The West Memphis 3 were just released after a bizarre plea arrangement that surprised and pleased many supporters. Once teenagers, the three left prison in their thirties, still maintaining their innocence, though pleading guilty.
The West Memphis 3 are three teenagers (Damien Echols, Jason Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin) convicted in 1994 of the brutal 1993 murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Despite having no physical evidence linking the boys (in fact, in 1997, the DNA found at the crime didn't match any of those convicted, but did match on of the boys' stepfather and his friend) these boys were found guilty--and one was given the death penalty. They may not have been guilty of murder, but they were guilty of being oddballs in a small town, boys who dressed like "Goths" and dabbled in witchcraft, which was enough to set the town roaring about a satanic cult.
"Under the seemingly contradictory deal," says the New York Times, "Judge David Laser vacated the previous convictions, including the capital murder convictions for Mr. Echols and Mr. Baldwin. After doing so, he ordered a new trial, something the prosecutors agreed to if the men would enter so-called Alford guilty pleas. These pleas allow people to maintain their innocence and admit frankly that they are pleading guilty because they consider it in their best interest."
And that's what they did.
To learn more about the case and the trial, watch the riveting documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1995) and the follow-up, Paradise Lost 2" The Revelations (2000).