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Brian Keith BALDWIN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Rape - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 14, 1977
Date of birth: June 16, 1958
Victim profile: Naomi Rolon (female, 16)
Method of murder: Stab wounds and cut throat with axe - Run over with car
Location: Monroe County, Alabama, USA
Status: Executed by electrocution in Alabama on June 18, 1999
clemency petition

Brian Keith Baldwin, 40, 99-06-18, Alabama

One of 2 men convicted of kidnapping, torturing and killing a 16-year-old girl after they escaped from a North Carolina prison camp was executed in the electric chair early Friday.

Brian K. Baldwin, 40, was pronounced dead at 12:29 a.m. His accomplice, Edward Horsley, was executed in 1996.

The man black leaders and human-rights advocates described as a victim of racial injustice spoke to the warden before he died, softly saying "it's OK."

Baldwin and Horsley fled a North Carolina prison camp in March 1977, minutes before they abducted Naomi Rolon, who was on the way to visit her father in a hospital. She was choked, stabbed and sexually assaulted before being driven to Alabama, prosecutors said.

Miss Rolon was eventually killed with a hatchet. Prosecutors said Baldwin admitted striking the fatal blow, but later said Horsley wielded the hatchet.

Defense attorneys, along with former President Jimmy Carter, Coretta Scott King and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Baldwin was a victim of racism in the judicial system. Among other things, they said the black inmate, accused in the slaying of a white girl, was convicted by an all-white jury in which potential black jurors were eliminated by prosecutors.

"There is no doubt that racial prejudice was a factor in both his trial and his death sentence," Carter wrote to Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

Siegelman said he was "deeply troubled" by some aspects of the case but declined to grant clemency.

Defense lawyers also claimed that Baldwin was beaten into confessing in a county and state dominated by white law officers.

Nathaniel Manzie, the only black deputy in neighboring Wilcox County in 1977, recently said in a sworn statement that white officers beat Baldwin to get him to confess. But Manzie, now 75 and in a Selma nursing home, told a judge Monday he did not witness a beating.

Baldwin becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death in Alabama this year, and the 18th overall since the state resumed executions in 1983.




On June 18, 1999, the State of Alabama, with the acquiescence of the federal government, executed Brian K. Baldwin in the electric chair. The state and federal governments failed to ensure Baldwin's right to a fair and impartial trial, his right to be free from torture, and his right to be free from racial discrimination. State torture and an unfair, racially discriminatory trial resulted in his execution.


On March 14, 1977, 16-year-old Naomi Rolon was murdered. Prior to her murder, Rolon had picked up Brian Baldwin, age 18, and Edward Horsley, age 17, in North Carolina and proceeded to drive with them to Alabama. Baldwin and Horsley had recently escaped from a youth detention center. In Alabama, Baldwin stole a truck. Horsley drove off with Rolon. Horsley later returned alone and on foot. Baldwin and Horsley were arrested, tried, and convicted for the murder of Naomi Rolon.

Salient Issues

  • After Baldwin had been arrested, his parents were not informed of his whereabouts until after he had been convicted of capital murder.

  • Police repeatedly beat and intimidated Baldwin until he signed a confession.

  • Baldwin's confession failed to name the correct weapon and failed to provide an accurate description of the murder. The confession was later altered to fit the facts, as revealed by Baldwin's co-defendant.

  • Baldwin's trial lasted a total of one and one-half days, including jury selection, jury deliberation, and sentencing.

  • Baldwin's trial attorney failed to undertake an independent pre-trial investigation, to prepare his client to testify, to call any defense witnesses, to introduce exculpatory forensic evidence, or to object to the improper actions of the prosecution.

  • Forensic evidence suggested Baldwin's innocence, but was not introduced at trial.

  • Brian Baldwin was in the courtroom in handcuffs throughout jury selection

  • Throughout the trial, the prosecutor repeatedly suggested that Baldwin had committed sexual assault, although Baldwin was never charged with sexual assault.

