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CNN Larry King Live

Damien Echols: Death Row Interview

Aired December 19, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a LARRY KING LIVE exclusive.
Is an innocent man on death row or is a murderer where he belongs?

Damien Echols -- he's been in prison for 13 years. But now new DNA evidence has raised disturbing questions in this case.

Did he take part in the savage killings of three young boys?

Does Damien Echols deserve to die?

It's a jailhouse interview you will not want to miss.

It's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Before we start our interview with death row inmate Damien Echols, CNN's Ted Rowlands has been digging into the West Memphis Three story. He has background on this shocking crime -- a sensational case -- and the latest legal developments.

Here is Ted Rowlands.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fourteen-and-a-half years ago, the gruesome murders of three 8-year-old boys shocked West Memphis, Arkansas -- Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore -- second grade playmates -- were found beaten to death, naked and bound in shallow water. One of the boys was dismembered.

Police arrested three teenagers, including an alleged devil worshipping ringleader named Damien Echols. At trial, prosecutors used Echols' own words from his bizarre writings to convince the jury that the murders were part of a Satanic ritual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Thirsty for blood and the terror of mortal men, look favorably on my sacrifice."

ROWLANDS: Echols and 16-year old Jason Baldwin denied involvement. But 17-year old Jessie Misskelley confessed, telling authorities on three separate occasion, they killed the boys after a chance encounter in the woods. Misskelley, who defense attorneys claim has low I.Q., now says the confessions were coerced.

Despite a lack of significant physical evidence linking the teens to the crime, all three were found guilty. Echols was sentenced to death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the jury, find Damien Echols guilty of capital murder.

ROWLANDS: Questions about whether justice was served has loomed in this case since the verdicts. The HBO documentary "Paradise Lost" gained the case worldwide attention -- painting the trial as a rush to judgment fueled by Satanic fear.

DAMIEN ECHOLS, CONVICTED KILLER, ON DEATH ROW: West Memphis is pretty much like a second Salem. I mean, you know, because everything that happens there, every problem, no matter what it is, it's blamed on Satanism.

ROWLANDS: Last month, defense attorneys announced they have new DNA evidence that shows no trace of Echols or the other defendants at the crime scene. Even some of the victims' relatives, who initially agreed with the verdicts...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe they did it. I would -- I believe I would try to kill them, too.

ROWLANDS: think the men in jail are innocent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to see another trial. Give them a fair trial, present the evidence that really wasn't presented in the other trial. Then if they're guilty, so be it, that's where they stay. But if they're not, God don't put somebody to death because, you know, oops.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Despite the huge outpouring of support, not everybody believes there's been a mistake. In fact, some of the family members still believe that Echols -- who's here, on Arkansas' death row -- and the other two, who are serving life sentences -- got exactly what they deserved.

(voice-over): Todd Moore, father of Michael Moore, told CNN: "We know the correct men are in prison and they should stay there."

Prosecutors won't comment on the case. There's been no state ruling yet on a defense request for a new trial.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, West Memphis, Arkansas.


KING: From the Varner Unit of Supermax State Prison Facility in Grady, Arkansas, we are joined by Damien Echols, who is on death row. He recently had a birthday, by the way. He's 33 years old.

Now, how long have you been on death row?

DAMIEN ECHOLS, CONVICTED OF MURDER: About 14 years. All in all, I've been locked up almost 15 years.

KING: Now there's so-called -- let's get into it -- new evidence in your case. It's encouraged a lot of your defenders -- and there are many -- to feel optimistic.

Give us the story.

What's new?

ECHOLS: There are several things. But I think the main one is probably the DNA testing that know they said it revealed no evidence of me or the other two guys who were convicted of the crime at the crime scene. There was also evidence that said that what the prosecution had alleged were knife wounds, things of that nature were actually more along the lines of post-mortem injuries inflicted by snapping turtles and other things that would have been in the woods.

KING: Why this late, Damien?

ECHOLS: Well, a lot of the testing that they had to use now to reveal this wasn't available. They couldn't do it at the time that I was arrested. You've got to keep in mind, that was almost 15 years ago. And forensic technology has come a long way in 15 years.

KING: We'll be getting into the case and the structure of the case. But the legal process, if the DNA excludes you, why are you in prison?

