West Memphis Three Trials:
The Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin Trial (February 28 - March 18, 1994)
Closing Argument of Paul Ford
March 17, 1994
Ford: May it please the Court, madam court reporter, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Like Mr. Fogleman I thank you for your time and for your attention. I know that hasnít been an easy task to be here for the last three weeks -- or four weeks if you count the jury selection -- to listen to evidence over a period over three weeks, and to assimilate all of that evidence at this point in time is a very heavy burden.
What weíre here today to consider is a very serious consideration. The fate of a sixteen-year-old boy. The fate of Jason Baldwin. And thatís why weíre here. Letís start to overview with the testimony of the parties who came in here and testified.
Regenia Meek. This is the officer who took the call that the boys were missing around eight oíclock. We know the boys were missing around six and the police were first notified around eight. And they notified Reginia Meek. Isnít is odd that the prosecutor wants you to believe that it happened in the only period of time prior to them getting involved, so that they donít have any guilt for not conducting a proper search, for not conducting a proper investigation. It happened before we got involved. Regenia Meek was so thorough that she left searching for three eight-year-old boys to go to Bojangles, drive-in window. Now thatís how I would be if I was a policeman reporting crime. Iíd go to the drive-in window when I have a report of a muddy, bloody person in the restroom -- the womenís restroom -- disoriented, when Iím looking for three kids that are missing, Iím not gonna go in, Iíll just gonna go to the drive-in window because the light bulb never went off.
Because itís in another part of the city. Itís in another district. Itís another precinct. It couldnít be related. So what if itís less than a mile away, itís in another precinct. So itís not important. So she leaves there and she goes back to the neighborhood thatís moving and grouping. People are looking, people are walking. Everybodyís looking. And what does she do? She goes down to the very location that Mr. Fogleman calls this bridge and he says, Iíll go down to that pipe, and when she gets down there she is choking on mosquitoes. Nobody'd be in there. Nobody would be in there because the mosquitoes are too bad.
Next we have Mike Allen. Mike Allen wants you to believe that he and Lieutenant Hester are walking through these woods looking for three eight-year-old boys carrying a photograph -- carrying a camera -- and taking photographs because it might be funny if I fall in the water. I wouldnít think there would be a sense of humor left if youíre looking in the woods for three eight-year-old boys. But yet they have the time to make pictures out of -- make pictures that are funny. And theyíre perfect. She must be an outstanding photographer to take that and not only get him as heís leaning across but get him as soon as he falls in the water. She is a good photographer. I submit to you those photographs were staged. Why would you take pictures before you found anything? Why would you take pictures for a joke?
What else did Mike Allen tell us? ďAre you telling this jury this is the murder weapon? No.Ē These prosecutors want you to believe that. But their witnesses donít. Their witnesses wonít tell you that. ĎCause thatís evidence. And what these prosecutors tell you is not evidence. The witnesses tell you evidence, and their witnesses say itís not the murder weapon.
Detective Bryn Ridge. Why did we make a big deal out of those paper bags? The reason that weíre making a big deal out of those paper bags is because the second instruction -- or the third instruction that the judge read to you was that you can use your common sense. And you can use your common sense as to whether you take one of those paper bags, and you grab a pair of blue jeans out of the muddy, drippy water and you drop those blue jeans down in that paper bag and leave it there overnight and pick it up the next morning and that bottom's gonna fall out. There's gonna be dirt inside of it. There's gonna be water stains inside of it. And really, it was a worthless issue, it's not a point that really matters until they won't tell you the truth. Theyíll stick to their story. Theyíll stick to their story no matter how preposterous it is to believe it. Everybody has dealt with paper sacks that get wet, and the bottom falls out of them. You go to the grocery store and you buy hamburger meat and they put it in that paper bag and it drips out and before you get home it falls out. But these super bags, they don't take on water stains, they don't take on mud stains, and the bottom doesn't fall out of them. If they'll tell you something that silly on such a minor point, you begin to question their credibility, and thatís your job. Itís your job to determine the credibility of the witnesses. This same officer whose paper bags are indestructible is the same officer who loses evidence. ďDid you go to Bojangles and take blood scrapings?" "Yes, I did.Ē "Was there testimony that had -- did you -- did the man look like I did -- bloody -- I mean, muddy -- like this?" "Yeah." They lose it.
