Sunday, August 21, 2011

WM3 are Free

I first came across the West Memphis Three in 2003 after watching the documentary 'Paradise Lost'. It was such a shocking and glaringly obvious case of injustice that you can't just sit back and let three guys die a lonely death, one on death row.
So I became involved in the Free the WM3 movement. I organised a fundraiser at a Sydney venue where a bunch of bands played in support of raising money and awareness. This was not a case that I was going to let go of anytime soon.

I regularly check the updates on the WM3 website, every week for 8 years, reading news about new evidence, DNA testing, juror misconduct, false testimony - reading all this and thinking that this is not a matter of if they get out prison it's when.

So imagine my surprise when after a night out after work on a Friday I get home and Mark is reading the IMDB news on his phone and he tells me I should look at the WM3 website.

I look at the website and they are Free.

The West Memphis Three are Free! What?!

I had looked at the website earlier that week and there was nothing about any upcoming hearings or trials. One second they're sitting in prison, the next they are at a press conference talking about their plea agreement and being free men.

Crazy.

But not as Crazy as the terms of their Freedom. Perplexing is one way to describe it. In order to gain freedom they had to put in a plea known as the Alford Plea - where the defendant is able to maintain their innocence, whilst acknowledging that the state has enough evidence against against them for a guilty verdict. wtf kind of plea is that!???!!

In my opinion - they were allowed to enter this plea because there is no way the state of Arkansas is ever going to admit they imprisoned the wrong men. The prosecutor in this case has gone onto being a Supreme Court Judge. Another prosecutor has gone onto the Senate - maybe running for Governor one day. Do you think these are men who will admit any wrongdoing?? to admit that would mean they failed 6 families, 3 wrongfully convicted young men, and 3 victims who hadn't yet had a chance at life. They convicted the wrong men, and therefore let the guilty persons walk free. A murderer is still out there. And if you know anything about the Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills - you will know that this was a heinous and viscous crime, and whoever did it got away with it.

If the state had enough evidence against them for a guilty verdict they would have moved them into a lesser security prison but never allowed them to walk free! how ridiculous. So basically the state knew that given the amount of time that has gone since the original conviction, and all the reasons they put forward for their guilt would never hold up in a court today, so they had to release them as time served. It's a bittersweet victory, and at least they can try and find new evidence to get completely exonerated. I guess after 18 years you would agree to anything to get out of prison, especially after 10 years in solitary confinement on death row. Jason never wanted to enter this plea deal - because they are innocent! and why should they even mention that the state had enough evidence to convict so therefore plead guilty. He didn't want to do it, but he knew if he didn't they would give Damien the Lethal Injection. What an amazing friend.

Whilst their freedom is gained on grounds that aren't perfect, as least now they are free to be in the world. They entered the penal system as teenagers and leave as middle aged men. 18 years is a long time to wait for justice, even if it is the type of justice that leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth.

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