ECHOLS: Well, a lot of people think that if you have some sort of definitive proof of innocence, something like a DNA test, that you're automatically released. And that's not actually true. A lot of times in cases like this it's more about politics than it is about justice. You know, a lot of people have built their careers off of this case. You know, you had police officers who were given promotions. You had the prosecutor, who ran for and was elected judge. The judge -- or the circuit court judge is now saying that he plans on retiring and running for Senate.

All of this pretty much happening on the merit of this case. And these people do not want to admit that they made a mistake.

KING: Now we understand that in late November, a U.S. district court judge ruled that your attorneys must present the new DNA tests and other evidence to state judges before they go forward with the federal filing.

Is that your understanding?

ECHOLS: Yes, that's correct.

KING: And where is that now?

ECHOLS: Well, it's not really moving anywhere right now, just because there are plans to be made. We have to get with the other two guys' attorneys who are also defendants in this case. And it has to be a combined effort. And it takes a little while for everybody to get linked up and dates to be set and things of that nature.

KING: If you know you didn't do something, isn't all of this frustrating? ECHOLS: Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe what all this is.

KING: All right, this is the story of you and two other guys. We'll get into it in a minute. A number of famous people -- celebrities and artists and writers -- have rallied to your cause.

How does that make you feel?

You've become a cause celebre.

ECHOLS: Grateful, appreciative, thankful -- more so than I could ever even begin to articulate. You know, it's through their efforts and through the attention that they've brought to the case and through donations that people have made that we were even able to do this DNA testing now.

KING: Do you think you're going to be free someday?

ECHOLS: I believe that, yes. I'm absolutely convinced of that.

KING: Let's go back to the case.

It's you and two other -- were the three of you friends?

ECHOLS: One of the guys I was familiar with. He was more an acquaintance. The other guy was my best friend.

KING: Give me the case.

What happened?

ECHOLS: Well, it started on May 5th, whenever they found the bodies of three boys that had been killed in a small wooded area in West Memphis. About a month later, they arrested me and the other two guys. One of the other two guys, he was border line retarded. He had an I.Q. of about 72. And the police picked him up and who knows what they did to him for, you know, 12 or 14 hours before they finally said that he confessed.

The problem was, once he did confess, pretty much not a single detail of what he said was right. They knew that, but they didn't care. They were just trying -- they were under a tremendous amount of pressure to get the case wrapped up as quickly as they could and they were doing whatever it took to do that.

KING: How old were the boys that were killed?

ECHOLS: I believe they were, all three, 8 -- 8 years old.

KING: Eight years old.

Did you know them?

ECHOLS: No. I had never even heard of them before this.

KING: Did you live in the vicinity where they lived?

ECHOLS: Well, I lived -- I didn't actually live in West Memphis. I lived in a small town right outside of West Memphis called Marion. So it was within, I don't know, I'd say about a 10, 15 mile area.

KING: How old were you at the time?

ECHOLS: I was, I believe 18 -- 17 or 18.

KING: Now, what was the state's case with regard to motive?

Why were these three boys killed, according to the state?

ECHOLS: The state alleged that -- they couldn't come up with anything more tangible, you know, like robbery or anything like that. So basically what they threw out was that it was some sort of Satanic ritual murder -- that these children were killed as some sort of Satanic cult thing. I'm not -- you know...

KING: Were they...

ECHOLS: ...whatever sense that makes.

KING: Were they killed in a weird way?

ECHOLS: No, not particularly. Well, you know, any -- murder is always weird...

KING: Yes.

But I mean how?

Were they stabbed?

Were they shot?

How were they killed?

ECHOLS: The prosecution at the time alleged that they had been stabbed. Now we know that they weren't. We know that the wounds that the prosecutor was saying were stab wounds were actually inflicted by animals after they were dead.

From the best we can figure now, I believe they said two of them died from blunt force trauma. And if I'm not -- I'm positive about this now, but I believe the third one they said may have drowned.

KING: We're with Damien Echols. He's on death row in Arkansas.

We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the jury, find Damien Echols guilty of capital murder in the death of Stevie Branch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So (INAUDIBLE) and wait until momma gets up there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the jury, find Damien Echols guilty of capital murder in the death of Christopher Byers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And guilty is guilty. And I hope the little sucker when it's coming, they get it. That's right off the bat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the jury, find Damien Echols guilty of capital murder in the death of Michael Moore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because somebody wears black and has different (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the jury, after careful deliberations, have determined that Damien Echols shall be sentenced to death by lethal injection.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Faces from an angry, curious community came to see the teenagers who stand accused of a crime that makes no sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was guilty when I first laid eyes on him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who could do such a thing to three small boys?

