West Memphis Three's Damon Echols: "A pardon won't give me back 20 years of my life"

The West Memphis 3 -- Jessie Misskelley Jr., left, Damien Echols, center, and Jason Baldwin -- attend the HBO documentary screening of "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" at Alice Tully Hall on Oct. 10, 2011, in New York. Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for HBO

The West Memphis Three -- Jessie Misskelley Jr. (left), Damien Echols (center), and Jason Baldwin -- attend the HBO documentary screening of "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" at Alice Tully Hall on Oct. 10, 2011 in New York.
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for HBO

(CBS) There weren't many dry eyes in New York's Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center during the "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" screening. As the credits began to roll, a lone spotlight illuminated a spot in the top left balcony in the auditorium. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley stood as the crowd showered them in applause, visibly appreciative of the support but slightly uncomfortable with all the attention they were getting.

"I'm trying hard not to think of it anymore," Echols said to the audience during the Q&A portion of the screening. "It's one of those things if I did sit around and think about it I'd be angry and bitter."

Pictures: West Memphis Three set free
Pictures: Celebrity support for the West Memphis Three
Pictures: "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" New York screening

Video: A Cry For Innocence
Video: Extra: Johnny Depp on West Memphis Three
Video: West Memphis 3: Free

The case of the West Memphis Three was highly publicized partly thanks to the HBO "Paradise Lost" documentary series. The filmmakers followed the story behind Echols, Baldwin and Misskelly's convictions for allegedly killing three eight-year-old boys in 1993. Though the three always maintained their innocence, and many pieces of evidence supports their claims, they were only freed after almost serving two decades when new information, including DNA evidence, was allowed to be introduced. Even then, they had to take an Alford plea, which allowed the trio to maintain their innocence while pleading guilty and being released for time served.

"When we first heard that they were getting out, we weren't specifically told the terms," "Paradise Lost" documentary series co-director and co-producer Joe Berlinger told CBSNews.com after the screening. "We went through through the entire range of emotions from tears of joy to tears of indignation and shock. There's no procedural accountability for (the prosecutors)."

"(The Alford plea) is a tragic and immoral position to take," Berlinger added.

Echols and Baldwin allowed the audience to ask them questions about their ordeal after the Oct. 10 screening. (Though Misskelly was in attendance at the event, at the last minute he declined the invitation to be part of the panel.) Both men spoke of hope for their future: Echols said he wanted to continue his artistic pursuits, while Baldwin spoke of getting an education.

"What happened to us is very tragic, and it was a horrible thing, but it happened for a reason," Baldwin said to the audience, adding that he wanted to go to school to "prevent similar situations from occurring."

It was Echols who best summed up the feelings of the three men over what they claim was wrongful imprisonment.

"A pardon won't give me back 20 years of my life," he said quietly.

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.