'West Memphis Three' Walk Free: Will They Clear Their Names?

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The so-called "West Memphis Three" say they will continue to fight to get their names fully cleared -- only now they can do it from the outside.

Damien 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., are walking free today after the defense presented new DNA evidence that could challenge their convictions.

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

Their freedom comes after they entered a plea deal requiring them to plead guilty in order to walk free.

A judge accepted the plea deal Friday that allowed the men to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them.

"I won't tell you it's a perfect resolution," said Stephen Braga, one of the defense attorneys for Damien Echols told "Nightline." "It's the best possible resolution under the circumstances."

Echols was sitting on death row.

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

Prosecutor Scott Ellington said Friday that "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.

Despite being set free Friday, the West Memphis Three may never see their names actually cleared.

ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams said there would have likely been a new trial and that would have created a challenge for prosecutors.

"They would've then had to go back with witnesses who recanted their testimony, DNA evidence which pointed to someone else," Abrams said. "I think the prosecutors knew it was going to be a very, very tough road for them if there was a new trial and as a result they said, 'you know what, we don't want to admit that we got it wrong, we aren't saying we got it wrong, but we also don't want to have a new trial.'"

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.

Baldwin, 16 at the time, and Misskelley, 17, were sentenced to life in prison, plus 40 years. The prosecution had claimed the murders were part of a satanic ritual.

Police officers also extracted a confession from Misskelley, which was not admitted at trial. Misskelley, who is mentally challenged, retracted the confession within days.

The stepfather of one of the murdered boys was outside the Jonesboro, Ark., courthouse Friday angrily protesting the possible deal, but not for the reason one might expect. He's convinced of the innocence of the West Memphis Three and is passionately arguing that they should not have to make a deal with the state in order to go free.

He is also repeatedly naming the man he believes to be the real killer of the three boys.

Another father, Steve Branch, is angry, too. But he still believes the West Memphis Three are guilty and wonders why, if they pled no contest to the murders, they are being released.

The defense has named Terry Hobbs, who is a stepfather of one of the victims, as a potential new suspect.

His DNA was matched to a hair found on the shoelaces used to tie the boys before they were dumped in a ditch. Hobbs, who was questioned early on, denies any involvement and has not been named as a suspect.

The judge had two motions in front of him. One motion alleging juror misconduct in the original case and the other dealing with DNA testing results that allegedly excluded the involvement of any of the three in the crime.

Echols' lead attorney, Donald Horgan, said Friday that while it might appear as though celebrity support for the "West Memphis Three" sets the case apart, their story is all too common.

"For every group of defendants like these that ultimately get some attention paid to them, there are 100 who are innocent, who have no legal or financial support," Horgan said.

When the teens were convicted in 1993, he said, they had almost no money to pay for legal help and, as a result, were convicted of a crime they did not commit.

ABC News' Jim Avila and James Hill contributed to this report.