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The West Memphis Three Released after 18 Years in Jail

            After 18 years of "an absolute living hell," Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin were released from prison, where they were currently serving out their sentences for the murder of three second-graders in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. Steven Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore were found dead in a ditch with their bodies mutilated and hog-tied by their own shoestrings. Police immediately suspected Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin, claiming that they were driven by satanic ritual, regardless of the extreme lack of evidence that they had to indict the boys. Echols and Baldwin entered an Alford plea on three counts of first degree murder, while Misskelley entered his plea to one count of first degree murder and two counts of second degree murder. This rarely used plea, which lets the boys still maintain their innocence, requires them to state that there was evidence that could be used to convict them. As a result, Craighead County Circuit Judge David Laser allowed the boys to go free after sentencing them to the 18 years they already served and added a 10-year suspended sentence (CNN). .
             "I want to be out. I deserve to be out," said Jason Baldwin (CNN).
             Laser added, "I don't think that it will make the pain go away to the victims families. I don't think it will make the pain go away to the defendants families" (CNN). .
             Echols, who was given the death sentence because he was believed to be the ringleader while the other two allegedly involved were sentenced to life in prison, said he was "very much in shock, very overwhelmed. I'm just tired. This has been going on for over 18 years, and it's been an absolute living hell" (CNN).
             Even though it promised freedom, the boys initially refused the deal. "This was not justice," said Baldwin, who gave in only so that Echols could be released from death row. "He had it so much worse than I had it. It's just insufferable to put a person through that" (CNN).

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