Evidence Seized from Jason Baldwin residence. (Highlighting by me)
Black shirts are listed as part of evidence numbers J2, J9 and J12.
Men In Black
Among supporters of the innocence of those convicted, black shirts became an emblem of the trials - as absurd as it might seem, the defendants were found guilty for wearing black in a small town. While this is an exaggeration, black shirts did play a role in the prosecution's case.
Although Misskelley did not describe Jason Baldwin's shirt as black, the police seized 15 black t-shirts from Baldwin's residence - and one white t-shirt.
Ridge: Now what clothes were Jason wearing that day? That night?
Misskelley: He was wearing some blue jeans and boots, like army boots like,
Ridge: Army boots? And what kind of a shirt, you know everybody wears a special shirt for different things.
Misskelley: He was wearing a, a Megadeth shirt.
Ridge: A Megadeth.
Misskelley: Or maybe it was a Metallica. [Misskelley confession, June 3, 1993]
The black t-shirts were presented as evidence of Jason's interest in the occult. Immediately before cult expert Dr. Dale Griffis' testified, Bryn Ridge once again took the stand. In this appearance he only spoke to one subject - the color of shirts seized from Baldwin's home.
Fogleman: And where did you recover that item?
Ridge: From the residence of Jason Baldwin.
Fogleman: What is it?
Ridge: It's eleven T-shirts.
[snip - as the shirts are entered into evidence as State's Exhibit 118]
Fogleman: What color are these shirts by the way?
Ridge: Black, with different designs and colors.
The Court: Alright, it may be received without objection.
Fogleman: Now, I want to show you state's exhibit 119 and ask if you can identify that?
Ridge: Yes sir, I can.
Fogleman: Alright, and what is that item?
Ridge: Four black -
Fogleman: Where was it recovered?
Ridge: It was recovered from Jason Baldwin's residence. Four black shirts, one green rain jacket.
[snip - as the shirts are entered into evidence as State's Exhibit 119]
Fogleman: 119. And what color were these shirts again?
Fogleman: No further questions, Your Honor. [Detective Bryn Ridge testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]
Dr. Griffis explained the significance of these exhibits. "The State has introduced 15 black tee shirts that they seized at the home of Baldwin. If any person wears a black tee shirt, that is a factor that I would consider in determining if this case has trappings of occultism." [Dale Griffis testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]
Ridge went on to testify that he did not see or else find t-shirts of any other colors.
Ford: How many white T-shirts did you take?
Ford: How many were there?
Ridge: I didn't see any.
Ford: You didn't see any white T-shirts?
Ridge: No sir.
Ford: See any grey T-shirts?
Ridge: Not that I can recall, no sir.
Ford: The only - are you saying the only T-shirts he had were black T-shirts?
Ridge: That's the shirts that I found, yes sir.
Ford: And you didn't see a single white T-shirt?
Ridge: Not that I can recall. [Detective Bryn Ridge testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]
This is incorrect for several reasons. First, one white t-shirt was taken into evidence (J2 above). Second, in the photographs of the evidence the one black t-shirt taken from J-9 was taken from a drawer full of white items, some appearing to be white t-shirts. Third, Ridge did not find any of these items. According to the above photo log LDS (Lisa D. Sakevicius) a criminalist at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory (ASCL) and KBC (Kermit B. Channel), forensic serologist of ASCL were the officials who discovered the black t-shirts. These two are also listed as the individuals who seized the evidence. Anthony Bryn Ridge's initials (ABR) are not listed as the discovering officer for any item, maybe explaining why he didn't see shirts of other colors.
Were the black t-shirts even black? In the photos below, some appear navy blue. This may be a matter of photos, or else the copy of photos changing the colors of the items. However, within the photos the colors appear to contrast with actual black shirts. Perhaps some shirts were severely faded.
Evidence items J-2 described (above) as ten black shirts, one white shirt. Two closets at the residence of Jason Baldwin.
(L) Evidence item J-9, described as "black shirt" (other items from the drawer not taken). (R) Evidence items J-12, described as four black shirts and green rain-jacket. Each of the four photos presented above is initialed by Detective Bryn Ridge.
Were the shirts even Jason's? The upper two photos (5178, 5179), representing where ten of the black shirts came from, have what appears to be two different closets with two types of hangers. The police sketch of the trailer shows Jason's room with only one closet. Jason's brother, Matthew, was only one year younger than him.
Battle of the Bands
According to their descriptions, all 15 of Baldwin's black t-shirts had designs. These were:
[Derived from Arkansas Crime Laboratory Report, pp. 7-8, Lisa Sakevicius, June 29, 1993. The white t-shirt was not among her list of evidence items.]
Two further shirts were taken from Baldwin's person at the time of his arrest. Another black Metallica t-shirt and a black Chicago Bulls t-shirt. He was also wearing a Chicago Bulls cap - the previous night the Michael Jordan's Bulls had won game five against Patrick Ewing's Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In contrast, Echols had no heavy metal t-shirts confiscated. Sixteen shirts were seized: eight black, two blue, two purple, three red; and one red and white. The only designs mentioned were Harley Davidson and the Texas Rangers. At trial he said he "used to" have a lot of Metallica and heavy metal shirts. Echols was wearing a red shirt at the time of arrest.
Echols attorney: Another fact that's been brought up several times today - or I think the entire trial - has been that you like to wear black. Did you have a preference of what type of color clothing you liked to wear?
Attorney: And why was this?
Echols: I was told that I look good in black. [Damien Echols testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]
Misskelley had eleven shirts seized, five noted as black. The designs on his various shirts were described as Reba, Harley Davidson, Dallas Cowboys, Poison, pin-striped, plaid, and "grey red and ball." Misskelley's clothes at the time of arrest are not listed among items entered into evidence.
Jason Baldwin in a black Metallica t-shirt and Chicago Bulls cap at the time of his arrest.
Copyright © 2011 Martin David Hill