Billy Sanders, recently arrested
The page describing the entangled saga of the Lake Knife has been updated to include recent information as to its relevancy. Beginning with the grapefruit demonstration.
In his closing arguments, Fogleman used a grapefruit to perform a dramatic demonstration of the pattern of wounds made by the Lake Knife.
Fogleman: . . . a knife like this [the Lake Knife]--not like that other knife, but a knife like this, with this serration pattern caused the injuries--some of the injuries to Chris Byers.
The defense objected.
Ford: ... that grapefruit is not in evidence. This demonstration is not in evidence. It's not scientific, it's not reliable. [snip] That's improper Your Honor, that's a demonstration and experiment.
Burnett: Well I'm gonna allow it.
This demonstration became part of the appeals. "We had a representative of the State hold up a grapefruit as an analog to human flesh. Our filing in federal court says that the analog of a grapefruit to human flesh being cut is like comparing cutting chalk to cutting cheese. It's a fraud. It can't be done. [snip] It's a classic instance of prosecutorial misconduct, in attempting to inform a jury of facts that are unbased in the evidence. It is a federal Sixth Amendment right violation, it is a critical claim in front of the federal court right now." [Dennis Riordan, Damien Echols Legal Defense Team Press Conference - November 1, 2007] Forensic odontologist Dr. Richard Souviron was equally vehement. "That is the most ridiculous statement that I've ever heard anybody make. And to sell that to a jury is unconscionable, in my opinion." [Dr. Souviron, ibid]
A recent twist in the saga of the lake knife has appeared in the recent court filings. In the 2008 Writ of Coram Error Nobim by the attorneys for Jason Baldwin, they state "... post-conviction investigation has revealed that at least two witnesses [Domini Teer and Garrett Schwarting] told the police that they were aware that a large knife was thrown into the lake before the murders. Also, one of the law enforcement dive team has indicated the officers were given precise directions on where to find the knife." In this writ, the attorneys for the defendant argue that witholding this evidence comprised prosecutorial misconduct.
Was there ever a knife?
As part of their re-examination of evidence in the appeal of this case, the defense team of Echols and Baldwin have brought together a formidable collection of medical forensic experts with decades of experience, authors of the standard textbooks in the field of forensic pathology. This group included forensic pathologist Drs. Werner Spitz, Michael Baden, Vincent Di Maio, Richard Souviron, Terry Haddix and Robert Wood. "The consensus reached by all of those experts was again, that most of the injuries to the skin of the victims, including the severe genital injury to Christopher Byers, were not caused by the use of a knife but by animal predation that occurred after death." [November 1, 2007 Legal Defense Team Press Conference.] Dr. Spitz was more emphatic. "None of the injuries were caused during life, and none were caused by a serrated knife, or any knife for that matter. These are not sharp injuries that have characteristics, and those characteristics are not identifiable or synonymous with a knife or any other sharp force type injury. . . I couldn't understand what this issue was all about because it was so obvious that these are animal product." [Dr. Werner Spitz, ibid]
Recent developments regarding the jailhouse snitch, Michael Carson.
The page called "The Case for Innocence, Jason Baldwin" has been amended to include the recently acquired information regarding Michael Carson. Michael Carson, a jailhouse snitch, said Jason Baldwin confessed to him. It was the most powerful evidence against Jason Baldwin, virtually the only evidence. In his closing argument, the prosecutor only named two items as evidence against Jason, a single fiber and Michael Carson. "In regard to Jason, the red fiber, and what Michael Carson said." [Brent Davis, Echols/Baldwin trial]
In Baldwin's recent appeal, it is noted the defense investigators tracked down and "interviewed all available staff or detainees who were in the facility with Baldwin and Carson (a total of approximately 10 persons), none could corroborate Carson's story. . . .[The former unit supervisor, Joyce Cureton] has reported that she was actually told by law enforcement personnel to leave town at or near the time that she might have been called as a witness for the defense." [Writ of Error Coram Nobis, Charles Jason Baldwin, filed May 29, 2008] Furthermore, when Cureton was asked to speak on the behalf of Baldwin during sentencing, she "was told by the sheriff that she should not be in court." [Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Motion for New Trial, Jason Baldwin, May 30, 2008, p. 68]
Ms. Cureton went into more detail, stating "that when Baldwin was delivered to her facility, the sheriff 'told her that Petitioner should never be let out of his room.' While Cureton did not obey that directive during [Baldwin's] pre-trial incarceration, [Baldwin] was carefully watched when he was outside of his room. . ." [snip] "There were regularly kept records that among other things, allowed staff members to document observations of juveniles." [snip] There was only one log entry of Baldwin and Carson being together and this was under staff observation." [ibid, p.67-68]. One of the correctional officers, Sue Weaver, says she would have noted if a "new person" interacted with Baldwin. [ibid, p.70]
The logs for Carson's time in jail have been scrutinized. He arrived on September 1, 1993. There is a note that he had a card game with Jason Baldwin in the evening of September 4. The game was observed by staffmember Ann Tate. [ibid, p.73-74] The other members of the card game were identified as Jason Baldwin, Jason Duncan and Daniel Biddle. These players were interviewed. Although Carson said they played spades, Biddle stated he never played spades while incarcerated. [ibid, p.77]
Carson continued to have problems with the law and continued to ply his services as a jailhouse snitch. "Carson moved out of Arkansas, and lived in California where he continued his involvement in criminal behavior according to his record in California. He also allegedly continued to work for local law enforcement agencies as an informant, and reportedly continued fabricating information until he was discarded as an informant after continuing to be arrested." [ibid, p. 84]
The recent revelations that the injuries to the penis were the result of animal predation also call into question Carson's claims.
Steve Jones's recent comments
Steve Jones, Jason Baldwin's probation officer and the discoverer of the bodies, has recently expressed his doubts about Baldwin's involvement in Satanism or the crimes. The following quote was added to Baldwin's case for innocence page. The trial proceeded with little evidence directed towards Baldwin. Although Damien Echols had artifacts of cult material and books, Baldwin had none of these. Baldwin's probation officer, Steve Jones, has recently spoken on record that he "cannot, in retrospect, accurately attribute to Petitioner Baldwin any professed interest in or assocation with the occult or satanism. [Jones] now acknowledges that he does not believe that Baldwin was involved in the homicides." [p. 167, Jessie Misskelley, Habeas Petition.]
Recent information regarding Officer Billy Sanders.
Sanders was one of the police attendees of the discovery scene. As had been noted earlier, he spent a curious morning, visiting the area where the bikes were discovered, where the children had gone missing and the business next door to where the bodies were discovered - all before the discoveries were known. He has recently been arrested for crimes against minors. The following has been added to the Day of Discovery page.
On September 11, 2008 Billy Sanders resigned from the West Memphis police department due to pending charges of "sexual indecency with a child, furnishing alcohol to minors, and terroristic threatening." [WMC-TV, Memphis, October 30, 2008]. He is alleged to have used his police-issued cell phone to send messages to a 14-year old girl demanding money and sex. "Sanders is also accused of writing very graphic sexual things he wanted the girl to do." [ibid] Sanders has been charged with threatening to kill the 14-year old's boyfriend. [Memphis Commercial Appeal, October 30, 2008]
Copyright © 2008 Martin David Hill