The Campaign to Free the West Memphis 3
After 18 years in prison, with Damien Echols on death row and Jesse Misskelley and Jason Baldwin serving life, the West Memphis 3, as they became known, were freed in August 2011. The three men agreed to an Alford plea in which, while maintaining their innocence, they accepted a guilty plea.
Their Freedom was the Result of Years of Struggle by Many, Millions of Dollars and Support From Around the World
The effort to free the three men began within a few years of their conviction in 1994, with the establishment of an advocacy support group and an award-winning documentary that brought worldwide attention to the murders and made a compelling case of injustice.
Lorri Davis, Damien Echols’s wife, led a national and international campaign to free the three wrongfully convicted men. Soury Communications was brought on later to help generate public and legal community support for their case and coalesce efforts to free the West Memphis 3.
Soury Communications worked closely with Davis and Echols’s legal team and private investigators to secure new evidence and ensure that the public, the legal community, elected officials and the people of Arkansas were made aware of the innocence of the three men. An advocacy website, www.freewestmemphis3.org, was launched which posted the latest legal documents and outlined the status of newly discovered evidence. Soury reached out to The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law to join in the appeal.
Major media outlets were encouraged to report on new developments in the case, such as CBS News 48 Hours, The New York Times, CNN, AP, Reuters, as well as international media from New Zealand to Norway. Compelling legal arguments and new evidence obtained through the WM3 tip line, as well as growing public awareness of their innocence put tremendous pressure on authorities in Arkansas resulting in the reopening of the case by a unanimous decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Ultimately, the Alford plea idea initiated by Echols’s attorneys – while imperfect – was accepted by all three defendants in order to obtain their immediate release from prison so that they could begin the process of rebuilding their lives
Efforts to exonerate the men continue. New evidence of their innocence developed by the legal defense team and investigators is currently in the hands of the District Attorney in Arkansas.
After his release, Damien Echols published a memoir of his life experiences, and a critically acclaimed documentary film chronicled the case and provided additional evidence that the West Memphis 3 were innocent of the murder of three young boys in Arkansas in 1993.