What else did he tell you? We talked about the grid search that he conducted. They grid search these woods. They grid search this field. They grid search this area. But where you can drive a vehicle on the asphalt within fifty yards of the scene. Do they do a grid search right there? No. I asked him on this matter, where did you search and did he say one thing about grid searching right here where you can pull your vehicle, you can see vehicles on there. Talked about he didnít
see any vehicle tracks in that field. We donít know if they got any vehicle tracks back over there Ďcause they never even looked. The most obvious place that a body can be brought in from, they donít look.
Then, Officer Ridge hits the jackpot. ďI'll go back in July and find the murder weapon!'ĒTake this stick. It's evidence. Take this stick, it just crumbles. The bark just crumbles. Was there any of this -- was there any of this on any of the injuries? Dr. Peretti said no. It just crumbles. Is there any blood on it, any hair on it, anything on it? Yet they want you to believe thatís it. Thatís what they want you to believe. The witnesses wonít tell you that, but these prosecutors want you to believe thatís it. Why else would it be here? Two months after the crime when this murder weapon appears.
Lastly what did Bryn Ridge tell you? First of all, the State stipulates that Jason Baldwin was in school. Stipulates mean, we agree. They agree -- they know that he was in school May the fifth. Is there any evidence at all after that as to where Jason was? At all? Itís like, where is Waldo, and youíre looking through those things trying to find Waldo and those little pictures and you canít find him. Where is Jason? Nobody told you anything about where Jason was, except that heís at school and heís at home. Do you have any evidence to dispute that Jason Baldwin was at home with his family after ten oíclock? No. In between school and ten oíclock, they donít place Jason anywhere. They donít know where he was. Donít you think they would have told you had they known where he was? Thatís their job, thatís their burden. Would they have told you? Absolutely. But they didnít do it.
Dr. Peretti. Prosecutor asked Dr. Peretti, ďWould you expect to find mosquito bites on those boys before they died?" "Yes, I would." "Did you find any?" "No, I didnít.Ē We know that they are tied up, they are naked, and theyíre uninjured. And how can we conclude that? Well number one, if theyíre tying them up hand and foot the way they did, they canít take their clothes off. Canít get their clothes off tied up that way. So you know they have to be naked before they get tied up.
And are they injured at the time theyíre tied up. Makes no sense there either. Because there's no blood on them. Thereís not a drop of blood on those clothes. So these boys are tied up, naked, and uninjured. And so all of this stuff that happens to them, happens when they're naked. And there's not a mosquito bite, not a one. And they were down there in that mosquito infested woods, in that ditch, without a mosquito bite? That doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
What else did Dr. Peretti tell you? The prosecutor elicits all this testimony about oral sex and all this testimony about anal sex, about the injuries to their ears and the fact that their anus is dilated. But Dr. Peretti actually tells you, thereís no evidence of anal sex, because there would be trauma to the skin tissue, and he took a microscopic slide and thereís not a single bit of hemorrhage. Didnít happen. He said he would expect to find injuries on the inside of the mouth to match the injuries on the outside if there was forced oral sex. Thereís none. No trauma inside their mouth. So how do we explain these ears and how do we explain these bruises on the mouth? A gag he says could cause injuries to the outside of their mouth. A hand pressed firmly over their mouth could cause those injuries. Hitting them could cause those injuries. But he would not say that there was oral sex, because the absence of scientific and medical data that shows that.
Then we talk about the mutilation that's skilled. Now thatís not a pleasant thought and I told you from the beginning this is not a pleasant situation, this is not a pleasant crime -- a horrible crime occurred, but the question is not if a crime occurred, the question is who did it. And Dr. Peretti described to you what it would take to do that in his lab. And then when you start adding all the other factors in that the prosecution wants to add in, in the dark, in the water, in the mosquitoes. Dr. Peretti said, I donít even want to have to do that. And they want you to think a sixteen-year-old boy did it? When their own medical examiner, whoís skilled as a physician, wouldnít wanna do it.
