(CBS/AP) JONESBORO, Ark. - The "West Memphis Three," a group men convicted of killing three 8-year-old Cub Scouts and dumping their naked bodies in a ditch, have been allowed to change their pleas and will be freed after nearly two decades in prison.
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley pleaded no contest Friday. The three agreed to a legal maneuver that lets them maintain their innocence while acknowledging prosecutors likely have enough evidence to convict them.
In 1994 the men were convicted of killing Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore a year earlier and leaving their naked bodies in a ditch in West Memphis, Ark. Echols was sentenced to death. Misskelley and Baldwin were ordered to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Defense attorneys, along with celebrities and legal experts, have long said the men were wrongly convicted. The three men, known to supporters as the West Memphis Three, won new hearings from the Arkansas Supreme Court in November, more than 15 years after they went to prison despite little physical evidence linking them to the crime scene. Their attorneys point to new DNA evidence that they say should help exonerate the three men.
Misskelley initially confessed, but defense attorneys claim police took advantage of his low IQ.