  • After the trial, the state withheld a complete record of Baldwin's trial from the defense and claimed to have lost key evidence, thereby hindering his appeal.

  • Eleven years before his own execution, Baldwin's co-defendant confessed to the crime and exonerated Baldwin.

  • African-Americans were intentionally excluded from the jury, in a county where 46% of the residents were African-American. An all-white jury convicted Baldwin.

  • An Alabama court later found that the prosecutor and judge in Baldwin's trial and appeal had, over a period of time and including the period of Baldwin's trial, practiced "deliberate racial discrimination."


Brian Baldwin was convicted by an all-white jury of Naomi Rolon's murder in a trial that lasted for only one and one-half days. The prosecution successfully excluded all African-American persons from the jury and Baldwin's court-appointed attorney did not object. Intentional exclusion of jurors solely on the basis of race has since been found to be unconstitutional (Batson v. Kentucky, 1986). Baldwin's conviction was based largely on his confession, a confession that had been obtained under torture.

Baldwin was both beaten and cattle-prodded to obtain information about the whereabouts of Naomi Rolon. When Rolon's body was found, Baldwin was beaten and prodded again until he signed a confession that named the wrong weapon and the wrong method used to kill Naomi Rolon. In a separate confession, Horsley claimed Baldwin was the murderer, but supplied accurate information about the murder weapon and the attack. The information was added to Baldwin's confession after the fact, as was the signature of a deputy who claimed to have witnessed Baldwin's waiver of rights, but who was not present.

Forensic evidence discovered shortly before Baldwin's execution showed that the deadly blows were the work of a left-handed assailant. Horsley, not Baldwin, was left-handed. Also, Horsley's clothes and shoes were stained with blood, but Baldwin's clothing tested negative. Years after Baldwin had been convicted and sentenced to death, Baldwin's co-defendant, Edward Horsley, confessed in a letter that he, alone, was responsible for the murder of Naomi Rolon and that Baldwin knew nothing about the killing until Rolon's body was discovered by police.

Baldwin's lawyer failed to provide competent counsel. According to Baldwin, his lawyer met with him for a total of 20 minutes, before the trial. Baldwin's lawyer did no investigation of the case and presented no witnesses except Baldwin, whom he did not prepare for testifying. Baldwin's attorney also failed to present the forensic evidence and did not object when the prosecution suggested that a sexual assault might have taken place, even though Baldwin had never been charged with sexual assault. Baldwin was found guilty of murder and sentenced to die.


The initial appeal, claiming Baldwin's trial was marred by improper procedure and racism, was assigned to the original trial judge in the case. He denied the appeal and upheld his earlier decision. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals accepted his ruling in its entirety and denied Baldwin relief. This action was later denounced in a brief signed by 33 prosecutors and judges across the country, including six justices of state supreme courts. Despite the discovery of the suppressed trial record and irrespective of alleged violations of Baldwin's constitutional rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court both denied relief.

During the appeals process, complete transcripts of Baldwin's 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.


Brian Baldwin was executed despite compelling evidence of his innocence and evidence that he did not receive a fair trial. Allegations of torture and racial bias by the State of Alabama, in violation of constitutional and international human rights, were sufficiently egregious to warrant a reversal of the trial court's decision. The initial appeal alleging improper procedure and racism was heard by the same judge who had convicted Baldwin, and against whom some of the allegations of racism and misconduct were being made. Nonetheless, the trial court's decision held. Both state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, denied relief in spite of the numerous and egregious allegations of rights violations. Brian Baldwin was executed after sitting in the electric chair for one hour.

