August 20, 2011
Freed West Memphis 3: Like kids at Christmas
A lawyer for Damien Echols - one of the so-called West Memphis 3 freed from death row in Arkansas - said his client celebrated his first night of freedom in 18 years.
Steven Braga, the attorney for Damien Echols, told "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" that his client's first night of freedom was "unbelievable."
He described a celebration last night Echols and James Baldwin, shared with supporters in Memphis: "It was as if you could see two little 5-year-old kids at their first Christmas. They were trying food they had never seen before, they were fascinated by a cell phone, more fascinated by an iPhone and then the idea you could take pictures with an iPhone totally blew them away, so they were taking a lot of pictures."
CBS Affiliate WREG reports that the third freed man, Jesse Misskelley, opted to celebrate with family Friday.
Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were teenagers in 1994 when they were convicted of killing three eight-year-old boys - Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore.
Investigators in this rural community believed that the teenagers (who wore black and listened to heavy metal music) killed the children as part of a satanic ritual. Echols was sentenced to death; Baldwin and Misskelly both got life in prison.
Over the years doubts emerged about their guilt and several celebrities pushed to have them set free, reports "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty. DNA evidence has been recovered at the scene, none of it linking the accused to the crime.
Baldwin almost turned down the deal that freed him and the others from prison yesterday, but it wasn't just about him. The highly unusual plea agreement meant that his friend Echols - on death row for 17 years - would get his life back.
"Still very much in shock, still overwhelmed," said Echols Friday.
Their freedom comes at a high price: Under the agreement, known as an Alford plea, the men who still say they are innocent had to plead guilty to murder.
"'We'll let you go only if you admit guilt,'" Baldwin described it. "That's not justice, no matter how you look at it.