Jason sent this selfie he took from a hike on Mt. Ranier on Monday. Quite a gentle image, don’t you think, from a guy Arkansas insists is a killer?
Jason Baldwin Video – I No Longer Face The Storm Alone. This film focuses on the writing of Jason Baldwin and how he used art to get him through the days at Grady Correctional in Arkansas, as well as to inspire hope in those around him.
In 1994, the West Memphis Three – Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin – were convicted of brutal crimes they did not commit. Jason Baldwin was sixteen when he was given a sentence of life without parole.
Jason Baldwin speaks out about the justice system since his escape from Arkansas. He got pretty personal in these recent posts on his FB page.
Here is the first one:
To the murderer of Steve Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers:
In a sense you murdered me too. You murdered my mother, my father and step-father, all my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. You murdered my brothers.You murdered all my friends. My classmates. My teachers and girlfriend. You murdered my neighbor. You murdered everyone I ever knew and loved. You murdered the dreams we had. Murdered the dreams I had. You murdered me. No, you didn’t use whatever you used against Steve Branch, Christopher Byers or Michael Moore but in a sense you did it to me the same. I’m still coming to terms with all that I have lost and continue to suffer for your actions but I am healing.
Whoever you are I advocate for you to be brought to justice. At the age of sixteen I did not choose this path for myself. It is one you put me on when you murdered those boys. It is a heavy and humbling burden. One in which I haven’t the slightest idea of how to carry but I do with all the grace I can muster. That is why I forgive you. I have to in order to have some measure of peace. I will never cease the pursuit of justice for you. I promise you that and this, whomever you are, that whenever you finally are brought to justice I will personally advocate for mercy and that your life be spared. In spite of everything. Be forgiven and begin your own journey of healing by accepting responsibility for your actions. God knows you need it.
Charles Jason Baldwin
One of many surviving victims of the murderer of Steve Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers.
And the second:
When prosecutors enable snitches to work the system by fabricating stories about innocents in order to get out of jail free and win a conviction what happens is society is attacked on two fronts. On one, criminals murder and hurt us. On another, those who vowed to protect and serve us do the same, catching us in a gauntlet. Innocence doesn’t stand a chance in such an arena. I know this for a fact. Prosecutor Brent Davis enabled career criminal Michael Carson to prey upon me in exchange for carte blanche to continue his criminal activities. After his debut into this career Prosecutor Davis set him up in various places including California where Michael fabricated many more stories all while given free reign to break any and all laws of the land.
What many do not know is that Michael Carson was following in his father’s footsteps as he too was a professional snitch and career criminal. Innocence doesn’t stand a chance in such an uneven arena. Prosecutors like this don’t protect us. They prey upon us. They only serve and protect their own interests. I say let’s boycott the profession of prosecutors and replace them with Seekers of Truth. Under such a label their purpose becomes clear. Rather than seeking to prosecute at all costs they will instead seek the truth wherever it leads, eliminating the false premise that a conviction won with such tactics as utilizing jailhouse liars against the innocent populace as justice.
People tend to live up to their labels. Let’s give the profession a title that lives up to the vow of protecting and serving rather than preying upon and persecuting us.
Charles Jason Baldwin
One of many surviving victims of the murderer of Steve Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers.
In the book Dark Spell, Jason Baldwin talks about his experience with a Hacky Sack.
Here is a quote from the book:
At Grimes, Jason picked up a Hacky Sack and found that, “right there where you lived, you had all the room you needed.” Gradually, kicking the Hacky Sack became a central, grounding, and comforting part of his life. “I don’t meditate,” he explained. “Not that I have anything against it. I just have no experience with that. So I’d just put my headphones on and kick the Hacky Sack for physical exercise, to—not tune out but—tune in. It’s like the same feeling you get when you go walking or jogging or biking. You get this oneness feeling, especially when you get caught up in it, and you’re not losing control of it, and an hour has gone by and you’re drenched in sweat, and you got to take a shower, and you feel good.”
And here is a video of Jason showing his Hacky Sack skills.
