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'I'm still not free': Damien Echols reflects on his life 10 years after prison release

"There is so much new stuff going on in the case that even though the 10 years is over, it's been a decade, I'm still not free," Damien Echols said.

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — The day of August 19 marks the anniversary in a case that caught national attention for decades and continues to bring up more questions.

Ten years ago, on Aug. 19, 2011, the West Memphis Three walked out of prison. 

We spoke exclusively with one of them about what this date means to him and why the fight isn't over for closure.

Damien Echols spent nearly 20 years on death row, for a crime he said he didn't commit, the murder of three young boys in West Memphis back in 1993. 

While this day is a celebration for him, Echols said no matter what happens, justice will never be fully served.

"This was something for a long time that when I looked at this day, I thought, that's the day where I will finally be free of the state's system, the prison apparatus, but now there is so much new stuff going on in the case that even though the 10 years is over, it's been a decade, I'm still not free," he said.

Even though the handcuffs aren't locked around his wrists, for Echols, some days still feel like he's right back in that cage.

"I can still close my eyes and I can still see every detail of the cell I was in. From the cracks of the concrete floor to the pattern of the concrete on the wall, the chipped paint. I can still see it, like I'm still there even after 10 years," he said.

In 2011, Echols walked off of death row after taking a plea deal that allowed him to maintain his innocence, despite a guilty plea.

"I always think of it as my second birthday kind of. It was like a day of being reborn back into the world.  A day that I did not know whether it was going to come or not," he said.

For the past two years, Echols and his attorneys have been requesting DNA evidence that wasn't around years ago.

But a month ago, his attorneys were told, that some of the evidence is "likely lost or destroyed."

The evidence that could prove Echols' innocence. 

"We had a chance to conclusively show once and for all who committed these murders," he said.

It's a fight that he's not giving up on and a fight that has gained national attention. 

"I had people who were DM'ing me saying I don't live in America, what can I do?" Gillian Pensavalle said. 

For Pensavalle, this is as universal as it is personal. She met Echols at his first art show after his release. 

"It became this instant friendship and instant connection," she said.

A friendship that Pensavalle says has turned into family. 

Recently using her podcast, True Crime Obsessed, and her own social media to shed light on the current situation of the case and push for change.

"Nicely just call the West Memphis Police Department, call the governor's office, call Keith Chrestman the prosecuting attorney and ask questions because we are entitled to know this information," Pensavalle said.

That current support, and the hundreds of others who held signs back in the early days of the case, Echols believes is the reason he's still here today.

"I know to the core of my soul that the only reason the state did not murder me and sweep this case under the rug, is that people all over the world were paying attention to it," he said.

While Echols is looking toward the future, nothing will change the tragedy of the past. 

"Nothing that happens in this situation is going to bring those three children back, nothing that happens in this situation is going to give me or the other two men convicted 20 years of our lives back," he said.

Echols said that he and his lawyers are still waiting on the court to set a date for a hearing about the missing evidence. 

He said they'll take it all the way to the State Supreme Court, if they have to.

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