Dr. Peretti also told you that there were three possibilities as to where this could occur. It could occur in the water, it could occur on the bank, or it could have occurred somewhere else. He said you couldnít do this in the water. And he said he couldnít think it would be possible to clean up that much blood. One of those boys bled to death. And they cleaned that up by throwing water on it? Or moving it around with their hands? Or they slicked it all off and all that debris is in the water? Well, why didnít they grab that debris? That was what they thought. Here it happened right here -- and they slicked all that debris down in that water. And thereís the debris. That debris is gonna have blood on it. So letís get it, for evidence. They came up with that theory months and months later. Because if it was so important, why wouldnít there be a clear photograph of it? A photograph that has the quality of Mike Allenís photographs falling in the water. Why wouldnít they have you a clear photograph -- they wanna hold you that photograph up thatís so dark you can hardly see. Cause they see, thereís a slicked off area, they would have gotten you a good photograph. And they would have gotten that debris.
Dr. Peretti told you that almost any knife could cause those injuries, Ďcause you determine upon the angle of the person whoís using the knife -- whoís moving, whoís twisting, how much pressure is applied, how much the skin twists, how much the skin gives. Almost any knife with a serrated pattern could cause that. ďDr. Peretti, are you telling this jury that is the murder weapon?" "No.Ē "Mike Allen, are you telling this jury that this is the murder weapon?" "No.Ē The prosecutors? Yes. Thatís why I say they want a conviction. Itís because theyíll twist and distort their own evidence to fit their story. And the perfect example of that is time of death. Heís their expert, they brought him in and put him on that witness stand and they said, ďWe submit him as an expert in forensic pathology.Ē And they liked everything he says except one thing. Because it doesnít fit. It doesnít fit.
Michael Carson. Heís sixteen years old and already has two felonies. Three strikes, youíre out and he wonít be around for much longer. But thatís their case. Heís a burglar, he steals guns, he destroys peopleís houses that he breaks into, and in the second conversation heís ever had in his life with Jason Baldwin -- Jason Baldwin spills his guts. And he did it after they were told go to their rooms for lunch. And theyíre told to go to their cell. So they can sit there even after theyíre told to go to their cell and have a chat for two to five minutes. Boy heís got a soft heart. Where was his soft heart when he was breaking in those homes and stealing guns? And tearing up peopleís property. And sitting at home silent for six months.
Inspector Gary Gitchell. He's in charge. But he was a nonexistent factor in this trial. He didn't tell you anything. He came in here and told you one thing -- one thing he told you was, ďThe only reason we went to look for this knife was because the prosecutor told us to.Ē
ďWe're blindfolded. Help. We're blindfolded. Help.Ē Thatís what Kermit Channellís letter received when he got it from Gary Gitchell. Itís fairly obvious why he didn't come in here and tell you anything. Because he doesn't know anything. And he's in charge. This was his investigation. ďWe're walking through this case blindfolded.Ē He is under pressure. And when you are under pressure, is when you make mistakes. That is when your judgement and your reasoning power do not fully act the way it should. That's when you make mistakes, is when you let emotion, and sympathy, and pressure -- the national attention was getting to him. And he's blindfolded. And this is a week before Jason is arrested.
Now letís go to Narlene Hollingsworth. I wrote down here what the prosecutor told you. Damien is seen by someone who theyíve seen over a hundred times. She said -- He -- she was highly credible. Those were his words a matter of hours ago -- highly credible. So donít you believe for a moment that that was Jason out there. Thatís what they want you to believe. Why did they introduce this photograph and talk about this long hair? They want you to believe thatís Jason, from their highly credible witness, whoís related to Domini, who recognized the pants she was wearing because she had seen them on the child before. Itís kind of like Dr. Peretti. When you say what we like, youíre correct. When you say what we donít like, youíre wrong. Dr. Peretti is right except about time of death. And Narlene is right except about Domini. Remember I told you in opening statement that they would -- the puzzles -- the pieces had been distorted and twisted to fit their story. These are the examples. They want you to think that Narlene saw Jason. Not her own cousin wearing clothes that she knew that child had worn before.