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Prosecutors portrayed 19-year-old Damien Echols as a murderous devil worshipper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You begin to see inside Damien Echols. And you look inside there and there's not a soul in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There couldn't be a worse capital murder ever committed in this state that I'm aware of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Investigators say the suspects aren't the typical boys next door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not the all-American boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can feel good returning a verdict of guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These guys, you know, were put behind bars and now maybe life can go on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want to worship the devil, I hope they meet him real soon -- the sooner the better as far as I'm concerned.


KING: We are back with Damien Echols.

The three boys who were killed, you didn't know them, you weren't anywhere near there.

So why you?

What were you doing then?

Why you?

ECHOLS: I think in the -- this was, once again, 15 years ago. Things weren't exactly the same -- especially in the South -- as they are now. I believe that I probably stood out in the small town where we were living just because of the music I listened to, the clothes that I wore, things of that nature. They considered me an oddity. So I drew attention.

For example, one of the things they used against us at trial was the fact that I listened to Metallica. You know, back then, 15 years ago, that was something that was considered strange. Now you hear it played on classic rock stations. It's not big deal at all.

KING: What about your best friend?

ECHOLS: I think they pretty much just brought him in because he was my best friend.

KING: Now, did the boy who was border line retarded, did he say you did it?

ECHOLS: Yes, after coaching from the police.

KING: So where were you when they came to arrest you?

ECHOLS: I was at my mother and father's place. They were gone out of town at the time. It was probably -- it was sometime during the night. Like I say, this has been 15 years ago so it's hard to remember a lot of the small details like times that things took place.

KING: But you'd be -- I don't need the exact time, but you must remember whether it was night or day and who came to the door and why.

ECHOLS: It was night.

KING: All right.

And who came, policemen?

ECHOLS: Yes, policemen. Once again, I couldn't tell you who they were. It looked like all of them to me.

KING: Had you ever been convicted of anything?


KING: Therefore, can we say they come to the door, they knock on the door, they're there to arrest you, that you're in total shock?

ECHOLS: Well, they had been harassing me for about a month before this took place. They came to my door nearly every single day for the month between the murders and the time that I was arrested. And the night that they did this, I thought it was probably just more of the same harassment.

So at first, I didn't even get up. You know, whenever they knocked, I didn't even bother to answer the door. I figured they'll go away -- you know, they'll get tired of it and go away. But they didn't.

KING: So you knew you were a suspect?


KING: Did you hire a lawyer during that period?

ECHOLS: No, I didn't. Well, I take that back. I think I did for one -- one day, maybe, during a brief period of time. But for the most part, I didn't think I needed one. You know, I thought only guilty people needed lawyers.

You know, I didn't have any experience with the justice system or anything legal, for that matter. So I felt only guilty people needed attorneys.

KING: Why, Damien, then, not only were you convicted, but you get the death sentence and the other two boys get life?

ECHOLS: You know, I don't believe I've come in contact with many people over the years who haven't asked me that question. And I still have no idea. The only thing I can figure is that I think the police -- maybe they went on what the police were saying, that I was the ringleader of whatever happened. And that's the only thing I can figure.

KING: Were you all tried together?

ECHOLS: No. The border line retarded guy was tried by himself, separately. And me and my best friend were tried together.

KING: Was the jury -- was it a jury trial?

ECHOLS: Yes, it was.

KING: Was the jury out a long time?

ECHOLS: I can't remember exactly. If I had to guess, I'd say, no -- no, they weren't. I don't even want to guess about the amount of time they were out. But I think it was less than two days.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first verdict reads as follows: "We, the jury, find Damien Echols guilty of capital murder in the death of Stevie Branch."


KING: In retrospect, what was the key evidence against you? What convicted you?

ECHOLS: Honestly, I believe it was -- for the most part, I think it was the local media more than it was anything else -- the way they handled the case, the way they made it such a sensational issue and turned it into, you know, this huge story of -- you know, all of these Satanic rumors and all this sort of thing. I believe that was what convicted us more than anything else -- because there was no physical evidence.

KING: No physical evidence.

Was -- was there -- is there a big paper in West Memphis, Arkansas?

ECHOLS: No. There was mostly -- we mostly get the Memphis news stations, the Memphis newspapers, things of that nature. The only paper they had in West Memphis was a small -- you know, a small town newspaper.