DARK SPELL raises significant questions about what Jason Baldwin’s attorney, Paul Ford, did—and did not do—at Jason’s trial. Why, for instance, did Ford fail to call ANY of Jason’s alibi witnesses? Yesterday I found this:
Last year, the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct, issued Ford a caution, its mildest form of rebuke, for failing to investigate a client’s claim of medical malpractice. Because of Ford’s inaction, the statute of limitations on the client’s claim expired and she was left unable to pursue her intended lawsuit.
According to court records, Dorotha Finnie contacted Ford in January 2011, claiming that treatment for an earache by an emergency room doctor had left her deaf in one ear. Ford agreed to investigate and to take her case if he believed it was viable. If he chose not take her case, he was to notify her.
Finnie reportedly heard nothing more from Ford for the next two years. As the supreme court’s office noted: “After her initial consultation with Ford, Finnie called and visited his office numerous times but was told by a secretary that Ford was not available to speak with her. Ford also failed to return Finnie’s phone calls.”
Finnie filed a grievance with the court’s Office of Professional Conduct on Jan. 7, 2013. When that office contacted Ford, he responded that he had decided not to proceed with Finnie’s case. Ford responded in writing:
“It is my recollection that I discussed this decision with Ms. Finnie by phone. However, I cannot confirm this. It is my usual practice to discuss these matters with the client by phone, or in person, and then confirm the decision in writing. Sadly, there is no letter in my file to confirm the recollection of the phone call.”
Ford also acknowledged that, when he looked into the matter, he realized that the two-year statute of limitations had run on Finnie’s claim. He said that he had intended to inform her of this. “It was also my intention,” he wrote, “to advise her that I had malpractice coverage and that she should seek independent legal counsel on this matter.”
A supreme court committee found that, in his handling of Finnie’s case, Ford had violated three of the court’s Rules of Professional Conduct; failing to competently represent her, failing to act with reasonable diligence, and failing to inform her that he would not file suit on her behalf, with the result that, “the statute of limitations expired on Finnie’s potential claim.”
For this, on Sept. 25, 2013, the Committee on Professional Conduct ordered that Ford be “cautioned for his conduct in this matter and assessed $50 in costs.”
Reached by phone, Finnie, who is now 78, said she could not understand why Ford would never talk to her. She said that when she’d gone to his office, his staff told her “that everything looked good, everything was going fine.”
She said she’d filed her complaint with the supreme court because it was all she knew to do and that last year she received a phone call reporting the committee’s decision. “They said it had gone to the supreme court and it would cost him $50 and it was over.”
Asked how she felt about the fine, Finnie, a retired Walmart employee, laughed. “Isn’t that something?” she said. “I don’t feel like he even missed that $50.”
Soccer fans were stunned when Luis Suarez bit an opponent during the World Cup games—even those who knew that Suarez had received counseling in the past for his habit of aggressive biting. The incident reminds us that some humans are known for leaving their marks—literally—on others.
I watched the news about Suarez recalling the controversy about bite marks found on West Memphis victim Stevie Branch and the first encounter that private investigator Ron Lax and his assistant Rachael Geiser had with Terry Hobbs, Stevie’s stepfather. As I relate in Dark Spell, Geiser reported:
“When we arrived, Terry asked us to wait for a minute while he disappeared to put in his false teeth. He did joke that his false teeth “have nothing to do with the bite marks.”
Now I am grateful to Dr. Mark Cowart, a Tennessee dentist, for the opportunity to urge closer examination of the bite mark on Stevie’s forehead. For years, as Cowart followed the case, nothing related to his profession stood out. However, that situation changed last year, as he explains in the following report.
HUMAN BITE-MARK EVIDENCE IN THE ROBIN HOOD HILLS TRIPLE CHILD MURDER CASE
By: Mark Cowart DDS
In 1998, the defense team for Damien Echols retained criminalist Brent Turvey to examine evidence in what’s known as the case of the West Memphis Three. In Mr. Turvey’s report, “Equivocal Examination and Psychological Profile of Case Evidence”, he mentioned possible human bite marks on the forehead of victim Stevie Branch:
Turvey reported that “there is the existence of patterned injuries all over this victim’s face that could be bite marks. Since the ME [medical examiner] may have missed this crucial evidence, other areas of his body may show bite mark evidence as well.
