Mara Leveritt, award-winning journalist and author of the superb book Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, reports from Arkansas:
After the bang of a judge's gavel, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., walked out of a Jonesboro courtroom as free men, shortly before noon. They remain convicted felons, but they are not even on parole.
Circuit Judge David Laser accepted a plea agreement worked out between the state attorney general's office, the local prosecutor and attorneys representing the men, who have spent nearly 18 years in prison. Under the agreement, called an Alford plea, Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley told the court they would plead guilty to reduced charges of first-degree, rather than capital murder, while continuing to maintain that they are innocent. An Alford plea allows defendants to assert their innocence, while conceding that the state has enough evidence to convict them.