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story.lead_photo.caption In this Feb. 18, 2010 file photo, Damien Echols is interviewed in the visiting area of the Arkansas Department of Correction Varner Unit prison in Varner, Ark. - Photo by AP / Danny Johnston

— A statement form Damien Echols after he, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. were freed Friday, Aug. 19.

To all my friends and family, my attorneys and advocates, and to those of you from every corner of this earth who have stood beside us these long years, please know that I will forever be indebted to all of you for helping me to become a free man. Each and every day I was the beneficiary of acts of kindness and humanity from people of all walks of life, of all ages, nationalities, religions and political persuasions. The enormity of the support Lorri and I received throughout this struggle is humbling.

I have now spent half my life on death row. It is a torturous environment that no human being should have to endure, and it needed to end. I am innocent, as are Jason and Jessie, but I made this decision because I did not want to spend another day of my life behind those bars. I want to live and to continue to fight for our innocence. Sometimes justice is neither pretty nor is it perfect, but it was important to take this opportunity to be free.

I am not alone as there are tens of thousand of men and woman in this country who have been wrongfully convicted, forced into a false confession, sentenced to death or a lifetime in prison. I am hopeful that one day they too will be able stand with their friends and family to declare their innocence.

This whole experience has taught me much about life, human nature, American justice, survival and transcendence.

I will hopefully take those lessons with me as I embark on the next chapter in my journey and along the way look forward to enjoying some of those simple things in life like spending Christmastime, Halloween and my birthday with those I love.

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Archived Comments

  • Murphy01
    August 19, 2011 at 12:45 p.m.

    Should put the judge who presided over the case in prison for 18 years.

  • dman
    August 19, 2011 at 1:11 p.m.

    The judge didn't convict him. Try the prosecutor.

  • studentoflife
    August 19, 2011 at 1:35 p.m.

    This has been a long time coming. I am not soft on crime or criminals, but this is has been a black eye for a long time. Good luck in society to you three.

  • TuskFan
    August 19, 2011 at 8:44 p.m.

    Halloween????? You're in prison 18 years and you read a prepared statement that includes Halloween as an important holiday?

  • treefrog52881
    August 20, 2011 at 2:21 a.m.

    Considering that he missed 18 years of trick or treating with his kid- Halloween might be important to him. Who are you to judge what is important in his life or not important. If you were locked up for 18 years for crimes you didn't commit, you might site the ability to spend Memorial day with your family- SO?! Who gives a crap.
    To the WM3- Enjoy your freedom, you lost 18 years and I'm glad you won't lose one second more. I am sorry for the injustice that was placed upon you. I hope that you are able to fully clear your names and that the prosecutors, jurors, and anyone else committing misconduct in this case is brought to justice for what they did. I hope this spurs a serious consideration also of the way our justice system treats seriously cognitively handicapped people, as that was a serious catalyst in this case and it needs to stop. Preying on the cognitively disabled is disgusting, and in my opinion those that do so over their intense need to bring someone, anyone to justice will receive their karmic payback someday very soon. Good luck guys- may you help bring justice to others who deserve it like you have for so long and have yet to see its light shine on them!

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