Lisa Sakevicius. We can add in here -- right here -- John Kilbourn. Neither one of them said that fiber came from that robe. Neither one of them. Asked them point blank, ďTell us, are you telling this jury that fiber came from this robe?" "No.Ē Now Charles Linch, John Kilbourn and Lisa Sakevicius they disagree as to whether theyíre similar or not. But you know what they all agreed on? They all agreed that it didnít come from that robe. No one -- no one -- whoís a witness, who gave evidence, said that fiber came from that robe. These prosecutors tell you that. And what theyíre telling you is not evidence. The witnesses didnít tell you that, these prosecutors did. And why did I make a big deal out of it? About the size of it? Because I got fibers bigger than that on my glasses. Because fibers that size can float in the air. Fibers that size can be located inside of paper bags. Fibers that size can get on something when itís dried. You know something else about those things, is the color. And you can take those photographs and you can look at the color. How many colors of red fingernail polish exist? How many colors of red lipstick exist? Hundreds. And theyíre close. But theyíre not the same. Go back and look at those fibers, theyíre close, but theyíre like that red fingernail polish. You take it and drop it on your finger and you have four colors and it look pretty close but theyíre not --none of them came from the same bottle. Look at those striations.
One other thing about that fiber that has bothered me. And it really has puzzled me. The mothers came in here and identified their children. We know that Michael Moore was wearing his cub scout uniform, so the other shirts had to have been worn either by Stevie Branch or Christopher Byers, and surely the parents would recognize those clothes. And know, ďYes, that was the shirt my child was wearing that day.Ē But they didnít do that, because they didnít search one residence. They didnít go back to the residence that Stevie Branch lived in to see if there were other fibers in that home that would be similar the way they did the other two residences. And the way they lost certain fibers they thought that had matches on, they ruled out, because they were clothes within the residence that matched. But they didnít go to the two places that Stevie Branch lives with his father and to his mother who are separated or divorced. They didnít go to those two homes. Is that why they didnít tell you whose shirt that was?
Dr. Griffis. And yes, I did make a big deal about him being a mail-order doctor. Because I think that goes to his credibility, his qualifications. Most people who go to school have to go to class, have to take tests, have to get grades, before they can be qualified as a doctor or a lawyer or psychiatrist. But not this guy. He can send off -- He didnít go to college, he went to the post office. And so heís qualified to come in here and tell you things. But despite all of his hyperbole, thereís no physical evidence to link Jason. Thereís no books. Thereís no pictures. Thereís no drawings. Thereís no nothing that linked Jason to this occult trappings, which the prosecutors say is the reason that it occurred. So even if you believe thatís the reason it occurred, you have to disbelieve Jasonís involvement because thereís no proof that heís involved. And if theyíd had it, theyíd have brought it.
Some of this will be repetitive, but bear with me. The facts do not fit the prosecutors story. They want you to say these sticks are the murder weapons, but thereís no blood, thereís no hair, thereís no fibers, thereís no nothing, thereís no wood fragments in the injuries and the stickís not even important for two months. Yet thatís the murder weapon. This knife -- their witnesses say itís not the murder weapon, but the prosecutor says it is. These photographs -- this fiber -- it came from that red robe, it came from that red robe. Nobody told you that. No witness told you that. But the prosecutor wants you to believe that, 'cause thatís his only link.
The paper bags. Itís almost laughable to think that you could put those clothes in that paper bag and the bottomís gonna hang in there. Thereís no water on it, thereís no mud inside of it.
The crime scene. It doesn't fit for a kid to bleed to death and not leave a drop behind. For all the other injuries to their faces, these other injuries are gonna bleed too. And thereís not a drop of blood. Not a drop of blood.
Look where it happened. Look where it happened. This is a business. This is a business. These are homes. And they are found right here. And thatís their home. And this neighborhood thatís buzzing looking for these kids. And nobody hears a word. Itís mosquito infested and thereís not a mosquito bite on the kids.
Thereís not a satanic sign? You know, itís kind of funny that it has the trappings of occultism, if they leave a satanic sign. Or it has the trappings of occultism if they leave nothing. Or if thereís no clue, we canít figure it out. It's a cult. That's a scapegoat. They can't figure it out. There's no facts, there's no evidence. It's gotta be a cult, because they don't leave anything behind. I thought they left behind signs and pentagrams and crosses. That's talking out of both sides of your mouth.
And why would these people who goes so carefully and slick off all this blood and all this debris and clean it all off, and they leave behind a footprint. Does that make sense, to leave behind a footprint thatís so clean that they can pull a plaster and get a print out of it.
