Alford Plea Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., collectively known as The West Memphis Three, were freed after 18 years in prison. The WM3 were convicted of murdering Christopher Byers, Steve Branch and James Michael Moore, three eight-year-old boys, in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1994. The grisly murder captured national attention, driven by moral panic over charges of Satanism.
The investigation of the murders was compromised from the start, with police mishandling evidence and ignoring possible leads. Jessie Misskelley, Jr., who is mentally disabled, was coerced into a confession, and evidence of jury-tampering also emerged.
In 2007, DNA testing showed that the West Memphis Three were indeed not at the crime scene.
In agreeing to an Alford plea, the WM3 can claim innocence, while releasing the State of Arkansas from responsibility for a false conviction.
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