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Why Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe won't pardon the West Memphis Three

Supporters of the West Memphis Three are pushing for full exoneration now that the trio is free. But Gov. Mike Beebe, for one, will not consider pardoning them until they finish their 10-year suspended sentences or new evidence comes to light.

Damien Echols (r.) and his wife, Lorri, attend a news conference at the Craighead County Court House in Jonesboro, Ark., Aug. 19, after Echols and two other men known as the West Memphis Three entered guilty pleas to to crimes they say they did not commit in order to be set free.

Danny Johnston/AP

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Now that the West Memphis Three are free after 18 years in prison, supporters who insist they are innocent are pushing for the trio's complete exoneration.

Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were released last week at a surprise hearing in Jonesboro, Ark., after important questions emerged about crime scene evidence and juror misconduct in their murder trial. The trio agreed to a legal maneuver that allowed them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence against them to find guilt.

In 1994, the three, then teenagers, were convicted of killing three 8-year-old Cub Scouts in West Memphis, Ark. Mr. Echols was sentenced to death row, while Messrs. Baldwin and Misskelley received life sentences without parole.

But the movement that helped to free the West Memphis Three is now demanding that Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) pardon them.


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