West Memphis Three might be freed as early as today

A bit of a departure for this blog today.

I don’t comment much on national news outside the realm of politics and economics, and I try not to focus on salacious topics just for the sake of the salacious.

But, as a longtime foe of the death penalty and someone who was convinced early on that the so-called West Memphis Three — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. — did not commit the horrific murders of three boys in 1993, I was glad to see this piece in the NYT this a.m.: Deal May Free ‘West Memphis Three’. The key details:

The men, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., have been in prison since 1993, Mr. Echols on death row and the other two serving life sentences, despite numerous appeals and post conviction hearings, and a committed army of supporters who have insisted on their innocence.

The deal being discussed would not technically result in a full exoneration; some of the convictions would stand, though the men would not admit guilt. Should Mr. Echols be freed, it would be the highest profile release of a death row inmate in recent memory. [emphasis added]

The deal comes five months before a scheduled hearing as to whether the men should be granted a new trial in light of DNA evidence that surfaced in the past few years. None of their DNA has been found in tests of evidence at the scene. The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered the new hearing in November, giving new life to efforts to exonerate the three men.

Many of you will remember the case from the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. Many of you will also remember the hysteria surrounding the case regarding alleged occult practices. That hysteria was in part fueled by Echols’ claims of being a Wiccan.

According to the NYT, the three men could be freed as early as today.