Name/DOC # Brian Keith Baldwin Z-357
Address Holman Unit, Atmore AL /Deceased
Date of Birth July 16, 1958
Race Black
Date of Crime March 14, 1977

Age at Time of Crime

Date Sentenced August 8, 1977
Victim(s) Naomi Rolon, age 16
Relationship to Defendant Picked up defendant and companion hitchhiking in North Carolina 3 days prior to murder in Alabama
Facts Alleged by State Murder/stab wounds and cut throat, presumably with axe or hatchet; robbery of car
County of Trial Monroe County AL
Trial Judge Robert E. Lee Key
Trial Attorney Windell Owens
Prosecutor(s) Theodore Pearson
Trial By Jury
Race of Jurors All White
Convicted of Capital murder; robbery of auto
Confession Yes/coerced
Accomplice Testimony Not at original trial
Eyewitness Testimony No
Forensic Testimony Fingerprints in victim's car

Semen present (but rape not charged)

No blood on Baldwin's clothes or shoes

Jailhouse Snitch No
Defendant Testimony Coerced confessions both signed and taped

On stand at trial, Baldwin denied having made a voluntary confession

Principal Exculpatory Evidence No fingerprints on murder weapon

No blood on clothes or shoes

Forensic pathologist report that wounds were inflicted by left-handed person; Baldwin was right-handed. (Not available at trial; presented in 1999 investigation.)

Sentencing Authority Jury, subject to judge override
Statutory Aggravating Factor Robbery of car
Non-Statutory Aggravating Factor None
Mitigating Factors None presented except age
Mental Illness, retardation or neurological damage No

Criminal History

Escaped from youth detention center in North Carolina; car theft offenses

Concurrent conviction for stealing car in Camden, AL just before the murder

Appellate History George Elbrecht (Monroeville) B appeals Judge Key (Mobile) B coram nobis

Michael McIntyre (Atlanta) Federal Habeas (404-688-0900)



Ineffective Assistance?


Attorney only met with Baldwin for total of 20 minutes before trial

No investigation (judge denied funds) and no witnesses called

No presentation of exculpatory evidence in forensic report

Parents not informed of his whereabouts

No challenge to striking Blacks from jury

No challenge to Judge referring to Baldwin as "boy"

No challenge to Baldwin being in handcuffs and shackles during jury selection, in view of prospective jurors

Police Misconduct? Yes

Torture during interrogation by beatings, probable use of cattle prod

Probable denial of right to counsel prior to interrogation

(During 1999 investigation, three witnesses attested to having seen bruises on Baldwin's back and legs following interrogation. A former Deputy Sheriff signed an affidavit and gave a video-taped deposition attesting to presence of a cattle prod in the jail where Baldwin was questioned, and to having been present when Baldwin was beaten during the interrogation. Deputy also signed an affidavit attesting to having falsely signed a statement saying he had witnessed Baldwin's signature to a waiver of his right to counsel. This Deputy, who had been the first Black appointed as Deputy Sheriff in the county, later retracted his testimony regarding the beatings in a private interview with the Governor of Alabama)

Prosecutorial Misconduct? Yes

Rape implied, although no charge of rape was ever brought

Racist practice in striking all Blacks from jury

Failure to provide a complete trial transcript

(State claimed transcript had been lost in a flood, and denied existence of tapes; later an incomplete transcript was found and furnished. During investigation in 1999, tapes were discovered, and found to differ from the transcript provided.)

Newly Discovered Exculpatory Evidence? Yes

Forensic pathologist signed affidavit based on crime-scene photos stating fatal wounds had been inflicted by a left-handed person. Baldwin was right-handed.

Failure of Judicial Process? Yes

Change of venue denied despite intense pre-trial publicity

Newly discovered exculpatory evidence and evidence of police misconduct denied fair presentation in appeal process

All physical evidence which could have furnished relevant DNA evidence was lost or destroyed (discovered in 1999 investigation).

Appellate Counsel George Elbrecht of Monroeville, AL

Brian Keith Baldwin

Associated Press

June 16, 1999

Defense attorneys for a death row inmate facing a Friday execution looked to the courts for a delay Wednesday, claiming the case against Brian Keith Baldwin -- a black convicted in the murder of a North Carolina white girl -- was tainted by racism.

