In no uncertain terms, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said his review of the case made it clear that they had been the victims of a troubled woman's false allegations and a rogue prosecutor's rush to accuse.
In two previous reports, 60 Minutes raised serious questions about the case, and now the three young men tell correspondent Lesley Stahl about the agonizing ordeal of being charged with a crime they didn't commit.
And Attorney General Cooper explains in new and explicit detail why the charges never should have been brought in the first place. Cooper concluded there had been a miscarriage of justice and with one word – "innocent" – gave three young men their lives back.
"We had heard that he might say, as we refer to it now, as the "i" word – innocent. But when he first said there's insufficient evidence to go forward, we were saying, 'Oh my God,'" remembers David Evans.
"Because he didn't say it right away," Stahl remarks.
"He didn't say it, and then all of a sudden, there's this crescendo, and you can see where he was going with his speech," Evans explains.
"I never heard 'innocent' because everyone in the room jumped up and starting cheering," Evans adds, referring to the moment State Attorney General Cooper made the announcement that all remaining charges had been dropped.
"We were waiting for it from the very beginning. And the moment he did it, I completely broke down. I don't even remember who I ended up hugging. Everyone was jumping up and down and we knew then that was when we got our lives back," Reade Seligmann said to Stahl.
"I feel, you know, weight off my shoulders, feel a lot better. Everything, you know, it still hasn't sunk in completely but I think I just try to remind myself that it's over," Collin Finnerty says.
The late first talked to the students in October 2006; in January 2007, also interviewed their parents.
For Seligman, Finnerty and Evans it was, to say the least, a relief, after 395 days of hell.
"The possibility of going to jail for 30 years was very real. That was very real for us," Seligmann tells Stahl.
"And you thought about it … have you seen yourself in a prison cell for 30 years?" Stahl asks.
"You know, I pictured how they'd react when they said guilty, you know, having jurors say guilty. And to know everything was taken away from me for nothing," Seligmann says. "And one of my biggest fears was that it would go to trial and that it would be a hung jury and I would be stuck in limbo for the rest of my life."
"It's almost impossible to put your head in a place where you know you didn't do something and you're accused and you can't get up from under it," Stahl remarks.
"You don't want to be there," Evans says, laughing.
And Evans says the whole experience was surreal. "I don't believe my life over the last year is actually mine. I mean it, you kind of see yourself on TV. You see all of these people talking about it. But when you know you haven't done anything it's so difficult to grasp with the fact. I mean, I'd be with some of my friends at a restaurant and all of a sudden one of them would be like, 'You're out on bail.' And I'd be like, and it hit me. And I'd be like, 'Oh my God,'" he says.