KING: And is it the Memphis papers that played this up?

ECHOLS: The Memphis papers, the Memphis television stations -- but, also, all the stations all around Arkansas. You know, this was a huge deal, not just in Arkansas, but in neighboring states, also, like, you know, Mississippi and Louisiana. It was a big deal there, also. There was coverage, you know, in the tri-state area.

KING: Did you testify?

ECHOLS: Yes, I did.

KING: And when cross-examined, what happened?

I mean, did it not go well?

ECHOLS: No, it didn't. It didn't go well at all, I'd say, just because of the fact that I was a teenager, had no experience with these sorts of things. And this is what the prosecution does for a living. You know, they take whatever you say and make it look however they want it to look. And I think it was especially easy for them to do that whenever you're dealing with teenaged kids with no life experience and no experience with the judicial system.

KING: How did your best friend take all of this?

ECHOLS: We haven't really had a chance to communicate that much. They don't want us seeing each other, talking to each other, anything like that. So other than maybe just like -- I saw him a couple of times passing down the hallway, you know, nod at him, something like that. But there's been no real communication.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Damien Echols and this incredible story.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you kill Michael Moore?

ECHOLS: No, I did not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On May the 5th, did you kill Stevie Branch?

ECHOLS: No, I did not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On May the 5th, did you kill Chris Byers?

ECHOLS: No, I did not.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): If the West Memphis three are innocent, as Damien Echols' supporters claim, then someone had to have murdered the three boys.

JOHN MARK BYERS, STEP-FATHER OF VICTIM CHRISTOPHER BYERS: Terry Hobbs. I don't have any problem with saying his name. In my opinion, yes, I believe he is the perpetrator of this crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A recent DNA test found hair fibers on one of the victim's shoelaces matched Terry Hobbs. He was Stevie Branch's stepfather. But the DNA wasn't found on Stevie's shoelace. Hobbes claims it was a casual transfer to one of Stevie's friends, who spent time at their house. We asked Terry Hobbs to comment. He declined.

But his daughter Amanda didn't.

AMANDA HOBBS, DAUGHTER OF TERRY HOBBS: It makes me sick, it really does. I don't really -- it's just crazy, you know?

It's like Mort Byers has been in these shoes for 14 years and now he wants to try to put my father in those shoes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Byers was questioned by police shortly after the murders, but never declared an official suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the worst nightmare you could ever imagine. I know the nightmare that the three in prison feel to be wrongly accused.


KING: We're back with Damien Echols. He's at the Varner Unit Supermax State Prison Facility in Grady, Arkansas. He's on death row, but he's got a fighting chance, it would appear, after this DNA evidence. Jessie Misskelley, he was the -- he is the border line retarded person who was convicted separately and who made statements confessing and implicating you, I guess.

What are your feelings towards him?

ECHOLS: Well, I try not to be angry with him, just because I know how the police treated me -- the things they did to me. And, you know, it was hard. It was -- they put us through absolute hell. And I can only imagine -- what it was for me, how it would be for someone with an I.Q. of, you know, 72.

So, you know, it's not his fault. I think it was the fault of the police, who would rather psychologically torture a confession out of a border line retarded kid than actually go after the murderers. That's who I am angry with.

KING: Is he still in jail?

ECHOLS: Yes, he is.

KING: By the way, one of the people who now believes you and the others were wrongfully convicted is John Mark Byers, the father of the murdered Christopher Byers. After learning of the new evidence, he said he's reversed his belief in the guilt of the West Memphis Three and he now wants you to know, "I'm here for you."

Do you have a comment?

ECHOLS: Just that I -- I really do appreciate that. I appreciate everything he's been expressing lately. I've heard several -- I've heard him make comments like that several times on different local news stations and I've heard people repeat that to me. And I really, really do appreciate that. It means a great deal.

KING: Do we think you know who the murderers are?

ECHOLS: Well, I can -- I can say whose DNA they found at the crime scene, but I'm hesitant to point the finger at him just because I don't want to do the same thing to someone else that was done to me. You know, I was accused...

KING: Fully understandable.

ECHOLS: ... And convicted and tried before I was ever sent to trial. And I don't want to do the same thing to someone else.

KING: All right.

Without that, then, during this period, is anyone, to your knowledge, investigating the other DNA?

ECHOLS: I don't think so. I think once it came out, the prosecution and the police did pretty much what they always do, which is sort of hunker down, cover up, and hope that the media stops paying attention to this so that they can go about their business like they always did.

