Brian Baldwin

Monroe County, Alabama
Date of Crime:  March 14, 1977
Executed June 18, 1999

Brian Keith Baldwin, a black male, was executed for the torture and murder of 16-year-old Naomi Rolon, a white female.  On Mar 12, 1977, Baldwin, 18, and Edward Dean Horsley, 19, escaped from a youth detention center in North Carolina.  Within hours of their escape, the two hitched a ride with Rolon in Hudson, NC, and drove to Alabama.  Presumably Rolon went to Alabama involuntarily as her original plan was just to drive across town.  Baldwin got out in Alabama and stole an El Camino pickup truck, while Horsley drove off with Rolon.  The two males may have planned to release Rolon and drive away in a car Rolon could not identify.  Rolon was subsequently found murdered, and a day afterwards, Horsley and Baldwin were captured by police.

According to Baldwin, Wilcox County Sheriff Moody Maness and two deputies repeatedly beat, cattle prodded, and intimidated him until he signed a confession.  Baldwin's confession failed to name the correct weapon used to kill Rolon and failed to provide an accurate description of the murder. The confession was later altered to fit the facts provided by Horsley.  Horsley provided accurate information about the murder weapon and the assault, but claimed Baldwin was the murderer.  However, Horsley did not testify against Baldwin at Baldwin's trial.  Forensic evidence discovered shortly before Baldwin's execution showed that Rolon's assailant was left-handed as was Horsley.  Baldwin was right-handed.  Horsley's clothes and shoes were stained with blood, but Baldwin's clothing tested negative.  Several witnesses, including a Wilcox County law enforcement officer, later came forward to give statements supporting Baldwin's claim that his confession was coerced by beatings.

The details of Baldwin's confession were unlikely in themselves and appeared to be dictated by police to incite prejudice against him.  According to the confession, he and Horsley kidnapped Rolon, drove her to Charlotte, NC, stripped her of her clothes, attempted to choke her, and ran her over with her car. They then put her in the trunk of her car and drove from Charlotte to Camden, AL. At various points in her nearly forty-hour ordeal, she was repeatedly stabbed. In Camden, the two stole an El Camino and drove in tandem to Monroe County, where in a wooded area, they again attempted to run her over with the El Camino. When all of this failed to bring about her death, her neck was cut by a sharp blow with a hatchet found in the El Camino.  There was no evidence that Rolon was harmed in North Carolina, and in fact she was seen by witnesses in Charlotte sitting in the front seat of the car.  Nor is there evidence that the El Camino was ever at the scene of the crime.  No blood or fingerprints were found on the hatchet and it was never introduced into evidence.  The state never charged Baldwin or Horsley with kidnapping.

Press reports repeatedly said that Baldwin was convicted for the “abduction, rape and murder” of a young white woman.  Baldwin was never charged with or convicted of any kind of sexual assault, and no evidence of such an assault was introduced against him at his trial.

Baldwin's trial lasted 1 1/2 days including jury selection and sentencing.  Baldwin was handcuffed before potential jurors throughout jury selection.  No evidence was presented against Baldwin other than his confession which he denied was voluntary while on the witness stand.  Baldwin was convicted by an all-white jury, despite the fact that the county he was tried in was 46% black.  The judge, the prosecutor, and Baldwin's own court appointed attorney used racially derogatory language during trial.  (Baldwin was called “boy.”)  During appeals, complete transcripts of his trial were withheld from his attorneys. A court recorder claimed no voice tapes of the trial had been made, although both the tapes and short-hand notes were discovered 20 years later.  Both tapes and notes revealed discrepancies in the transcript provided by the state after Baldwin's trial. Baldwin was never provided with the opportunity to present this evidence in any court.

In 1985, Horsley signed a statement admitting that Baldwin “was not present at any point before or after the murder of Naomi occurred.  In fact he was not even aware that she had been killed until after we were arrested and the dead body was recovered that night in Monroeville.”  Baldwin was executed in the electric chair on June 18, 1999.  [5/09]


References:  GRIP, FDP, Broken Justice

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Alabama Cases, Coerced Confessions, Defendants Executed After 1976