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tv   Piers Morgan Tonight  CNN  August 19, 2012 12:00am-1:00am EDT

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community. tonight, on trial with the case that shocked the nation. three boys murdered and dumped in a creek. teenagers accused of horendous crimes. sex and abuse. then the verdicts. and the westminster free disappeared behind bars. the extraordinary 18-year efforts to free them. >> we are innocent and they sent us to prison for the rest of our lives. >> the questions that remain, do the killer or killers go free? was there truth to the victim too? >> they are 100% innocent.
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we needed someone to hate because our child was dead. >> if the animals are released, it's the key to everyone on death row right now. >> the west memphis 3 n their own words. >> for does something to you. it cracks you inside. >> this is piers morgan tonight. . >> for does something to you. it cracks you inside. >> this is piers morgan tonight. . >> for does something to you. it cracks you inside. >> this is piers morgan tonight. . it cracks you inside. >> this is piers morgan tonight. . >> for does something to you. it cracks you inside. >> this is piers morgan tonight. . it cracks you inside. >> this is piers morgan tonight. . >> in the case of west mem 23is three. the naked bodies of three 8-year-old boys were found. they were hog tied with their own shoe laces. three local teenagers were charged with the crime and satanic rituals. they were convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. they were sentenced to life behind bars. questions remain about the guilt
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and the case. as the years passed, the west memphis three with the attention of the celebrity reporters and that remains with the dixie chicks. they spent three decades behind bar. they walked free and the controversial legal maneuver. more on that in a moment. damian and his wife, welcome to you both. an extraordinary saga. no other way to put this. ending in the most bizarre circumstances and will come to those a little later. we are eventually admitting guilt and yet you walk free. it's a bizarre twist in the tale, we normally in the legal system will make no sense to anybody, least of all, you. let me start with you. you lost 20 years of your life for a crime you always said you didn't commit. what has it been like for you? you in particular. you were sentenced to death and huh to live with that every day you were incarcerated and spent
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most of your time in isolation, i think. me about this. >> for the past ten years, i have been in absolute solitary confinement, 24 hours a day, seven days a week alone except for the time i spent with laurie. we were allowed to see each other once a week for three hours. >> she was the only person you saw? >> pretty much. maybe her family would come once a year, but for the most part, she was the only person i saw. >> what are did you have? did you have a television? pear. >> there was a television, no cable or anything. just the basic television channels. your shower is right there in the cell with you. there is a drain in the floor. solid concrete walls and a door and a slot in the door they open up to pass food through or give you mail. things like that. for the most part, you are completely and absolutely sealed off. >> what was the bet like some. >> a concrete slab along the
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back of the wall. 2 1/2 feet up off the floor and they give you a mat like kindergarteners take naps on to put on that. >> a computer? >> no. when i got locked up, they didn't have the internet. i had never seen internet or used a cell phone. >> were you aware of news other than through the television news that you could catch up on? were you aware of world events? >> just from what i saw on the major network television stations. >> how often were you allowed exercise? >> as often as you do it yourself in your cell. there were no exercise periods or gym development. >> when did you see daylight? >> never. i hadn't seen it in almost a decade. i had not been exposed to sun light for almost ten years. >> what are you thinking? this is for an innocent man as
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many believe you are, you always protested this. what are you thinking when you are stuck in there? >> the only thing you can do to maintain sanity is not think about the case and not think about what's happening to you. you have to immerse yourself in a routine and never deviate from the routine. work out exercise and a meditation regimen. start a practice whether it's artwork or writing or whatever it is. you have to create your own world or you will go insane. >> i don't know how you keep your sanity. >> you don't have a choice. not like you can get up and quit and say i'm going home. you put one foot in front of the other and get to the next day. >> what are effect did it have on your health? >> there is almost no mental or dental or medical care. my health was deteriorating rapidly. i lost a great deal of eyesight.