KING: Do you have the financial wherewithal to hire a detective?

ECHOLS: We have. There's a private detective who's been working on the case, for the most part, throughout this whole thing. And they -- they uncover little bits and pieces of things sometimes. But you really do need something in a case like this like DNA testing -- something that, you know, really does strongly testify to your innocence.

KING: When have you last talked to Jason Baldwin, your best friend, who was convicted along with you but who got life?

ECHOLS: We exchanged a couple of words, you know, just telling each other, hey, how are you doing? Hold on. This has got to end some time. Maybe two years ago, I would say?

He's -- he was at this prison for a short while and I would see him in the hallway, you know, pass him every now and then. But he's at an entirely different prison now. So there's not a lot of communication.

KING: Have you come into contact with Jessie, the other boy?

ECHOLS: I saw him a couple of times, too. Pretty much the same thing.

KING: Have you ever come in contact with the parents of the dead boys?


KING: They didn't go to trial?

They weren't in court?

They never had a -- you never had to confront them...

ECHOLS: Oh, they...

KING: They had to confront you?

ECHOLS: They were at the trial. They attended the trial throughout. But there's, you know, been no communication with them, anything like that -- you know, direct communication and nothing of that nature.

KING: You had never been convicted of anything.

Did you ever do physical harm to anyone?

In other words, were they able to bring up anything in court to show that this is a violent guy?

ECHOLS: No. It was mostly all rumors. You know, they would trying to say this guy is a Satanist because he listens to Metallica, therefore he must be violent. You know, it was all some sort of circular logic type thing. There was nothing -- you know, anything like that.

KING: What are your feelings about these 8-year-olds?

I mean, you must go through some torture here. Three 8-year-olds died, you're in jail -- forever, maybe -- accused of it. You know yourself you didn't do it. Someone out there did it.

ECHOLS: I think it's -- it's -- I wouldn't even want to imagine what they went through. And if there is some sort of afterlife, I can imagine they would probably still be pretty upset right now. I think I would probably feel the worst for their parents who, you know, not only in addition to losing their children in such a horrific manner and then being led to believe that they, you know, were going to see justice done, that the right people had been arrested. And then now, all the new stuff is coming out and they're realizing that a mistake was made.

So it's not over for them even now -- even 15 years later. You know, they've been strung along and drug out by this just like I have. So that...

KING: What...

ECHOLS: ...must be horrible.

KING: What's going to happen, though, is pretty soon, we would hope, that in state court this evidence -- the DNA evidence will be presented.

First it must be presented there, right?

Do you know when that's going to happen?

ECHOLS: No dates have been set yet. You know, this is one of those things in the legal system, they like to drag things out as long as they possibly can. Like I say, I've been here almost 15 years now.

KING: Do you have lawyers, can we say, working feverishly on this?

ECHOLS: Yes. Yes, they've been working on it...

KING: And, of course...

ECHOLS: I'm really happy with the attorneys we have now. They've been working on the case for the past few years. These aren't the same guys that have been working on it from the very beginning.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Damien Echols on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We are back with Damien Echols. Damien, in 2001, a psychiatrist for your defense team submitted an affidavit that essentially concluded -- I'm reading this -- "The nature and severity of your multiple psychiatric illnesses have left you unable to rationally understand the 1994 legal proceedings that convicted you or to rationally assist in your own defense."

How do you react to that, that you are not in a rational state?

ECHOLS: I think maybe -- I don't think they are saying I'm not in a rational state now. I think what they mean is that I wasn't in a rational state at the time of the trial. And I think that I would probably even agree with that, just for the fact that I was a teenage kid and I was suffering from severe trauma and shock from everything that was going on.

I had no experience with anything like that. And it came as a tremendous blow, you know, just the depression and the shock and everything that goes along with it. I would probably agree with that statement.

KING: So what your psychiatrist was saying, that the nature and severity of your multiple psychiatric illnesses made you unable to rationally understand the legal proceedings against you.

Did you have multiple psychiatric illnesses?

ECHOLS: I don't think so. I think at the time I probably suffered from what most teenagers suffer from, you know, just teenage angst, maybe depression, maybe sometimes even severe depression.

But I don't -- I think it is harder to judge something like that when you are going back in hindsight than it is whenever you are actually, you know, there at the time. You know, this would have been someone who didn't know me at the time of the trial. This would have been looking back in hindsight and trying to put everything together.

