Witness Claiming Reports Are False
Michael Carson stands by testimony
Stan Mitchell, Jonesboro Sun
A witness in the West Memphis triple murder trial says recent reports that he committed perjury when he testified in 1994 that Charles Jason Baldwin confessed to killing three eight-year-old boys while the two were jailed are false.
Michael Carson, a then 16-year-old who testified that Baldwin described in detail how he sexually mutilated one of the three children killed in the May 1993 massacre, told The Sun he stands by his testimony.
"Yes," Carson responded when asked if Baldwin had, in fact, confessed to him about killing the three boys, Michael Moore, Steven Branch and Christopher Byers. "What I testified to is what he [Baldwin] told me. I haven't changed anything. I told them exactly what he said.”
Baldwin was sentenced to life without parole for his part in the murders, while codefendant Damien Echols received the death penalty. A third defendant, Jessie Lloyd Misskelley, was tried separately and was sentenced to life plus 40 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
During oral arguments at an appeal hearing for Baldwin and Echols held several days ago, Angela Grinnell, Baldwin's mother, produced a letter from a Kentucky musician who claims Carson told him he lied when he testified that Baldwin had confessed to taking part in the killings.
Dated Oct.28, the hand printed letter addressed to Baldwin at Arkansas's Varner Prison unit was on stationery that read: "Johnny (Running Bear) Preston," who is "A Distinctively Unique Harmonica Stylist" and also writes songs. Preston related that he was in Jonesboro in March or April 1994, and while passing The Forum in the downtown area, picked up "a kid who later told me his name was Michael Carson."
Carson said he has never met Preston nor has he ever had a conversation with the man. According to Preston’s letter, Carson began asking questions about the penalty for perjury. When pressed for information about why Carson was concerned about perjury, Preston said the teenager "told me about being in jail with (Baldwin) and he had what he called a bad conscience because he had lied on a boy in court about some kids being killed around Memphis."
The bodies of the three boys were found with their hands and feet bound with shoelaces in a water filled ditch near their West Memphis homes.
After saying he recalled something about the murders, Preston said Carson "started crying and said Jason didn’t tell me nothing, and that the only reason he lied was to get in good with the cops who wanted to nail him on a few things."
Asked about the letter, Carson stressed: "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."
The letter further states that Carson charged that Prosecutor Brent Davis of Jonesboro knew his testimony was false, "but told him he couldn't be helped if he didn't help out with the state‘s case."
Carson said that portion of the letter is also untrue because he was not in trouble with the law at the time he testified, and did not need to work out a deal with the state. “I had nothing to gain by testifying,” Carson said. ”I had already gone to court (for burglary) and had already been given probation. I didn’t testify to cut a deal with anyone. That’s not true.”
Davis said Carson was given a polygraph before the trial and the teen passed the test, ’with flying colors.‘
While being held at the juvenile detention center at the Craighead County Jail in Jonesboro, Carson said he approached Baldwin and questioned him about the murders. ”I had already asked (Baldwin) once if he did it and he said, ”No,‘’ Carson said, ”Then, a couple of days later, I asked him, just between you and me, ‘Did you do it?,’ Carson said, adding,” and he said, ’Yes.’”
It was then, Carson said, that Baldwin related how he had used a knife to cut the Byers child in the pubic area and performed a sexual act on the younger boy. ”That’s when I put my hands on the table, pushed my chair back and walked away from him,” Carson said. Carson‘s testimony about Baldwin's jail house confession and a red fiber found at the crime scene were the evidence on which Baldwin was convicted.
Val Price, an attorney for Echols told The Sun he anticipates justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court will rule on Baldwin‘s and Echols' appeal by the end of the year.