Gov. Don Siegelman denied Baldwin's request for clemency, although he said he was "deeply troubled" by some parts of the case. Siegelman even traveled to Selma last Friday to meet with a former deputy who had given a sworn statement that Baldwin was beaten into a confession, but the deputy recanted that allegation.

Baldwin was convicted by an all-white Monroe County jury of capital murder in the March 1977 slaying of 16-year-old Naomi Rolon of Hudson, N.C. He is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Friday in Alabama's electric chair at Holman Prison near Atmore.

Prosecutors said Baldwin and Edward Horsley, while fleeing prison in North Carolina, abducted Miss Rolon, choked and stabbed her, sexually assaulted her and stuffed her in the trunk of her car before driving her to rural Monroe County in south Alabama.

The girl was eventually killed by a hatchet blow to the neck. Prosecutors have said Baldwin confessed to striking the hatchet blow, but later said Horsley wielded the hatchet. Horsley was executed in 1996.

Atlanta-based defense attorney Michael McIntyre said Baldwin was never charged with any sexual offense against Miss Rolon, despite prosecutors' allegations, and "his case was totally infected with racial discrimination and racial prejudice."

"If what had occurred in his trial in 1977 occurred today, no court would find it constitutional," McIntyre said.

Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw, however, said Baldwin is being punished for Miss Rolon's death, not for his race.

"No matter if he was white or black, he would be punished," Crenshaw said.

Siegelman, in a Tuesday letter, said he was "deeply troubled by some of the matters raised," but "this matter does not rise to a level that warrants clemency."

"It is clear to me that Mr. Baldwin participated willingly in this gruesome murder, and that he possessed the requisite intent to kill," the governor said.

Retired Mobile County Circuit Judge Braxton Kittrell on Tuesday refused to block the execution of Baldwin, 40, originally from Charlotte, N.C. Kittrell heard Baldwin's appeal Monday, including hearing telephone testimony from former sheriff's deputy Nathaniel Manzie.

Defense attorneys said Manzie, now 75 and in a Selma nursing home, said in a signed affidavit and a videotaped deposition that he witnessed authorities beating Baldwin in an attempt to get Baldwin to confess. But Manzie -- the only black Monroe County sheriff's deputy at the time of Baldwin's arrest -- told Kittrell on Monday he did not personally witness the beating.

Manzie was judged unfit to travel Monday after he grew upset upon learning authorities were sent to take him to court, McIntyre said. "He was really in no state to give the testimony that he gave at the time," he said, adding that the judge should have met with Manzie in Selma.

Crenshaw accused the defense of filing false affidavits concerning Manzie's testimony. He said Manzie told Siegelman the same thing he told Kittrell on Monday -- that he didn't see Baldwin being beaten.

McIntyre said a statement saying Baldwin wasn't present when Miss Rolon was killed and didn't know the murder was taking place was verified by a handwriting expert as having been written by Horsley. The 1985 statement was given to a 3rd party and wasn't made available to Baldwin until after Horsley's execution, he said.

Crenshaw said Horsley never attempted to exonerate Baldwin before his own execution.

"Baldwin has confessed to this," he said. "Baldwin led police to the body. If he wasn't there ... how would he know (where the body was)?"

Baldwin's capital murder case has taken 22 years, Crenshaw said, because appeals worked their way through 10 courts. Also, he said, Baldwin took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court on direct appeal, which delayed the process further.



Brian Baldwin went to his death in the Alabama electric chair for a murder his co-defendant claimed to have committed alone

Brian Keith Baldwin, a 40-year-old African American, died in the Alabama electric chair in 1999 for the murder 22 years earlier of a white teenager, Naomi Rolon — a crime that Baldwin’s co-defendant, Edward Dean Horsley, claimed to have committed without Baldwin’s knowledge.

Baldwin’s conviction and death sentence rested on a confession that he claimed had been extracted by torture — beating and electroshock. The confession was incorrect about material details, including how Rolon died and the instrument with which she had been bludgeoned. At the time of their arrest, there was blood on Horsley’s clothes, but not on Baldwin’s. Forensic evidence developed after Baldwin’s trial indicated that Rolon had been beaten by a left-handed person — which Horsley was and Baldwin was not.