The clothes are not torn. Thereís no blood on their clothes. And thus they have to be tied and gagged nude, but yet thereís not a mosquito bite. Thereís no oral sex, thereís no anal sex. Time of death -- time of death -- you know, they want you to say theyíre right because the witnesses are wrong. Narleneís wrong and Dr. Perettiís wrong, so weíre right. When they say it the way they like it, good. When they disagree with it, theyíre wrong. Narlene and Dr. Peretti are wrong, so weíre right.
Then they tell you satanic panic. Yeah, thatís a scary thing. But itís a scarier thing to convict someone with no evidence. If you canít figure it out, if it doesnít make sense, call it occult killing and find somebody who fits the suit. Theyíre blindfolded. They canít figure it out. Letís call it occult killing and find somebody weird. Find somebody who wears black. But they let one thing go by the wayside -- itís that thereís nothing that links Jason to these activities. Not one witness says, thatís what he does, thatís his beliefs. We donít have a writing, not a drawing, not a picture, not a person, nothing links him to it. But that doesnít matter. That doesnít matter to them. Itís a cult killing. They donít leave anything behind.
May the fifth and May the sixth, there is not the first scintilla of evidence that places Jason Baldwin with Damien Echols. Not one thing.
They wanna talk to you about these three guys going over to the Sanders house. But if youíll think back carefully and I know you been keeping notes, maybe you wrote down that those three guys were Damien, and Jason and Ken Watkins. Whoís Ken Watkins? Well he certainly wasnít charged with a crime, was he? They donít believe that. ĎCause if they had believed that, theyíd have put it on themselves. But they donít want Jason with Ken Watkins because they know Ken Watkins didnít do anything. But thatís ok, we donít care that we donít have a single bit of evidence about where Jason was. We donít care.
Where's the other crime scene? Where's the blood? Where were they tied up away from mosquito to do this delicate procedure that was done? Where was that? Who was there? And when did it happen? You know why you have to know those things? You have to know when it happened and where it happened in order to place someone there, cause youíd have to be there to do it. If youíre not there, you canít do it. And they didnít tell you one thing about where he was. Not one thing.
Letís go back to that blindfold for a minute. When you play pin the tail on the donkey, you're blindfolded. And they turn you around and they give you the tail, and they say, ďPin it on the donkey.Ē And while you go up there and youíre trying to find the right spot, everybody who's watching you is laughing at you. 'Cause you're sticking it on the nose, or on the foot. They pinned this crime on the wrong boy because they were blindfolded and their evidence shows it.
I told you in the opening that I would show you through their own witnesses that Jason Baldwin could not have committed this crime. Bryn Ridge puts him at home when it happened. And if youíre at home when it happened, you couldnít do it.
You see, the prosecutors didnít meet their burden of proof. Because Jason is not there. Thereís no evidence Jason hit anybody, thereís no evidence Jason tied anybody up, thereís no evidence Jason threw anybody in the ditch, thereís no evidence that Jasonís involved in any occult activity or occult beliefs. Thereís no physical evidence at all linking Jason Baldwin to the crime. And donít forget, nobody but the prosecutors tells you that fiber came from the robe. Thereís no physical evidence. ĎCause nobody but these prosecutors will tell you that fiber came from the robe. If youíre not there, you didnít hit anybody, you didnít tie anybody up, and you didnít throw them in the ditch -- youíre not guilty. You didnít do it. Where is their evidence? Where is it? That shows that he did any of these things.
Thatís what they want right there. Guilt by association. Because heís sitting over there with Damien, they want you to convict him. ĎCause he has a best friend or a good friend, they want you to convict him. Do you share the beliefs of all your friends? Do you do everything all the time with all of your friends? Do some of your friends have beliefs that are different from yours? Do they do things that you donít wanna do or donít think is correct, thatís not right? Guilt by association is a horrible thing. But thatís what they want in this case. They want you to think heís an accomplice. And giving you that instruction that says, an accomplice -- an accomplice, so they can convict Jason without any evidence, because of the evidence against somebody else. But that instruction says you must find that they aided, agreed to aid, or attempted to aid in order to find that theyíre an accomplice. And where is that evidence?
