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August 19th, 2011
03:45 PM ET

West Memphis 3 freed

Three men who served 18 years in prison over a 1993 triple-slaying in West Memphis, Arkansas, walked free Friday to cheers from a supportive crowd outside the courthouse after entering new pleas in the case.

"I want to be out.  I deserve to be out," said Jason Baldwin, who along with Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were freed after entering rarely used pleas in which they maintained their innocence but acknowledged that prosecutors have evidence to convict them.

Echols and Baldwin entered what is known as an Alford plea on three counts of first degree murder.  Misskelly similarly pleaded to one count of first degree murder and two counts of second degree murder.

Craighead County Circuit Judge David Laser sentenced the three to their 18 years already served, and imposed a 10-year suspended sentence - meaning they could be returned to jail if they violate the law.

Tune in tonight to a CNN Presents special presentation: "Presumed Guilty: Murder in West Memphis" at 11 p.m. ET on CNN for more on the West Memphis Three and the evidence that set them free. 


Filed under: David Mattingly • West Memphis 3
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