“The autopsy photos of this victim supplied to this examiner were not of sufficient quality to make an absolute determination of any kind, and would require a thorough examination by a qualified forensic odontologist for an informed, conclusive analysis.”
Turvey added, “Bite mark evidence is very important in any criminal case because it demonstrates behavior and lends itself to individuation. It can reveal to an examiner who committed the act, because bite marks can be as unique as fingerprints. And, once established, it also reveals the act itself; biting.”
In a Rule 37 hearing later that year, Dr. Thomas David, a board certified oral surgeon and forensic odontologist, identified the wound on Stevie’s face as a human adult bite mark. Based on dental impressions obtained from Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley in prison, David said all three were excluded as the offender.
Testifying for the defense, Dr. David offered his opinion that the wound on Branch’s forehead IS a human bite mark beyond reasonable medical certainty. He also pointed out some unusual details in the anatomy of the teeth that caused the wound:
Dr .David: Immediately to the right of the last injury that I described, there is a series of dots, if you will, connected by faint lines that are at right angles to one another.
Q. And based on your training and experience, did you form any opinions about what dental conditions, situations or descriptions might be the cause of that individual characteristic?
Dr. David: I think that probably the most likely explanation for that particular pattern would be that the edge of tooth number nine closest to the mid-line probably has a crack, a chip, some sort of irregularity on the surface that would cause it to mark differently than the edges of those other teeth. But I believe that there’s some unique feature that created a –a–an irregular tissue con—or surface contour on that tooth that’s at right angles to one another, or approaching right angles.
The prosecution countered with testimony from forensic odontologist, Dr. Harry Mincer. Dr. Mincer testified that the wound IS NOT a human bite mark. Dr. Mincer’s main concern is documented in this excerpt from his testimony:
Q. Okay. And using that if you could explain to the Court your biggest concern regarding this not being a bite mark.
Dr. Mincer: My biggest concern of it not being a bite mark—if you look at this one with this curve and this curve and this curve and this curve (INDICATING)—there are curved lines all over this poor victim and even deep gashes which also have a similar curvature which show up better on the side view—the the left side of the face.
Q. Doctor, could you refer to that exhibit number on that?
Dr. Mincer: Exhibit Thirteen M is the blow-up, and that’s the blow-up of the original Ten M.
Dr . Mincer: The curvature of these are very similar. I have seen personally two cases and at the meeting every February of the forensic organization—people—several cases have been demonstrated in which if you have multiple wounds, and in some cases the wounds were insect bites—in one of the cases I worked on—they were insect bites and another—well, a fellow showed a picture of crab bites from Florida, from the Gulf of Mexico, in which there were multiple wounds of all sizes and configurations, and it’s not—the conclusion was you would expect to see somewhere a curved pattern similar to a human bite.
“But with reasonable certainty to expect that all of these other wounds were made by some other instrument and that one wound was made by a human bite, would be beyond reason. And that’s mainly the reason I didn’t think that this wound, which somewhat resembles a human bite mark, is a human bite mark.
“If –and in my opinion—if this was the only picture I had—not this one but this one (INDICATING)—I could say this might be a human bite mark. But that’s as much as I could say — it might be.
“And if you said it was—it might be you could never either rule anyone in or out with something you said might be a bite mark because if you’re not certain or even probable that it’s a bite mark, that’s as far as you can go, is to say it might be a bite mark.”
While Dr. Mincer’s conclusion is that the wound IS NOT a human bite mark, his main concern seems illogical. He thinks it “beyond reason” that there could be two different causes for similarly curved wounds. Mincer also is not as steadfast in his opinion as David citing that the wound “might be a human bite mark”.
Judge Burnett sided with the prosecution and the West Memphis Three remained in prison. This hearing did not settle the issue of whether or not a bite mark exists on the forehead of Stevie Branch. Both sides presented credible expert witnesses and the judge did not feel that the defense met its burden of proof in the hearing.
