Damien Echols, freed from Death Row in today’s West Memphis Three plea bargain, released the following statement today:
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.
At a news conference afterward, Echols paid tribute to his wife Lorri Davis for her work in seeking his freedom. They met and married while he was in prison and, until recently, all meetings with Death Row inmates, by family members or not, had to be conducted with participants on either side of a glass window. At the news conference, Echols embraced Jason Baldwin, who refused a deal to testify against Echols in their 1994 trial and who joined the plea deal on Echols’ behalf though he objected to being forced to plead guilty.