Friday, August 19, 2011

Freedom For West Memphis Three

Damien Echols was released from Arkansas' death row after 18 years, becoming, according to The New York Times, "the highest-profile death row inmate to be released in recent memory."  Echols, who was 18 years old at the time of his arrest, with an I.Q. in the low 70s, was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1993 murders of three young boys.  Two teenagers, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, were also convicted.  Known as the "West Memphis Three," Nichols, Baldwin and Misskelley always maintained there innocence.  There was no direct evidence linking them to the murders, and recent testing established no DNA from any of them at the murder scene. A deal was reached allowing all three to be released from prison after the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a ruling granting a hearing that would have allowed them to prove their innocence.

This is a great result that far from showing that the "system works," demonstrates its inherent flaws.  Echols was on death row for 18 years.  He and the other two men were released only through the dogged efforts of their lawyers, an incredibly powerful documentary, tireless activism, and the funds and publicity generated through a nationwide campaign fueled by the star power of Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines.  

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