Defense Lawyer: 'West Memphis Three' Were Originally Convicted Because They Were 'Easy Targets'

West Memphis Three: Inside the Case
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A defense attorney for the newly freed "West Memphis Three" said that the men were originally convicted because at the time they were "easy targets."

"They were convicted in a sort of speedy case back in 1993 -- part of a satanic panic in small town community," Stephen Braga, one of the defense attorneys for Damien Echols told "Nightline." "They were the unusual kids in town. ... They dressed in black. They listened to heavy metal music. They were goths before goths were fashionable, so they were easy targets."

The three men -- Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, Jr. -- who served 18 years for the 1993 deaths of three 8-year-old boys from West Memphis, Ark., and became a rallying cause among celebrities who doubted their guilt, were allowed to walk free today after the defense presented new DNA evidence that could challenge their convictions.

"I won't tell you it's a perfect resolution," Braga said. "It's the best possible resolution under the circumstances."

Echols was on death row.

"I'm just tired," Misskelley said at a news conference earlier today. "This has been going on for 18 years. It's been an absolute living hell."

"This was not justice," said Baldwin. "In the beginning we told nothing but the truth. We were innocent, and they sent us to prison for the rest of our lives."

A judge accepted a plea deal today that allowed the men to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. It's a rare arrangement known as an Alford plea.

"This is kind of a compromise," said ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams. "This is both the defendants and prosecutor saying, 'We don't want to have another trial and it's time to set them free.' ... This is the defendant saying almost with a wink and a nod, 'Yeah, we'll plead guilty,' in quotes, but the reality is they're saying, 'We didn't do it.'"

In addition to the 18 years the men have already served, the judge ruled they will be on suspended sentences for 10 years -- not probation -- which could be revoked if they get into trouble.

"It is not perfect, by any means," Echols said at a news conference earlier today, adding, "We can still try to clear our names. The only difference is now we can do it from the outside."

But it is a legal maneuver that allows the men to leave prison for the first time in more than a dozen years. They have always maintained their innocence.

"This is not a technicality," Abrams said. "There were legitimate questions here about whether these three were responsible for the crime they were convicted of. ... The prosecutor wouldn't have released them if he thought he could get a conviction."

As far as prosecutor Scott Ellington is concerned, he said today, "The case is closed," despite his firm belief that the West Memphis Three are guilty.

"I have no reason to believe that there was anyone else involved in the homicide of those three children," other than those three defendants, he said.

The victims -- Christopher Byers, Steven Branch and James Michael Moore -- were found naked, beaten and hogtied in a drainage ditch. They had been sexually abused and one of the boys had been partially castrated. Echols, who was 19 at the time, was considered the mastermind and given the death penalty.

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