Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"West Memphis 3" are freed after 18 years behind bars - The Denver Post

"West Memphis 3" are freed after 18 years behind bars - The Denver Post

ATLANTA — The men known as the "West Memphis Three," who served more than 18 years behind bars for the notorious 1993 murders of three Cub Scouts, won their freedom in an Arkansas courtroom Friday after new evidence arose to potentially challenge their convictions.

Their legal absolution, however, was not clear-cut. In an agreement with prosecutors, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley, both 36, and Jason Baldwin, 34, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges but will also be able to claim they are innocent, a rare arrangement known as an Alford plea.

"It's not perfect by any means," Echols, pale and in tinted shades, said at a news conference after the hearing. "But at least it brings closure. . . . We can still try to clear our names. The only difference is now we can do it from the outside."

"Although I am innocent, this plea is in my best interest," said Misskelley, who along with Baldwin was serving a life sentence.

Damien Echols had been on death row and once came within three weeks of execution. He remained defiant Friday, accusing prosecutors of using innuendo and faulty evidence to convict them.

In the event of a new trial, "they knew there would be more people watching, more attention on the case, so they wouldn't be able to pull the same tricks," Echols said.

The gruesome slayings of the 8-year-old boys — Christopher Byers, Steve Branch and Michael Moore — terrified the small heartland city of West Memphis, Ark., leading to rumors that a satanic cult was responsible. After disappearing one afternoon in May 1993, the second-graders were found "naked, bound and in horrific condition, submerged in a creek in the woods," according to one court filing.

Later, the convicts' plight became an issue among musicians and Hollywood actors who were concerned that the suspects, teenagers at the time, were persecuted. Their black clothing and taste for heavy-metal music had been presented by prosecutors as part of an argument that they were Satanists who had engaged in "an occult murder."

Scott Ellington, the prosecuting attorney in Jonesboro, Ark., said that with new revelations in the case, it was likely the men would have received new trials — and that it would have been "practically impossible" to put on a proper trial 18 years after the slayings.

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