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when you necessary a confined space, you never see anything far away. you lose the ability to. i started losing the ability to see anything further than a few inches away. i was light sensitive due to the fact of not seeing sun light. >> the first moment when you came out, what was it like? >> like having a spotlight turned in your face. it was extremely bright. just to see the sun go down, i had never seen a sunset and it was one of the things i had been waiting on for a long time to see the leaves change colors and feel autumn come in. this will be the first year, one of the things i'm really excited about. this will be the first real christmas and thanksgiving and the first anniversary that we spent together outside in 20 years. 18 1/2. >> what are the things you had
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to learn about real life? >> things most people would expect you to have to learn. i had never even seen the internet. i have to learn how to use a cell phone and a computer. there things like i hadn't walked without chained on my feet. i wasn't used to it and i was literally having to relearn to walk. the first few days i would keep falling because i was used to short strides with chains on my feet. i had to learn to use a fork again. they don't give you forks. >> how do you eat? >> with your hands. >> people watching saying had you been the person responsible for the death of three young boys in this horrific manner, they don't care how badly you are treated in prison. the problem come fist you are innocent and being treated in these barbaric circumstances.
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for someone like you to be enduring the lifestyle and believe you are absolutely innocent, i come back to the question of sanity. it must have been incredibly hard. let me take you back to what happened. may 5th, 1993. the bodies of these three 8-year-old boys are found. it's a small town. everybody knows each other or knows someone who knows someone. it becomes the biggest core celebrity of its time. it's a national story and grips people and it's so horrifying that the desire by people to catch the perpetrators is intense. when is the first time you hear you are going to be in trouble with this? >> almost immediately. it wasn't just because of this. i had been harassed a great deal. it was a small town.
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i stuck it out due to the way i looked and the music i listened to. i was harassed before these murders took place. >> were you a trouble maker or were you just a bit different? >> the most trouble i had gotten into is running away from home as a teen. something like that. >> ever broken the law? >> no. >> you were into heavy metal and liked steven king books. >> exactly. >> they were thrown at you, but nothing wrong with steven king and liking ozzy osbourne or whoever it was. >> in 1993, i never heard this word, but it's common. people say i was goth. you didn't have something like that in a small town. it drew a lot of notice from a small town crowd. it made me stand out and that made me a target. >> so what happened? >> just immediately as soon as it happened, people said a murder this horrific couldn't have just happened. what would have been the reason for it?
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obviously they were not robbed. they are 8-year-old children. we found out later they had not been sexually molested. they tried to say that in the beginning, but they hadn't been. what other reason could someone have for murdering these children? the only thing they could come up with was a satanic ritual. to them that made sense. >> when was the moment you realized you would be pulled in? >> they showed up at my dor the days after the bodies were found. it was almost immediately. >> how did it make you feel? >> there is no words to even describe it. most people don't have anything in their frame of reference to compare it to. to know that these people are coming to you because they believe that you are capable of murdering three children. it does something to you psychologically that you will never get over. >> me about the relationship with you and the two other men who were accused.
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you were boys at the time. 16, 17. me about jesse. he and his testimony to police very early on were the catalysts for what happened to you. >> right. >> what we heard is he has a very low iq at 72. he is mentally retarded. he is not someone who should have been given lengthy evidence without a lot of legal help. what happened? >> whenever they called him in for questioning, like you said, he was mentally retarded. he was in special education classes in school and things like that. they said mentally he was like a 5 to 8-year-old child. they called him in and started questioning him and with the mentality he had, he agreed to anything that they said. they would say did you do this? he would say yes. >> very little of this testimony was kept on tape. >> exactly.