The only evidence they've got is Michael Carson. Boil it down, thatís what they got. This sixteen-year-old career criminal with a soft heart. Thatís what they got. Where was their evidence before February the first? Jason was arrested June the third. Where was their evidence? Because you agreed to hear the evidence at this witness stand in this courtroom, where is that evidence? All they got is Michael Carson.
Prosecutor tells you that his witnesses -- these young girls, the Medfords -- theyíre believable -- because they got up there and they were afraid, they didnít wanna be photographed, they didnít wanna be filmed. They didnít wanna be involved. Michael Carson is the only kid -- youngster, who came in this courtroom and wanted to be filmed. Think about it. You might not have made Ė that may not have clicked in your mind -- but thatís the one -- thatís the only one the judge didnít say, ďDonít film him. Donít photograph him.Ē What does every sixteen-year-old troubled kid want? Acceptance. And approval. Thatís why they do the things that get them in trouble. In a back-handed sort of way, they want attention. So they do something to get attention because they canít get attention doing the right things, so they get attention doing the wrong things. But what they want is love and acceptance and attention. And he got it. Heís the superstar. He comes in here and he is their case. A sixteen-year-old kid in jail. Second -- never met Jason in his life -- you know -- one time he told you that he didnít even know what he was charged with until after he got out and start watching it on TV. Well if he didnít know what he charged with, why did he ask him the questions, "Did you do it"?
Some of these instructions that I want you to pay attention to. The first one is AMCI 102. Although Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols are being tired jointly you shall -- shall -- that means you have to -- you shall consider the evidence for or against each of them separately and render your verdicts as if they were being tried separately. So everything youíve heard over the last three weeks that relates to Damien Echols, when you go back in that jury room and you think about Jason Baldwin, under your oath and under the law, you have to set it aside. And you have to look at only what they've got.
103 says, youíre not required to set aside your common knowledge. So you can use good old everyday horse sense about what you believe and who you think is telling you the truth. Whether you think Michael Carson is a believable witness.
Circumstantial evidence has been read to you several times, but thatís an important instruction, because thatís all theyíve got. They wanna put everything together and boot strap it up to say we got proof. But to do that, the circumstantial evidence must be consistent with guilt and inconsistent with any other reasonable alternative. Any other reasonable alternative.
Reasonable doubt is not a mere possible or imaginary doubt. It is a doubt that arises from your consideration of the evidence and one that would cause a careful person to pause and hesitate in the greater transactions of life. A juror is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt if after an impartial consideration of all the evidence, he has an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge. The State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. A careful person that pauses and hesitates is not a person who is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ladies and gentlemen, prosecutor talked about guts. He talked about the defense not having guts. Didnít have the guts to talk to Mr. Byers. But thatís where you gotta remember we got two trials going on here. Every time he said defendants he said they. He wants to tie them together. He wants one convicted on association. But thatís what youíre not to do, under your oath and under the law, to try them separately.
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...have the guts to ask his own expert when the time of death was. He didnít ask him. He didnít have the guts. He didnít wanna know. And when it doesnít fit, heís wrong. And letís bring in somebody else, letís bring in somebody whoís not even a forensic pathologist. Itís like bringing in a car salesman to dispute a doctor. Itís not the same thing. Not to mention that Brent Davis and Mike Waldon were law partners and Brent Davis is Mike Waldonís boss. And they bring in someone whoís in the same practice as his father-in-law. Because they donít like -- they donít like what he said. But why didnít they go down and talk to one of the other two forensic pathologists down there who worked with Dr. Peretti. You know why they didnít go down there? Because they both agreed. All three of the Stateís pathologists agree as to time of death. All three of them. So they donít ask them. Letís find somebody else who will say it the way we want it to be said.
Because when their witnesses are wrong, theyíre right. When Dr. Peretti is wrong and Narlene Hollingsworth is wrong, weíre right. Their witnesses that are wrong, prove theyíre right. That and Michael Carson is their case. And that is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are three verdict forms for Jason Baldwin. Thereís one for each young man who died. And the charges are at the top in the signature line. We, the jury, find Jason Baldwin not guilty in the death of Michael Moore. Place for you to sign. Thatís where you sign these verdicts. Because heís not guilty. They didnít prove it. Take the blindfolds off, and look at it for what it really is, and send Jason Baldwin home.