KING: How was the DNA evidence uncovered?

ECHOLS: They collected at the time of the murders. And they didn't do anything with it. They just pretty much left it laying somewhere in an evidence room all of this time.

That -- I guess in a way, that kind of makes me angry too, just to think that a lot of this could have been avoided. You know, I could have possibly had 15 years of my life back if they would have bothered to do some of the testing back then.

KING: How have your parents reacted to all of this?

ECHOLS: I don't know. You know, it is really a roller coaster ride for them as well as me, for everyone involved in this case. We never know when to get our hopes up. We never know, you know, how to react, how long something is going to take. It is hard.

KING: What is death row like? ECHOLS: Not fun. It does what it was designed to do, which is pretty much separate you from all your support systems, tear you away from anything that means anything to you, and keep you there until they are ready to kill you.

KING: Have any inmates been killed since you have been on death row?

ECHOLS: I was trying to count that, actually, a couple of days ago, trying to remember. Somewhere between 20 and 25, I would say.

KING: Did you know any of them?

ECHOLS: Some of them I knew quite well. Some of them I knew just as, you know, passing -- maybe speak to them as I passed them, something like that. Some of them I knew quite well.

KING: How is death performed in Arkansas?

ECHOLS: Lethal injection.

KING: When they were killed, would every other inmate know the night that was going to happen?

ECHOLS: Yes. They usually come in some time between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. and take them out. And usually everyone in the barracks will be up and watching as they lead him out the doorway into the death chamber.

KING: Well, how is -- that must feel terrible for you when you -- especially when you have gotten to know them, right?

ECHOLS: Yes. It is pretty hard. I mean, even if you are not -- even if it is someone you don't know, just watching someone being led out in front of you, and knowing that this person is being taken to their death. I mean, that is a hard thing itself, even if it's someone you don't know.

KING: Do you have a date set for your execution?

ECHOLS: No, not right now.

KING: All of that would be on kind of hold anyway, with all of these legal proceedings.

ECHOLS: Right.

KING: We will be right back with Damien Echols on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We are back with Damien Echols. By the way, just so we clarify a couple of things. Was the semi-retarded young man -- was he the only witness against you that would be called an eyewitness?

ECHOLS: Yes, he was.

KING: And did you have any psychiatric treatment at all before all of this?

ECHOLS: Yes. I had been in counseling session for therapy and I had been on anti-depressants for several years, I would say probably between two and three years.

KING: But not having anything to do with your being violent?

ECHOLS: Oh, no. No, nothing like that.

KING: OK. In addition to December being your birthday month, it is also the month you married Lorri Davis (ph) in a prison wedding ceremony in 1999. How did Lorri come into your life?

ECHOLS: She was one of the very first people who saw the documentary that they made about the case when it originally aired in New York at a small theater. She lived in Manhattan at the time -- or Brooklyn. And after she saw the documentary, she started corresponding with me, writing to me and we started talking on the phone. And every few months, she would fly back and forth from New York to Arkansas.

And then probably about 10 years ago, she finally moved here. We have been together about 12 years now. We have been married for eight.

KING: Did you regard it -- I don't know if strange is the right word -- that someone would want to marry you that can't co-habit with you?

ECHOLS: I can understand how a lot of people would maybe think that was odd. But we love each other. She is my life. And I'm hers. So we do what we have to do to make it.

KING: Don't you worry about her on the outside and you are not?

ECHOLS: Constantly. Once again, worry is not even a word that begins to describe it. You know, she has had to work 10 and 12-hour days for years now and then come home every single night and work for hours and hours on this case.

You know, she does as much work on my case as the attorneys do, as the private investigators, as anybody has done. She has done that much or more. And she -- quite frankly, after all of this time, she is exhausted, as am I. And it is really hard to see that.

KING: Do you have any -- Damien, any guilt that even though there is a great deal of love, you are preventing Lorri from having a full life?

ECHOLS: No. I don't think so. And the reason I say that is because she doesn't want to be with anybody else. And I don't want to be with anybody else. This is what we want. We -- our life isn't something that we think of as being something set off in the future that we have to work towards. We have a life together right here and now. And we try to get as much joy from that, as much happiness from that, and we support each other as much as we can. This is our life.

KING: And it all started with her seeing the documentary about you in New York.

ECHOLS: Correct.

KING: Has that documentary gotten wide play?

