Pictured above, on the bottom right, Damien Echols, left, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., center, and Jason Baldwin sit at a table before a news conference at the Craighead County Court House in Jonesboro, Ark., Friday, Aug. 19, 2011.
The common consensus is that the men known as the West Memphis Three were convicted of murdering three youngsters on nothing more than the backwoods hysteria and ignorance of a community desperate for scapegoats.
They were finally released because the three men agreed to a legal manoeuvre that let them maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. This bizarre, oxymoronic gimmick means one of four things:
A/ Prosecutors are too ignorant to know whether the Memphis Three are in fact guilty or inncocent.
B/ Prosecutors deliberately suppressed evidence that could have exonerated the Memphis 3.
C/ Prosecutors knowingly engaged the scheme to frame 3 innocent kids.
D/ An assorted combination of A, B, and C.
Either way, the prosectors should be held accountable. The fairest resolution, under the circumstances, would be to lock them up for 18 years, so that they can fully appreciate the harm they have done. Anything less is a grotesque miscarriage of justice.
Baldwin almost turned down the deal that freed him and the others from prison, but it wasn't just about him. The highly nonsensical plea agreement meant that his friend Echols - on death row for 17 years - would get his life back.
"Still very much in shock, still overwhelmed," said Echols Friday.
Their freedom comes at a high price: Under the agreement, known as an Alford plea, the men who still say they are innocent had to plead guilty to murder.
"'We'll let you go only if you admit guilt,'" Baldwin described it. "That's not justice, no matter how you look at it.
In the meantime, whoever is responsible for murdering three eight-year-old boys -- Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers -- who were reported missing on May 5, 1993, was never brought to justice.
Clearly, under the circumstances, justice is a dirty trick we play on ourselves to make the ignorant and the incompetent feel like they lead accomplished lives.