The West Memphis 3: From left, Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr.
JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) -- Sentenced to die for the terrifying slayings of three Cub Scouts, Damien Echols once came within three weeks of being executed.
Released Friday under an unusual plea deal after more than two decades on death row, Echols has co-defendant Jason Baldwin to thank for his freedom -- and his life.
Echols, Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley were permitted to plead guilty to murder in exchange for time served, ending a long-running legal battle that had raised questions about DNA and key witnesses.
The so-called West Memphis Three entered the pleas under a legal provision that allowed them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict them in the 1993 killings.
Echols was on death row, and in 1994 he came within three weeks of being executed.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)