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>> frightened. he himself is suspicious and strange and weird. he gives this evidence. he said yeah, i saw you and saw jason. i saw them kill these boys and rape these boys and horrific stuff he came out with. as a result of that you guys are now in very serious trouble. >> yes. i don't think he with the mentality he had and his iq level, i don't think he could really comprehend the level of trouble he was in or he drug us into with him. >> how well did you know him? >> not well. jason baldwin was my best friend. jesse was someone we would see around. maybe he would be out shooting pool, but he was not as close to us as we knew each other. >> why did you think he was doing this? >> it's hard to say. part of it was prompting by the
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police and part might have been he thought he was going to get something out of it. hard to say. >> when is the worst moment for you? >> it's hard to say. i almost want to say there were no worst moments. it kept getting worse and worse and worse. every moment was worse than the last one. it doesn't ever stop. the moment you are arrested is the worst and then the moment you are in the trial is the worst moment. the moment you are convicted, that's the worst moment. you think the moment you are sentenced to death is the worst moment. your first execution date is the worst moment. it gets worse and worse and worse. it's a horror story. it's like a train that doesn't stop. it keeps picking up speed and getting worse and worse. >> very few people could understand anything you have been through. one of them is going to join us after this break. he is one of the other members.
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. >> we find damian guilty of capital murder in the death of stevie branch. we find him guilty in the death of chris biers. we the jury find damian ekles
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guilty of capital murder in the death of michael moore. >> all the west memphis three were convicted of murder. he and his wife are here now and we're joined by another member of the west memphis three. welcome, jason. let's cut to the quick here. what was the evidence against you other than the word of jesse who had established a mental age between 5 and 8 years old. >> the evidence against us was against personal purposes and the music. at one point in the trial, they lifted up the record. this was damian's girlfriend's house. >> somehow that implied that you were capable of killing young boys. no dna evidence against you. >> at the time they had evidence and stuff, but since it didn't
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match us, it was not brought up. >> nothing linking any of you for the deaths of these boys has ever emerged. was there anything else other than music you listened to and books you read and clothes you wear or haircuts? >> that was it. i'm assuming you cannot have much contact in the years you were incarcerated. >> when we first got locked up, we would write letters and only then the only type of contact we had through mutual friends and how was damian doing? you talked to damian and pass on words of encouragement. >> presumably in prison, you are pariahs. >> the first few years, when i
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first got there, people were literally waiting for us to get there. . >> they would attack you? >> oh, yeah. >> how often? >> the first few years, a lot. >> like what? >> i've got shadered skull, broke collarbone, teeth knocked out and multiple scars from it, but as the years progressed and people got to know me and the documentaries came out, the curses turned into prayers. >> this must just be -- this is a nightmare. were you guys in the same thing? >> absolutely. >> unthinkable that you are going through this. then the mood begins to change. that's when i want to bring you in. the campaign begins. there rumblings that contends about this case and people begin
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to think this doesn't add up. there isn't the evidence and the documentary on hbo, you watched this documentary and a lot of famous people now get behind this and give it publicity. when you watched it, very powerful. it led the viewer to an obvious clear cut conclusion. you could not have been responsible for the deaths of these boys. . >> i think i fell in love with her from the first letter. >> why? >> i knew this was someone unlike anyone i had known. she stood out and something completely and absolutely different. she was out of my frame of reference. something she was magical and ailing to me at the time. it was one of those loves that hurts because it's so much. >> i will play devil's advocate.
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this might surprise you. when you read about women who write to convicted killers, there is a freaky element to a lot of those relationships. it's unhealthy and weird. you did it after watching a documentary. you couldn't conclude from that that you were the killers. you were writing to an innocent man. that is the distinction. you must have still had family and friends and people around you presumably as the relationship developed thinking what are you doing? >> well, fortunately for most of my life i have been a pretty grounded, responsible person. i think if i had been a little more erratic in my life, maybe. it was astounding because my close friends stuck by me. >> you fell in love and started
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meeting other and you were allowed to see him and you get married. still the prospect of you facing an execution. how do you deal with that? >> i never entertained the thought of it. i never did the whole time. >> it's almost like you refuse to accept it. i heard a guy talking about race car drivers and they told me never look at the wall. if you look at it, you will drive into it. you will move towards what you focus on. we wouldn't focus on that because we didn't want to move towards it. we focused all of our attention and energy and work towards getting out. proving our innocence. >> you joined aggressively and began to be more and more vocal in public about it. i want to take a break and want to get into when you were found guilty. also when you admitted guilt to get your freedom. as i said at the start of the
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show, some will say ridiculous way for this to end, but it got you here.
