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WEST MEMPHIS MURDERS: Echols' mother arrives at court

By ArkansasOnline

This article was originally published August 19, 2011 at 6:42 a.m. Updated August 19, 2011 at 11:31 a.m.

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John Mark Byers, adoptive father of Christopher Byers, a victim in the 1993 killings of three West Memphis, Ark., children, proclaims the innocence of three men convicted in the case outside of the Craighead County Court House in Jonesboro, Ark., Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. The three men convicted of the killings are at a hearing Friday that could end with their release from custody after nearly two decades in prison.

Damien Echols' mother arrives at court

Damien Echols' mother told reporters she believes her son will be freed after a hearing Friday.

Possible plea bargains, results

Alford Plea: "In an Alford Plea, the criminal defendant does not admit the act, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge. The court will pronounce the defendant guilty. The defendant may plead guilty yet not admit all the facts that comprise the crime. An Alford plea allows defendant to plead guilty even while unable or unwilling to admit guilt ... A defendant making an Alford plea maintains his innocence of the offense charged."

Three men convicted of the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis are expected today to reach an agreement that may have some or all of them released from prison. Follow the updates below leading up to and after the 11 a.m. hearing.

1 p.m. update: Plea deal reached

Click here for coverage of the hearing and the plea deal that resulted in the immediate release of Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley and Jason Baldwin.

9:22 a.m. Convicted men in court

Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley and Jason Baldwin have arrived in court in advance of a hearing that will likely result in their release.

Meanwhile, more than 100 people have lined the hallway outside the courtroom hoping to get in.

8:55 a.m. update: Echols' mother arrives at court

Damien Echols' mother has arrived at court, telling reporters outside that she believes her son will be released after a hearing later Friday morning.

Echols, along with Jesse Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, were convicted of the grisly murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis in 1993. A possible plea deal could release the three men, who have been seeking new trials.

Echols' mother, Pamela Echols, said she thinks and prays her son will be freed

"The very first thing I will say to him is I love you. And he knows I'm here for him. I've always been here, I always will be and it's time to go home."

Pamela Echols voice cracked as she described what it will be like to hug her son for the first time after his release.

"I can't tell you in words," she said. "I can't imagine. I can't wait to be able to put my arms around him."

- Gavin Lesnick

6:43 a.m. update: Small crowd gathers at courthouse

A small group of supporters of three men convicted of murdering three boys in West Memphis have gathered outside the Craighead County courthouse annex hours before a hearing that may allow the three men to go free.

Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley and Jason Baldwin have been imprisoned since being convicted in the grisly 1993 slayings of Boy Scouts Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers. They are expected to appear in court later Friday. Sources, including family of the victims, indicated some sort of a plea deal that would free the men was likely at the hearing.

An appeal of the convictions was proceeding and a December hearing had been set to consider whether new evidence warranted a new trial. Supporters of the men say DNA that was not considered in the first trials now exonerates them.

Jim Pfeifer, of Little Rock, said he didn't know what would happen in court Friday, but members of Echols' family who he knows suggested "something big" was going to occur. A standing gag order in the case prevented them from revealing anything more, Pfeifer said, but he's hopeful Echols and the other two will be released.

"I'm pretty sure it's going to happen," said Pfeifer, who arrived at 5 a.m. in a bid to be in court when the news comes down. "But I don't know the circumstances."

Cindy LaPrairie, 28, and Renae Walker, 21, both from Tipton County, arrived at the courthouse around 3 a.m., they said. LaPrairie first became interested after reading "Devil's Knot," a book by Mara Leveritt on the case.

LaPrairie said she believes the men are innocent.

"I'm hoping to see justice," she said. "I'm hoping I see them let go."

The courthouse is expected to open around 8:30 a.m. Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin and their attorneys will meet with Circuit Judge David Laser in chambers around 10 a.m. and then all parties will emerge for a public session in open court around 11 a.m., officials have said.

