Nightly News | August 19, 2011
>>> good evening, i'm harry smith , filling in tonight for brian williams . when you hear the grizzly details, you'll remember the horrible crime, 1993 , three cub scouts bound, beaten and murdered. three young men found guilty and convicted. in the years since, the imprisoned men became the focus of two documentaries, celebrities championed then, victims of the justice system . and today the three walked away from the courthouse free men. pete williams explains.
>> reporter: a crowd gathered early outside the courthouse to witness the end of an emotional saga that began in 1993 with a brutal crime in west memphis , arkansas. three cub scouts , tied up and beaten to death left behind a truck stop. police accused three teenagers of killing the boys. in a satanic ritual , despite a lack of physical evidence, all were convicted. two sentenced to life in prison , and one death penalty . today all three were set free . their dna was never found at the crime scene , appeals court says the trial was marred by police and juror misconduct and then an hbo documentary attracted nationwide attention to problems in the case. in court today, a judge ordered a new trial, then in a move worked out in advance, the three maintain their innocence but pleaded guilty rather than face a new trial, sentenced to time served, they were free to go. the men said they wanted to prove their innocence but agreed to the deal to get damian echols off death row .
>> i was afraid if i went to trial and court as much as possible. but he had it so much worse than i had it.
>> i recognized and acknowledged that he did do it almost entirely for me.
>> reporter: the father of one of the victims christopher buyers said he became convinced the men were not guilty.
>> i want justice and i want the three of them to be free and i have no animosity whatsoever toward the three, i know they're innocent.
>> reporter: but the father of another victim, steve branch says he believes they did it.
>> if these animals are released, you're just going to give the key to everybody that's on death row right now.
>> reporter: today's deal saves face for both sides, prosecutors insist the three were the killers, but their lawyers say the state would never let them out if it was convinced of their guilt. the men say they'll never fight -- quit fighting to prove their innocence, but many wonder who killed