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>> i did not want to take it, however they are trying to kill damian and me. sometimes you just gotta fight and save somebody. >> an emotional moment right after jason and damian and jesse were free to enter guilty and insisting they are innocent. we asked jess to join us and he declined. this is fascinating. it's called the plea that is a rare part of the american law. you were able to proclaim yours innocence while pleading guilty. i don't get it. explain to me what this actually means. >> the only opportunity he was given to plead our innocence and
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get out the way it was set up was the state didn't want to admit that they convicted three innocent people in prison and to death. they put together an opportunity for them to claim that they got the right guys. what we are given an opportunity to get out now and save taxpayers some money and maintain their innocence. states maintain guilty. >> did you an extraordinary thing with your friend. you could have done a dealing and got out. >> both deals, they came to me
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when i first got arrested. i told my attorneys not ever bring these plea agreements to me. i have to. the first time they were like when i was 16. that's impossible. i can't testify against them. i have to testify for him. attorneys are not like that's what they want you to do. they did the crime and they let you out in five year. i wouldn't care if they let me out right now. jump ahead 18 years to now, this is to save an innocent life. it's a sure thing and it gets him out of death row where he was suffering and not being at home with laurie and everything. >> how many execution dates did you have? >> only one.
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may 5th, 1994. >> did you think you were going to get killed? >> i thought there was a good possibility. we were convicted for something we didn't do with no evidence. if that was possible, the execution was possible. >> how many people were on death row? >> it varies on average. about 40. in the time i was there, i saw between 25 and 30 executions. >> the debate about executions. the troy davis execution last week. when you hear this debate, how many and i read statistics, 17 people who were on death row had their sentences commuted because of dna evidence. another 112 had their sentences commuted to other reasons. they had 140 people who would have been executed wrongly. you could have been one of those people. >> i knew i could have been one of those people. it happens all the time. people think the case is
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something out of the ordinary and wasn't. innocent people get caught up in the situations all the time. you have innocent people there in arkansas on death row right now. it happens all the time. >> what did your families think? how did they react? did any of them turn against you? did they believe you may be guilty? >> none of mine. >> i was with my family at the time the mores occurremurders o. >> most of the testimony has never been meat public because they didn't want to release them at the time. it happened in the morning. then it happened in the afternoon. then finally he washed up at the time of the deaths. this is scandalous. why do you think jesse was doing this? >> well -- >> if he hadn't, i don't think any of you would have gone to
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prison. >> the closest thing i can come to explain that is the school yard bully who gets the kid to cry uncle. the bully knows he is not the other kid's uncle and the kid knows the bully is not his uncle, but he is like okay, uncle. let me loose. >> do you hate jess or blame him? >> not at all. he is handicapped. it's not his fault. >> he is a victim? >> exactly. he didn't choose to be born that way. >> some members of the boys's families supported you and some say you are are the people who are responsible. how do you deal with that? psychologically? >> you have to keep moving forward. if you focus on that and dwell on that sort of thing all the time, you will lose your mind and go crazy. there is nothing you can do. >> you look at the pictures of these boys, the sweet 8-year-old sons.
