three West Memphis, Ark., children. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
By JEANNIE NUSS,Associated Press
JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — 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-running legal battle that had raised questions about DNA and key witnesses — and attracted support from celebrities such as Eddie Vedder.
The men entered the pleas under a legal provision that allowed them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict them.
"Although I am innocent, this plea is in my best interest," Jessie Misskelley said.
Damien Echols had been on Arkansas' death row and in 1994 came within three weeks of execution. He remained defiant Friday, accusing prosecutors of using innuendo and faulty evidence to convict them.
In the event of a new trial, "they knew there would be more people watching, more attention on the case, so they wouldn't be able to pull the same tricks," Echols said.Read the rest of the story by clicking the link below.