The crime, the trials, and the death sentences

On March 12, 1977, Baldwin, then 18, and Horsley, 17, also an African American, escaped from a North Carolina juvenile detention center. Baldwin had been sent there for stealing a car, Horsley for armed robbery. Within hours of their escape, they came upon Rolon, 16, who was en route from her home in Hudson, North Carolina, to visit her father in a hospital across town.

Baldwin and Horsley abducted Rolon, allegedly commandeered in her car, robbed her, and drove for more than 40 hours through North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Rolon was slain on March 14 in Monroe County, Alabama, where her body and her car were found on March 15. Baldwin and Horsley were arrested later that day after a high-speed chase in a pickup truck stolen in nearby Wilcox County, Alabama.

Both gave statements at the Wilcox County Jail and were then indicted in Monroe County for aggravated robbery and murder. Within months they were convicted and sentenced to death following separate trials before all-white juries from which prosecutors excluded all prospective African American jurors — a practice then lawful.

Although there was no question that Baldwin had been involved in Rolon’s abduction and robbery, the only evidence linking him to the murder was his purported confession, which he testified he had given after being beaten and shocked with a cattle prod by Wilcox County Sheriff Moody Maness and two deputies. “They told me [if] I didn’t tell them where the car was, they was going to hang me, shoot me, beat me up,” Baldwin testified. “Then they took handcuffs and handcuffed me to a bar and took an electric stick, the thing you stick cows with, and poked me with that.”

The trial lasted only two days — August 8 and 9, 1977. Baldwin’s court-appointed attorneys conducted no investigation and presented no witnesses other than Baldwin himself, even though Baldwin had identified potential witnesses who might have corroborated his torture claim.

In addition, jurors did not learn that Rolon apparently had been beaten and stabbed by a left-handed person and that Baldwin was right-handed, that there was blood on Horsley’s — but not on Baldwin’s — clothes, or that Baldwin’s purported confession was wrong about important facts. The trial judge, Robert E. Lee Key, called Baldwin a “boy” during the trial, and the prosecution called him “a savage.”

Baldwin’s state appeals

The only issue raised on direct appeal was whether Alabama had jurisdiction to try Baldwin for robbery, given that the robbery apparently occurred in North Carolina; robbery had been the sole aggravating circumstance cited by the prosecution to qualify Rolon’s murder as a capital offense. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and Alabama Supreme Court rejected the jurisdictional challenge, Baldwin v. State, 372 So.2d 26 (Ala. Cr. App. 1978) and Baldwin v. State, 372 So.2d 32 (Ala. 1979).

However, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case for further state proceedings in light of its decision in an unrelated case, Beck v. Alabama, 447 U.S. 625 (1980), holding that Alabama juries had to be given the option of finding defendants in capital cases guilty of a lesser-included non-capital offense when the facts would support such a finding, Baldwin v. Alabama, 448 U.S. 903 (1980). In light of that action, the Alabama Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Criminal Appeals, Baldwin v. State, 405 So.2d 698 (1981), and that court in turn summarily reversed the conviction, Baldwin v. State, 405 So.2d 699 (1981).

Soon thereafter, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified its Beck finding in Hooper v. Evans, 456 U.S. 605 (1982). In view of the Hooper decision, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted a rehearing in Baldwin’s case and reinstated his death sentence, holding that the evidence supported no verdict other than death, Baldwin v. State, 456 So.2d 117 (1983) — a decision that was affirmed both by the Alabama Supreme Court, Ex Parte Baldwin, 456 So.2d 129 (1984), and U.S. Supreme Court, Baldwin v. Alabama, 472 U.S. 372 (1985).

