Jason Baldwin, one of the West Memphis Three, was on campus this week to share his story and newfound passions with Belmont faculty, staff and students.
Sentenced in 1994 for the murder of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, Baldwin and his two friends served over 18 years in prison. With the discovery of newly processed DNA, the trio was released in August of 2011 when they entered Alford Pleas stating their innocence while also noting that prosecution have enough initial evidence to sentence them as they did.
Baldwin’s message to his listeners was clear. While in jail he took the opportunity to work in the law library, learn as much as he could and appreciate all the time he had. He urges students to do the same.
Baldwin has also committed himself to a life working against the death penalty while also opposing forced confessions of individuals on trial and convictions of the innocent. In addition, he hopes to help juveniles facing a life sentence without parole.
Beginning his associate degree in April, Baldwin hopes to finish that program and work towards a law degree so he can continue his hopes of changing the legal system. He ended his convocation lecture by saying, “Every day is amazing. Every day is a blessing. I thank God for it.”
On Monday night, Baldwin was present for an on campus viewing of the 2012 Academy Award-nominated HBO documentary Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. The film, along with its predecessors Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000), detail the story of the West Memphis Three and the trio’s ultimate release from prison. Together the films played a significant role in garnering publicity, awareness and support for the men.