ECHOLS: It has been shown all over the world. I get letters every day from people everywhere from Israel to Australia to pretty much every state of the United States where this documentary has been shown, all over the world.

KING: We will be right back with more with Damien Echols. Don't go away.


ECHOLS: Even after I die, people are going to remember me forever. They're going to talk about me for years. People will tell their kids stories. It will be like I'm the West Memphis boogey man. Little kids will be looking under their beds before they go to bed. Damien might be under there.



KING: We are back with Damien Echols. In addition to Lorri in your life, you also have a son, right? But not by Lorri. Who is the mother?

ECHOLS: She was someone that I was with before I was arrested, someone I used to live with, a girlfriend at the time.

KING: You were pretty young then to be a father.

ECHOLS: Yes, I was. My son is already 14 and I'm only 33 now.

KING: Do you get to talk to him?

ECHOLS: As much as we can. We try to keep him separated from this case as much as possible. He lives pretty far away from here, just to be away from all of this.

KING: Do you talk to your --

ECHOLS: We try to shelter him as much as possible.

KING: Talk to his mother?

ECHOLS: Yes. We are still on friendly terms.

KING: While you were in prison, awaiting trial, you wrote a number of letters containing things a lot of people would consider disturbing. Among them, you wrote to Gloria Shettles, an investigator for your defense team.

And you wrote: "Everyone will pay because everyone is too stupid to open their eyes. This is the final time and I am the new messiah. My body is changing but that medicine is making it happen a lot more slowly than normal. I am outgrowing my skin. I am eating packs of sugar and Kool-Aid to give my body extra energy it needs to make its change. Soon people will be able to know I am the Christ. I always knew I was different from other children."

How do you explain that?

ECHOLS: I don't know. I mean, like I said, that was 15 years ago. That could have been -- I'm not sure what that was. What I was talking about could have been a short story. I really don't know. You know, I write constantly, non-stop. I actually consider myself a writer. I have had several things published.

And some of it is hard to keep track of after all of these years. Even now I come across things that I read that aren't familiar to me. I will recognize my hand writing, but have no idea what it was, what context it was in, any of that.

KING: Ever thought about suicide?

ECHOLS: Yes. Back in the -- I don't anymore, not since Lorri. But back whenever this first started happening, 15 years ago, yes, I did. This was an extremely hard thing to go through. And sometimes that seemed like a very inviting option back then.

KING: Is it possible, Damien, just possible that you committed this crime under some sort of delusional state and have blotted it out?

ECHOLS: Absolutely not.

KING: You didn't know the boys and you know you didn't do it.

ECHOLS: Exactly. And delusions don't leave DNA.

KING: Your wife, Lorri, told "The Arkansas Times" a few years ago that she knows some people perceive you as scary, even maniacal. Do you think that is the public perception?

ECHOLS: I think it probably was at one time. I don't think it is so much anymore, just because I have been more exposed to the public. But I think back then, due to the way the local media portrayed me and the way I was portrayed by the police department, I think that would probably be pretty accurate.


KING: Lorri also said she thinks some of your behavior during your trial may have contributed to your conviction, that you didn't act as a lot of people thought an innocent person would act. ECHOLS: I would probably agree with that too. But at the time, once again, I go back -- you know, I was a teenager. I was a very foolish kid, basically. There was that aspect of it and there was also the aspect of -- my behavior felt to me at the time sort of like defiance in the face of injustice.

KING: Some more moments with Damien Echols right after this.


KING: We are back with Damien Echols. By the way, we understand you are supported by many people. Among them, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, is that right?

ECHOLS: That is correct.

KING: Have they been to see you?

ECHOLS: Eddie has. He has been to see me a couple of times. We talk on the phone, write, things of that nature. He keeps a -- he has been -- Eddie has went above and beyond the call of duty to me and my wife both. You know, he has been probably the greatest friend a person could have through all of this.

KING: Do you have strong spiritual beliefs?

ECHOLS: I think I do. But it is pretty hard to articulate exactly what that is.

KING: What keeps you going all day?

ECHOLS: My wife. My wife and I guess you could also say those spiritual beliefs.

KING: You are a Catholic?

ECHOLS: I'm a member of the Catholic Church, yes.

KING: Damien Echols, he is at the Varner Unit -- V-A-R-N-E-R, Varner Unit Supermax State Prison Facility, Grady, Arkansas. The next procedure will occur in state court dealing with the DNA evidence.

Anderson Cooper with "AC 360" is next. Anderson?