- Gavin Lesnick

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Displaying 1 - 6 of 6 total comments

MYBUDDYTMIL says... August 19, 2011 at 7:38 a.m.

Hide your kids, hide your wife, theres killers in the projects. hhaaahahaaa. What about the jury that convicted these three murderers.

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cables says... August 19, 2011 at 10:42 a.m.

I am glad this day has finally come. As one of those who is not 100% sure that these three men committed this crime, I am glad someone finally found the nerve to step up and do the right thing. If there is enough evidence to convict them, then I am all for another trial. I fear however, that it has come to light that the three young men were kind of railroaded and a quick judgment was made. Unfortunately, if they are innocent, as a lot of people think they are, that means that for the past 18 years the real murderer has been walking free among us and who knows what he has done.

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Redlab says... August 19, 2011 at 11:05 a.m.

My question is why is everything so secretive and mysterious? If there is a plea deal why would the WM3 attys let these men do it especially if it involves any type of pleading to a lesser charge and time served. None of this makes any sense right now but hopefully it will this afternoon. Also they have the right three who murdered these children and most people who believe opposite do not know the entire case, they are caught up in all the hype.

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Imthatgurlalways says... August 19, 2011 at 11:07 a.m.

Personally, I think the jury was in such a hurry to convict, they overlooked a lot of things that could have prevented those then teenagers from going to prison in the first place.....

I dont believe justice was served, and there are still to many unanswered questions. Someone will have to answer to GOD for the unlawful things that were done to put this case together, like intimitdation of witness,and coercion. There were people who could place at least one of these boys at school, who were threatened (according to one of the lawyers), If they said anything, and some were denied the right to testify, on their behalf even.

I told my husband the day I heard this in 94, "That those boys were innocent." The case didnt make sense back then even. Those boys went to prison due to public fear, and because they didnt have enough money. It happens to blacks all the time. Then to top it off, they refuse to even acknowledge the two people inwhich evidence does point to, who just happens to be one of the deceased boys STEP DAD. ...... Fact is there is more evidence to arrest him, and his friend, then there ever was to arrest the WM3. I just pray their lives arent ruined, and they can find some type of solice.

The public should demand the step Father, to come forth,take some tests, and answer some questions, like: WHY WAS HIM, AND HIS FRIENDS DNA FOUND AT THE CRIME SCENE?. If not,.... your are right, one should hide their kids.... but not from the WM3, but from the UNCONVICTED W. Memephis 2..... "Oh, I forgot", the state cant show they made a mistake, and wrongfully CONVICTED the WM3 for 17 yrs (over half their lives).....

I think what gets me, more, are people who won't research, and want to keep those innocent boys locked up, and say "IGNORANT" things like "Well the jury convicted them".... thats the same thing one parent is saying, never considering that ...stacked juries have existed as long as crooked Judges have.... Just ask ALLLLLL those other people who were convicted by juries who were found (through DNA years later) to be found NOT GUILTY...........Some even died IN PRISON, Yet were Innocent......So pls spare us the jury convicted them nonsense, that means nothing......SHM

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SPA says... August 19, 2011 at 11:07 a.m.

I have an in-law who lived in West Memphis and attended high school with these 3 boys. He said that though they were not part of the in-crowd, if you will, he didn't think they were capable of these murders. He said that everyone wanted to believe that they'd found the murderer or murderers, and that these 3 were "easy targets" for blame because of their "outsider" status, but after things cooled down and more of the details began to surface, he and others in the community doubted their guilt. He also said that he figures they'll probably never identify the real guilty party or parties.

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Imthatgurlalways says... August 19, 2011 at 12:13 p.m.

And now they cant even sue!!!!!! Wow, are you serious.....man, this is so messed up.... all the pain and hard ache, and pain these guys went through, in prison...for nothing.... dont get me it twisted....I feel for the deceased, and hate what happened to them. But my concern is for the WM3 because they didnt do it , and was wronged. and know one is doing anything..... They go free, and the state save Face......yet the real killers are still out there.

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