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i have three sons and they have all been 8 years old. >> my youngest brother was at that time. terrified for his safety when we first heard of the murders. on may sixth when the bodies were found, i was freaking out like oh, my god. they are out here killing kids. make sure nothing happens. >> does a part of you understand why some of their families felt they closure with your convictions? they can't deal with the fact that it may not be what they were told it was? >> absolutely. >> there was a quote that comes in my mind that i thought about throughout the entire thing. forgive them, father, for they know not what they do. that's what i think of when encountering this. >> i will take another break and i want to ask you who you think may have been responsible for
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. >> these animals are released, it's the key to everyone on death row right now to open up their cells and walk out here. >> i am fighting for justice because they are innocent. they did not kill my son. >> two very different reactions from the fathers of two of the murdered boys. they were freed last month. damian and his wife lauery and jason. how do you feel when a lot of famous people rallied to your cause? you should explain the music. >> it's a song on a pearl jam album that was eddie vetter taking lyrics from a piece of
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poetry i wrote and put it to music and it was just an incredible experience. hearing the finished product and seeing what it sounds like and it was an absolutely amazing thing. something that means a great deal. >> in a way it was almost like we department think of it a lot of times as supporting someone famous. they were not celebrities who threw money at the case. they were involved on a very ground floor level. >> peter jackson got involve and johnny depp got involved. these are high profile very famous people. they definitely made a difference to the atmosphere around your case. this guy sitting next to me, you came across to me, i never met you before in my life, you come across as someone grounded and eloquent and not someone associated with the portrayal of this case, the devil
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worshipping, satanic and cults obsessed. weirdo dangerous maniac who could be capable of killing three young children. you knew him very well. you were his best friend at the time. put yourself aside. when you saw him described as this evil ringleader, what were you thinking? >> everyone had it wrong. like in high school his mom fixed him lunches to carry to school in paper bags. even then with the high school kids they would be like what you got in the bag, a cat? he would say yeah, but it's peanut butter and gely and an apple and soda. it was a joke to the kids. the dress with the goth look. for children, it's fun. but when adults got in and police and everything and they twisted it.
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>> something sinister. >> it was just totally unrealistic. >> did either of you ever have suicide at thoughts? >> i probably did when i was a young teenage angst as a kid because it was such a mystery, but never anything. >> not after you were put in prison? >> oh, yeah. >> did you try to take your own? >> i did. i took an overdose of sleeping pills, anti-depressants because it was like you said, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. seemed like no hope. the pressure was so great that for a moment, i lost all hope. i may spend god knows how long here going through this. i did. i an overdose of pills to end my life. >> let's take a short break. i want to ask you how you managed to rebuild your lives.
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both of you. siri, what's my day look like? [siri] another busy day today. are you serious? [siri] yes i'm not allowed to be frivolous. ah ok, move my 4 o'clock today to tomorrow. change my 11am to 2. [siri] ok marty, i scheduled it for today. is that rick? where's rick? [siri] here's rick. oh, no that's not rick. now, how's the traffic headed downtown? [siri] here's the traffic. ah, it's terrible, terrible! driver, driver! cut across, cut across, we'll never make it downtown this way. i like you siri, you're going places. [siri] i'll try to remember that. fore!
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names. the only difference is we do it from the outside instead of having to sit in prison and do it. >> damian on his first day of freedom after two decades behind bars. the moment when you walk free, how did that feel? >> it's hard to describe. like i said earlier, most people don't have that in their frame of reference. like having a huge weight taken off your chest for the first time in almost 20 years. i could actually breathe. i didn't feel like i was being crushed to death. there were times in prison when we were going through that, it felt like being crushed to death. you feel like there is a weight on you and you can't take another step. for the first time it felt like that had been lift and taken off. >> were you surprised at the strength of damian through this? >> oh, yes.