Next Baldwin filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the trial court, raising several issues — most significantly ineffective assistance of counsel and racial discrimination in jury selection. After a two-day hearing, Judge Key denied the ineffective assistance claim on the merits and held that Baldwin’s additional claims were procedurally barred because they could have been, but had not been, asserted on direct appeal. Key was affirmed by the Court of Criminal Appeals, Baldwin v. State, 539 So.2d 1103 (1988). The Alabama Supreme Court adopted that opinion as its own, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the holding, Baldwin v. Alabama, 493 U.S. 874 (1989).

In 1991, Baldwin sought a federal writ of habeas corpus, based on essentially the same grounds asserted in his coram nobis petition. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Vollmer, Jr., of Southern District of Alabama, denied the writ with a 177-page order, holding that the Alabama courts had fully and fairly considered the ineffective assistance claim and that the other issues were procedurally barred from consideration.

Horsley’s belated attempt to save Baldwin’s life

As Baldwin appealed Vollmer’s decision, Horsley wrote a statement in 1994 asserting that he alone had killed Rolon. According to Horsely, Baldwin had been unaware that Rolon was dead at the time of their arrest.

After Horsely exhausted his appeals and went to his death in the Alabama electric chair on February 16, 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Vollmer’s denial of Baldwin’s petition for habeas corpus, Baldwin v. Johnson, 152 F.3d 1304 (1998). The U.S. Supreme Court again declined to hear the case, Baldwin v. Johnson, 526 U.S. 1047 (1999).

Additional exculpatory evidence developed

As Baldwin’s execution approached, his lawyers video-taped a deposition with a former Wilcox County deputy sheriff, Nathaniel Manzie, who stated that Baldwin was beaten during interrogation and that a cattle prod was present in the jail at the time, although Manzie did not see it used on Baldwin. In addition, Manzie admitted signing a statement falsely stating that Baldwin had waived his right to counsel. It was at this point that Baldwin’s lawyers also obtained the forensic report indicating that Rolon’s wounds had been inflicted by a left-handed person.

By now, however, Baldwin’s appeals had been exhausted. At no point during the 22-year appellate process had a court considered the merits of his innocence claim. His last hope was clemency from Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who met privately with Manzie. During the meeting, Manzie, inexplicably recanted his previous sworn statements indicating Baldwin’s confession had been coerced. Despite last-minute pleas from, among others, former President Jimmy Carter, Coretta Scott King, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Siegelman allowed the execution to proceed on June 18, 1999. Witnesses said Baldwin’s last words were inaudible.

The foregoing summary was prepared by Center on Wrongful Convictions Executive Director Rob Warden with research assistance from CWC Researcher Matt Lewis. The summary may be reprinted, quoted, or posted on other web sites with appropriate attribution.

Case data:

Jurisdiction: Monroe County, Alabama
Date of birth: July 16, 1958
Date of crime: March 14, 1977
Age at time of crime: 18
Date of arrest: March 15, 1977
Gender: Male
Race: African American
Trial counsel: Windell C. Owens
Convicted of: Capital murder
Prior adult felony conviction record: None; when the crime occurred, Baldwin was an escapee from juvenile detention center when he had been sent for auto theft
Trial judge: Robert E. Lee
Key Prosecutor(s): Theodore Pearson
No. of victims: 1
Age of victim: 16
Gender of victim: Female
Race of victim: Caucasian
Relationship of victim to defendant: None; she apparently had picked up Baldwin as a hitchhiker
Evidence used to obtain conviction: Alleged confession, fingerprints in victim’s car.
Major issues on appeal: Coerced confessions. Ineffective assistance of counsel. Racial discrimination in jury selection. Prosecutorial misconduct.
Evidence suggesting innocence: Coerced confessions. No fingerprints on murder weapon. No blood on Baldwin’s clothes or shoes. Wounds inflicted by left-handed person; Baldwin right handed. Co-defendant admitted the crime.
Date of execution: June 18, 1999
Time lapse arrest to execution: 287 months
Final appellate counsel(s): Jack Martin and Michael McIntyre

Center on Wrongful Convictions



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