Jason Baldwin’s confession to Michael Carson — Summer 1993

In January 1994, sixteen-year-old Michael Carson contacted the Arkansas State Police with information. Carson and Jason Baldwin had both been held at the Craighead County Detention Center in summer 1993, and Carson claimed that Baldwin confessed to him sometime in late July or early August.

On January 20, 1994, state police interviewed and polygraphed Carson. On February 1, police interviewed Carson again, this time tape-recorded. And on March 2, Carson testified at Baldwin and Echols’ trial.

From the summary of Carson’s January 20 statement:

We were playing cards. JASON LNU [last name unknown], myself, BEDDLE, and BALDWIN. The other JASON was my partner, and BEDDLE and BALDWIN were partners. We were playing spades. Mainly I was learning how to play spades. I came straight out and ask BALDWIN if he did it and he said, “no”.

The next day, they had just called us to go into our cells for lunch.

I said, just between me and you,did you do it? BALDWIN’s answer was, “yes, I did it”.

We had about two minutes to talk. BALDWIN told me that, “we sucked blood from a penis”. He never used the word scrotum. He told me, “we played with the balls after they were out of skin.” BALDWIN told me he put the balls in his mouth. BALDWIN told me that DAMIEN did this along with him.

BALDWIN said, when we get all of this over with he is going to kick MISSKELLY’s ass.

BALDWIN told me he put the balls in his mouth and sucked the blood out of the penis.

Actually it wasn’t until two or three days later that BALDWIN told me the gory details about the balls and the penis. BALDWIN told me, I’m going to walk straight out of here. They don’t have the evidence on me. My parents are going to throw a party for me. BALDWIN sounded like they only cut one dick off.

Jailhouse snitch testimony is notoriously untrustworthy. Inmates have a huge incentive to make up stories and negotiate favors for their testimony, and too many prosecutors are willing to use questionable testimony to gain convictions.

However, there are good reasons to consider Michael Carson believable. By the time he came forward, Carson had been released and faced no charges. He had nothing to gain for his testimony. For what it’s worth, he passed a polygraph.

Danny Williams, an adolescent recovery counselor, provided court-ordered treatment for Carson later in 1993. When he heard about Carson’s statements to police, Williams contacted prosecutors and defense lawyers. Williams claimed that he and Carson had discussed the child murders case, and that he believed Carson was lying about Baldwin’s jailhouse confession. Defense lawyers for Baldwin considered calling Danny Williams as a witness to impeach Carson’s testimony, but ultimately decided against it.

In January 1995, Danny Williams wrote a letter to Jason Baldwin in prison, apologizing profusely for his supposed role in the Michael Carson testimony. Williams added, “I am single and have no children so my financial responsibilities are small. I would never try to buy your good graces but please let me know if I can send you anything. It would truly mean a great deal to me if I knew I could do something for you.” Some find this letter moving, others find it a bit creepy.

In October 1996, Jason Baldwin received a letter from Johnny Preston, a musician then incarcerated in Kentucky, who claimed he had a homosexual tryst with Michael Carson in March or April 1994. According to the letter, Carson was distraught over committing perjury at Baldwin’s trial. It’s a very bizarre letter. The Kentucky prisoner/musician Johnny Preston apparently does exist, but it’s not clear if he really wrote this letter. Baldwin’s mother presented the letter at an appeals hearing. Some online sleuths suspect the letter was a forgery.

Michael Carson reaffirmed his story in December 1996 and denied ever having met Johnny Preston. “That’s just something somebody has made up. They’re just trying to make me look bad so [Baldwin] can get off. I don’t go around crying about things in front of total strangers.”