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>> many lesser people in terms of strength and character would have crumbled. i see somebody who to me you have come out and survived. that's how i see it. someone that hasn't been destroyed by this. damaged beyond any imagination, but not destroyed. would you agree with that? >> absolutely. but he worked very hard for that. there were times when it got really hard for me on the outside. just the stress and rying to get through and thinking there was no -- it was just hard. everything in the middle of it. damian would get me through. the strength of that. i saw how hard he worked and how long he meditate and how disciplined he was with his mind and his education. his just -- he is such a disciplined person. which is why one of the reasons why i found him -- there is just so many layers to him. >> you have a son by a previous
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relationship. >> he is 18 years old now. he was born while the try was taking place. the first time i held him was during the trial. >> did you see him while you were in inside? >> not very often, but we tried to keep him as far from the situation. >> now she is 18. he's a young man. how does he deem with what happened to his father? >> i don't know. i think it's going to take more time than we had to get into things like that. who knows what sort of resentments he has. for miss missing his childhood. >> he is a victim. so many victims. >> exactly. >> the whole family is crushed every way you look at this. do you think death penalty and state executions, should they be abandoned? many people said there were too
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many miskearns of justice. >> i don't think we know how many innocent people died. >> did you believe in this before this? >> i didn't give it much thought. >> did you? >> i didn't give it much thought before this. it was something that i really never thought about in depth. the media and a lot of the prosecutors and things like this, portray the image to society like all the people on death row are like hannibal-elector like evil geniuses and they are not. they are retard and schizophrenic and damaged people that -- >> all completely innocent. this is my issue with it. i come from a country where we don't have the death penalty. every poll of the public said 90% would bring it back tomorrow. they do that in the belief that 100% of the people would be accuse are 100% guilty.
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that's not the case. >> exactly. >> let's take another break and come back and ask you about how you complete your names. what you think you can do to get proper closure.
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>> i'm no worse than anything like that. every normal person in this ground here. >> the young jason in the series paradise lost. damian and his wife laurie are back with me now. you have lost a lot of your lives. what has been the hardest thing about your reentry into normal life? can you sleep? can you get employment? what are the practical realities of your lives now? >> i sleep very well. i am currently employed for a construction company. getting me on my feet.
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i think the most difficult thing is learning to drive. i have been working with that with the dmv and took to online practice tests and aced it. >> had your first beer yet? >> oh, yeah. >> quite a few probably? >> at one point i went to a coffee shop and they were like what kind of coffee do you like? kind of coffee? americano and espresso and all those. >> before you went in, it was like i will have a coffee. now an iced laty and whatever it is. it's not progress, trust me. >> one of the most remarkable moments that let me know it was over, we had a friend who took us to see an improv comedy routine and we were in a room of people on the front row and there was a bunch of people behind us and i realized i don't have to worry about anybody
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behind me stabbing me or hitting me in the back of the head. they are all watching the show. that's over. >> that was the fear you lived with for ten years. >> every day. >> an awful thing to have to live with. you managed to get work? >> not yet. >> why is that? >> i think it's just the things i am interested in. i really started getting into the realm of art when i was in prison and that's what i would like to continue doing. continue writing and doing visual artwork and haven't been out long enough to pull things together to get that going. >> do you have a way of clearing your names for good? anything you can do proactively to clear your names? there will be people out there who will have seen the circumstances of your release saying they are pleading guilty and maintaining their innocence? it's confusing to people and that must be frustrating to you. that was the only way to get released.
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is there a mechanism for closure for you? >> we could be eventually pardoned and we are continuing with the investigation. >> who decide has? the government? >> exactly. >> is there a petition? >> i don't think it's been put together yet, but everybody has been talking about it. there have been a lot of people getting behind the movement. the same people who are responsible for exposing this case to the public and making sure we got free are now starting up a movement for us to be pardoned. >> sorry the case still open or was it closed? >> to prosecutors it's closed and to us it's open. >> insure it be opened? >> of course. >> a pardon would be great and it should come to you given all the evidence in this case. getting somebody put on trial with real evidence that should have happened from the start and they need to have a proper safe conviction. that's when you will get proper
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closure. that's when everybody will. >> right and since that's what we have been working on all these years with the legal team and people who helped us. we are going to continue that. that is the most important thing. is to bring new evidence to the case and discover new evidence. everything we can do. we want to discover whoa did this. that's the most important thing. >> we're want the process to be free of confessions and free of pressured pernlgerred testimony. >> you have been remarkably candid and brave and i think damian and jason, damian in particular since you were facing execution. this was one of the greatest pieces of testimony against the death penalty continued in this country. i think you look at cases like this and troy davis and others, you think this is just archaic. this cannot be allowed to continue. i thank you for your time. i wish you good luc

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