Six years later, in 2004, Pam Hobbs found the partial denture of her estranged husband, Terry Hobbs, in a lock-box in his closet. The event is documented in her 2009 declaration from the Hobbs V. Pasdar civil suit: [link to: http://callahan.8k.com/wm3/p_hobbs_declaration2.html]
“Terry also had a strong fireproof lockbox which he locked and kept at the top of our closet. On one occasion in 2004, a boy Jo Lynn was dating pried open the box. The only thing in the box was Terry’s partial denture, a little bitty necklace that had a 1984 penny on it, and a marble. Jo Lynn and I discussed why Terry would lock up a partial denture. The only explanation we could come up with was that he did not want anyone to compare his dental imprint to what some people believed were bite marks on certain victims of the murders.”
Pam Hobbs gave the partial denture to Judge Dan Stidham. She no longer trusted the West Memphis police. Judge Stidham kept the partial denture in his personal safe.
By 2007, funds raised by celebrities such as Sir Peter Jackson allowed for a change of attorneys and experts. The human bite mark issue was overshadowed by expert opinion that almost all the facial wounds to Stevie Branch were caused by animal predation, specifically by a snapping turtle. A demonstration filmed for the documentary West of Memphis portrayed the wound pattern of a snapping turtle’s bite mark. This demonstration, however, compared the bite pattern to a wound on Stevie’s chin…not to the wound on his forehead.
I received a photograph of Hobbs’ partial denture in 2009. Having been a student of Dr. Mincer at the University of Tennessee Dental School in Memphis, I trusted his opinion that the forehead wound was NOT a human bite mark.
It wasn’t until September of 2013 that I realized that none of the new defense experts had ever compared Hobbs’ partial denture to the suspected human bite mark on the forehead of Stevie Branch. These experts had apparently focused only on debunking the State’s theory that the wound was caused by the butt-end of the proposed murder weapon, the Lake Knife.
Again, the defense team’s new forensic experts HAD NOT compared the bite pattern (partial denture) of the man who had by then become their MAIN SUSPECT to a wound that was the focus of the 1998 Rule 37 Hearing—the suspected bite mark on the forehead of Stevie Branch, the stepson of Terry Hobbs.
I proceeded to compare the photograph of Hobbs’ partial denture to the forehead wound. The partial denture was found in the lock-box with a red Marlboro cigarette box and they were photographed together. I purchased the same type Marlboro box to attain the correct scale and used the computer program Gimp 2.9 to create overlays. The photograph below (Photo #4) depicts the results:
After I made the bite mark comparisons, I sent them to several dental experts. Of the many responses I received, NONE opposed the conclusion that the wound on Stevie Branch’s forehead IS a human bite mark.
Someone asked me today if any theme connected all my books. “Prosecutors and politics,” I blurted. Then: “And maybe a subtext of drugs.”
My first book, The Boys on the Tracks, is about a corrupt prosecutor who manipulated his position to derail the investigation of two teenagers whose bodies were found run over by a train. The mother of one of the murdered boys trusted him, as did everyone–but he betrayed them all.
Of course, Devil’s Knot examines one of the sleaziest prosecutions in American history, though no official in Arkansas has yet been willing to admit that. I hoped that by writing the book, readers would see how slyly the prosecutors (pictured) and the judge worked together to get juries to send each of the West Memphis Three to death.
Dark Spell focuses on Jason, partly because I simply find his story heroic. But there would have been no story if not for a couple of kill-’em prosecutors (shown) and a likeminded judge. Unlike Jessie, Jason had never confessed, and unlike Damien, he’d never speculated about the murders with the police, or even “dabbled in the occult.” When he was arrested, he was a pretty ordinary kid at the end of his junior year in high school, who had a job lined up at a grocery story that he was to start on the following Monday.
Then, after the convictions, prosecutors fought even the DNA tests that state law allowed and all three of the convicted men requested. The state resisted those tests even though supporters were willing to pay for them! That’s part of the reason the men’s “dark spell” in prison lasted so long.
I’ll end this post with three quotes that I placed at the front of Dark Spell:
A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice, that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence, and that special precautions are taken to prevent and to rectify the conviction of innocent persons.
~ American Bar Association
A prosecuting attorney “may prosecute with earnestness and vigor–indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.
