WM3 Supporters Push for Pardons

by Heather Crawford

They've been free since Friday but the Arkansas group that fought to help get the West Memphis Three released says its work is not done.

While Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley adjust to life outside the confines of prison their supporters say DNA testing is underway to help clear their names.

For the past four years Capi Peck, co-founder of Arkansas Take Action, has focused on raising awareness to help free the West Memphis Three. Now the mantra has changed to pardon the West Memphis Three.

Capi Peck says, "It's a bittersweet victory. It's not a real perfect justice as everybody knows. The Alford plea is so complex and confusing because they had to admit guilt and they have been maintaining their innocence for 18 years, but it's going to be a lot easier to fight for that on the outside than it was on the inside."

The West Memphis Three spent nearly two decades behind bars for the brutal murders of three eight year old cub scouts and they hope DNA will help exonerate them.

Peck says, "Speaking to Damien and Lorri and Jason yesterday we will have to orchestrate how the plan is going to come together but basically it revolves around continuing the DNA testing and the investigation so the real killer or killers can be brought to justice."

Peck was with Echols and Baldwin on their first night of freedom at a rooftop celebration at a Memphis hotel and says just walking was a new experience for Echols who has grown up on death row.

Peck, "He kept stumbling because he has only walked in shackles for the last 18 years. He's used to that weight and shuffling. He had the remote control in his hand just like a kid being handed something for the first time. It's just such a new world. I can't even imagine the sensory overload he is experiencing."

Saturday Echols and Baldwin boarded a plane for the first time and are now relaxing out of state. While they take it all in, Peck says their release happened so quickly they haven't made any long term plans.

"Neither of them had ever flown. Now they are having some long deserved and much needed rest and relaxation and then they will come forward soon. They want to tell their story. They all do. They have to decompress. They will tell their story and they will fight to clear their name to be exonerated."

As for Jessie Misskelley, Peck says he is spending time with his father and went shopping for a new pair of shades this weekend.

She says supporters have started a trust fund for the three men.