Damien Echols, one of the “West Memphis Three” to be released from prison in 2011 after serving 18 years, tweeted on Tuesday that this is the 21st anniversary of what would have been his execution date.
Today was my original execution date, in 1994. If it would have been carried out, I would have been dead 21 years today.
— Damien Echols (@damienechols) May 5, 2015
Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin were convicted in 1994 for the murders of three Cub Scouts in West Memphis, Arkansas. Echols received three death penalties, while Misskelley — who reportedly had an IQ of just 68 — and Baldwin were sentenced to life in prison.
The men were the subject of numerous documentaries, books and articles making the case for their innocence. Among other noted problems with the case and trial, the prosecution cited Echols’ Metallica T-shirts as evidence that he was involved in what was described as a Satanic killing. The case also received considerable celebrity attention, with Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder and the Dixie Chicks voicing public support for the trio.
Amid new DNA evidence, legal teams for the three men were able to secure their release from prison after changing their pleas from not guilty to guilty. As NBC reported at the time, this legal move allowed the men to “maintain their innocence while acknowledging prosecutors likely had enough evidence to convict them.”
Echols, who called his 18-year prison stay and legal battle an “absolute living hell,” has since attempted to make a new life for himself, publishing a 2012 memoir about his ordeal and exhibiting some of the artwork he created while behind bars. According to his personal website, Echols was running a Reiki practice as of 2013.