~ Berger v. United States
A lawyer should avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
~ Arkansas Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct
What’s remarkable about the West Memphis case is how people around the world have noticed “the appearance of impropriety” while the state supreme court has seen none.
On March 3, 1994, John Fogleman, then a deputy prosecuting attorney, was preparing to call Damien’s probation officer, Jerry Driver, to the stand to question him about Damien’s alleged involvement in “the occult.” Damien’s and Jason’s defense attorneys were fighting hard to block that testimony. As I write in Dark Spell, the official transcript of that discussion reflects only that Burnett said he would allow Fogleman to question Driver about having seen “Damien, Jason and Jessie walking in Lakeshore wearing black coats and carrying staffs.” But we now know, thanks to a recording of the exchange that was picked up by HBO’s microphones, that that was not all the judge said.
HBO’s audio file of the trial was released to an archive of the West Memphis case a few years ago. An astute listener later caught a comment that the court reporter did not record. On the audio, Burnett can be heard chortling, apparently to the prosecutors, “If y’all want to spice it up a little bit and start talking about the devil, I’ll listen.”
That was the turning point, an opening that, as the case developed, would prove critical for the state. When Damien and Jason appealed their convictions to the Arkansas Supreme Court, the court cited the “testimony of Dr. Dale Griffis,” whom they described as “an expert on ritual killings,” and unanimously found that there was sufficient evidence “by which a jury could find that the crimes were a ritual killing.”
Though the Ph.D. Griffis claimed was discredited even at trial for having come from a mail-order college, Burnett allowed him to testify as an “expert.” And so the die was cast. I had not known of HBO’s recording of Burnett’s “spice it up” comment until this year. But I’m glad it’s in Dark Spell, because I find it the most revealing piece of this entire tawdry case. Listen here.
A caring friend asked me to post the following information. I completely agree. The repurcussions of the injustice in the WM case have hurt, not only the murder victims’ families, but the families of the wrongfully convicted men as well.
Here’s the note:
Damien’s mother, Pamela, is not doing well at all. Michelle was in the ER with her last night because she was not able to breathe. Michelle has moved in with her, with her own children, to help take care of her mom. Pamela has a host of physical problems and most of her NUMEROUS medicines are not covered by medicaid, and oxygen is not covered at all. She is now requiring a wheel chair also.
I, personally, feel this family has been put through enough. No one should have to endure all of this hardship in one lifetime.
A paypal account has been set up in Pamela’s name. It is: Pamelametcalf47@yahoo.com.
No matter how big or small, every donation would be received with eternal gratitude. This I can assure you.
After 25 years, a Colorado grand jury decided on Tuesday that Timothy Masters is no longer a suspect in the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick.
Masters was 15 years old when police in Fort Collins, Colorado brought him in for questioning about the murder of Hettrick, whose sexually mutilated body was found in a field near his house. Masters, a sophomore in high school, was taken from his classroom for questioning after his father told police he had seen the boy walking near the field.
Police found no trace of Hettrick’s blood or hair on anything connected to Masters. But they quickly identified him as their prime suspect after finding knives, drawings of knives and gruesome doodles in Masters’ room. The teenager, however, consistently maintained that he was innocent, even under intense police questioning, as shown in the video here.
On the other hand, there was evidence that pointed away from Masters. Two hairs found on her body were not his, nor were fingerprints found on her purse.
[private]Masters lived under a cloud of suspicion for more than a decade, part of which he spent working as an aircraft mechanic in the Navy. But police were still working the case. They contacted Dr. J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist from California and asked him to analyze Masters’ writings and artwork. Meloy never interviewed Masters, yet he told police that some of the drawings represented Masters reliving the crime.
With that information, police charged Masters with Hettrick’s murder. Meloy was the main witness against him at his trial in 1999. The prosecutors’ case was circumstantial, based largely on inferences about Masters’ state of mind.
Jurors convicted Masters and sentenced him to life in prison. Some later said that they were convinced by Meloy’s testimony, coupled with Masters’ drawings and writings.
Masters appealed, but in 2001 the Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed his conviction. The next year, the Colorado Supreme Court denied him a new hearing.
