JONESBORO, AR - The men known as the "West Memphis 3" walked out of a Craighead County courtroom as free men on Friday, August 19, 2011.
Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelly and Jason Baldwin were released from prison after almost 20 years.
"Still in shock, still overwhelmed," said Echols. "You have to consider, I've spent a decade in solitary confinement."
The three men were convicted of killing three boy scouts in 1993. Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Steve Branch were just 8-years-old when their bodies were found naked in a ditch, hog tied, in West Memphis.
The three defendants were found guilty of their murders in a jury trial, but have maintained their innocence.
Newly discovered DNA evidence did not put the three men at the crime scene. Because of the new DNA evidence, the attorneys for the WM3 were asking for a new trial.
Craighead County Prosecutor Scott Ellington said because of the new evidence, staleness of the old evidence, the fact that at least one witness had died and the credibility of another witness, the men would have likely been acquitted if granted a new trial.
"Only time will if this was the right decision on my part," said Ellington.
Through legal maneuvering, the defendants were able to plead guilty, while still maintaining their innocence.
"The legal tangle known as the West Memphis 3 case is now finished," said Ellington.
When asked if Ellington thought the real killer was still on the loose, he said "I have no reason to believe anyone else was involved in the homicides of the three children but the three defendants who pleaded guilty today."
When Echols was asked about the deal, he said it wasn't perfect, but it brought some closure. Echols said the deal does not prevent them from still investigating and trying to clear their names.
"The difference is we can do it from the outside, instead of sitting in prison and doing it," said Echols.
The three have spent about half their lives in prison. Echols got married while beind bars and credits his wife for giving him the strength to carry on.
Jason Baldwin said at first he did not want to plead guilty to a crime he didn't commit, but agreed to the deal because his co-defendant Echols was facing the death penalty.