For perhaps the first time in U.S. judicial history a death row inmate was allowed to plead guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and immediately leave the courtroom a free man...
New trials for all three men would likely have been ordered, and it would have been very difficult to secure convictions
, Ellington said. Recent DNA evidence, deteriorated evidence and a chorus of changing stories by some who testified in the original trials are the primary reasons he allowed the men an avenue out.
The mother of a softball player who testified at trial that she overheard Echols tell friends he killed the boys, now says her daughter lied, Ellington said.
Another witness, Victoria Hutchinson, has also said she lied on the stand, according to a sworn statement.
Since 2007 more than a dozen hairs and other biological material collected from the crime scene have undergone DNA testing. Several DNA donors have been identified, but none of the tested material belongs to Echols, Baldwin or Misskelley, court documents state.
Without DNA, Ellington said it might be hard for a jury to convict any the men.
Money factored in, too.
Additional trials would have cost untold sums, and if the men were acquitted, they could have sued the state for wrongful convictions.
The agreed deal prevents a lawsuit against the state.