In 2004, Masters was appointed a new team of state-appointed attorneys. Their investigation revealed that critical evidence, including the hairs found on Hettrick and photographs of the fingerprints from her purse had been “lost.” They presented this evidence in court in 2007. (Colorado had no law requiring that evidence be preserved and authorities who destroy evidence after criminal trials were shielded from liability.)
Doubts about Masters’ guilt grew—among members of the public, journalists and even some police officers. Former Fort Collins police investigator Linda Wheeler-Holloway, who was among the first to suspect Masters, told his defense attorneys that, after years of studying the case, she had concluded she had been wrong.
But Lt. Jim Broderick, the investigator credited with cracking the case, said he stood by his investigation. And the city’s chief of police supported Broderick.
Meanwhile, Masters’ attorneys sought new scientific tests of DNA evidence found on Hettrick’s clothing. Tests by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation produced partial profiles that did not match Masters. Further testing at a laboratory in the Netherlands provided a statistical match with another man who had once been considered a suspect.
In light of the new evidence, defense attorney sought a new trial. They argued that no physical evidence linked Masters to Hettrick’s murder and that prosecutors at Masters’ trial had withheld at least four items of evidence favorable to him.
(In separate actions, a Colorado criminal defense attorney filed a civil suit in federal district court against the prosecutors at Masters’ trial, as well as detective Broderick, claiming that they had violated Masters’ civil rights. A Larimer County grand jury indicted Broderick on eight counts of perjury for false statements he made relating to Masters’ arrest and conviction. Those charges were dismissed, however, when a judge ruled that Colorado’s three-year statute of limitations for perjury had expired.
(In addition, the Colorado Supreme Court considered allegations that the two prosecutors at Masters’ trial—Terry Gilmore and Jolene Blair—had failed to provide his attorneys with important police information that supported his claim of innocence. The supreme court censured the two, who by then had become judges, and in elections last November, they were voted out of office.)
Meanwhile, a retired judge, Joseph Weatherby, was appointed to hear all the new evidence in Masters’ case. The Colorado District Attorneys Council appointed Don Quick, a prosecutor from another Colorado County, to represent the state.
At a hearing in 2008, Masters’ attorneys presented evidence that detectives and prosecutors had targeted the teenager and had destroyed or withheld evidence that would have cleared him. Those claims were supported by the attorneys who represented Masters in 1999, as well as by former police officers, investigators and forensic experts, some of whom said police ignored other viable suspects.
On January 18, 2008, Weatherby vacated Masters’ conviction. He ordered that Masters, who was by then 36, be immediately released from prison.
Quick, the prosecutor, announced that Masters, while not exonerated, should be freed while awaiting the new trial. “We’re going to go upstairs and see if there’s anything that can be done this weekend” to get Masters out of prison, Quick said. “If not, it’ll be done Tuesday morning.” Masters was freed on his own recognizance; no bond was required.
Although it did not show conclusively that Masters was not the killer, Masters became the first Colorado convict to be freed on DNA evidence. What the DNA testing did reveal was a further lack of evidence linking him to the crime, as well as evidence that pointed to another suspect.
Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson responded by promising to review all “contested convictions” in which advances in DNA testing may prove useful. Due to the allegations of official misconduct, he also said he would review the discovery process to assure “that all information is available to our office and the defense.”
In the end, state officials could not refute Masters’ claims of police and prosecutorial misconduct. In 2010, he received a settlement from the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County for $10 million. Video on that settlement.
This week, a grand jury finally cleared Masters of even suspicion in the case. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers issued a statement that read: “Given the nature and extent of the Grand Jury investigation, the time has come for law enforcement to officially exonerate Timothy Masters.”
The mayor of Fort Collins apologized to Masters, and so did Larimer District Attorney Abrahamson. In a press release Abrahamson said:
“Rule 3.6 and 3.8 of The Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct precludes prosecutors from publicly commenting on the guilt or innocence of any individual who may be subject to an ongoing investigation. However, in light of the current [grand jury] statement, I believe it is appropriate as the current District Attorney and on behalf of the criminal justice system in Larimer County to express our apologies to Timothy Masters, his family and friends for the conviction and sentence he endured 12 years ago.”
Hettrick’s murder remains unsolved.[/private]