West Memphis 3: Life After Death
After an Emmy Award-winning documentary about the trial was shown on HBO in 1996, Echols' life changed once again, when supporters from all over the country began contacting him.
Lorri Davis, a landscape architect living in New York, even moved to Arkansas to work on the case. "Sometimes, people have callings in life. And this was mine. And so you just - I couldn't not hear it. I couldn't not go," she said. "I had to do whatever I could to get this man out of prison - that is what I had to do," she said.
And she wasn't alone. Johnny Depp explained on "48 Hours" why he and others connected to Echols' situation:
"He comes from a small town in Arkansas, I come from a relatively small town in Kentucky. As a teenager, as a kid growing up, I can remember kind of being looked upon as a freak. if you will, different, because I didn't dress like everybody else, because I didn't look like everybody else."
And then in December 2010, with mounting evidence pointing to the innocence of the West Memphis 3, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a new hearing - one both costly and potentially embarrassing for state officials.
And that brings us to the unusual plea deal, the idea of Stephen Braga, a highly-respected appeals attorney who volunteered his services.
"It's called an Alford plea," Braga explained. "It's basically a compromise where both sides, two sides that have been at war - for 18 years, in this case - decide that we want to end the case."
In return for agreeing not to sue the state, the three men were released from prison. But here's the bizarre part: While they could continue to insist they were innocent, each had to plead guilty!
"Didn't it feel a little like a deal with the devil?" asked Moriarty.
"It was," Echols said. "It was a deal with the devil, but it was a deal I really didn't have a choice to take if I wanted to live. My health was going fast. I was dying in there. I knew if I didn't take that deal, I was never going to live to see outside those walls."
Each was sentenced to serve 18 years and 78 days on the charge of first degree murder, with full credit for time already served.
Braga said no state official would have let them out of prison if they really believed they had committed the murders.
"So it doesn't really add up to what people think of as justice," said Moriarty.
"This is not a just result; this is a compromised result," Braga said. "A way for me to save Damien's life and get him off death row. A way to get freedom for Jason and Jessie. But it's a compromise . . . sometimes you have to hold your nose because it stinks a little bit, 'cause it's not justice."