Prosecutor reveals new details in West Memphis 3 negotiations - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Prosecutor reveals new details in West Memphis 3 negotiations

(WMC-TV) - The prosecutor who agreed to free the West Memphis Three spoke to Action News 5 for the first time since he joined Arkansas' 1st Congressional District race.

In 2010, new DNA evidence surfaced in the murders of three West Memphis Cub Scouts.  Last year, Arkansas Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington allowed a rare legal maneuver that freed Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley after 18 years in prison.

As Ellington toured a West Memphis mobile home park Sunday, he described the soul searching that came before he joined the congressional race.

"I'll be honest with you, I spent some time praying and thinking about it, and talking with my wife and talking with some close, close friends," said Ellington.  "We decided that if this is the right time to do it, we'll step out and do it and let the voters decide."

Ellington said any speculation he was seeking higher office when he agreed to release the West Memphis Three last August belittles everyone involved.

"Any opportunities were not in my mind because I thought this was the right thing to do," said Ellington.

For the first time, Ellington revealed details of the negotiations that led up to the surprise release.  He said the plea deal was not by design.

In November 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled there was enough evidence to hold a hearing for a possible new trial.  The Attorney General told Ellington the defense asked for his consent to forego the evidentiary hearing and go straight to trial.

"I said that would not be a good thing, because I was going to use that evidentiary hearing as a discovery mechanism to prepare for court later and the trials that would be upcoming," said Ellington.

Ellington said he thought up a compromise.

"I said, hey, if they want to resolve this case and get their guys out of prison now, let them come forward with some other offer that they would plead guilty and then we can discuss that," said Ellington.

Ellington said the defense's Alford plea was the best solution for all.  The plea allows defendants to maintain innocence while knowingly pleading guilty to serve their best interest.

Action News 5 asked Ellington if he believed the West Memphis Three were innocent or guilty.

"What I believe now is not really relevant, I guess," he answered.  "It's what was the law at the time in the case."

Ellington said District 1 needs to send a proven consensus builder to Washington to bring back jobs.

"It shows that I have the courage to make the right decision and stand by that decision," said Ellington.

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