Doctors disagree on mental fitness of accused killer Baker
By Beth Kramer firstname.lastname@example.org October 11, 2012 7:26PM
Updated: December 11, 2012 2:02AM
A judge is expected to decide today whether or not the Deerfield man accused of bludgeoning a woman to death is mentally fit to stand trial for the first-degree murder charges.
The mental fitness hearing for Daniel Baker, 24, began one week ago before Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes. A psychiatrist for the state testified he found Baker mentally fit to stand trial. A psychiatrist for the defense testified that he did not think Baker was mentally fit to stand trial.
“A criminal defendant charged with first-degree murder has the Constitutional right to be fit for trial,” Shanes said at last week’s hearing.
Mental fitness to stand trial has to do with Baker’s understanding of the charges against him and his ability to work with his attorney Ed Genson and assist in his own defense.
Each psychiatrist provided in-depth testimony about his interviews with and conclusions about Baker at last week’s hearing.
Dr. Henry Stafford is the psychiatrist retained by the prosecution at a rate of $350 per hour. Dr. Alexander Obolsky is the psychiatrist retained by the defense at an average rate of $475 per hour, according to testimony.
Stafford spent 75 minutes with Baker last week to reach an opinion whether or not Baker was mentally fit for trial. He had three previous sessions with Baker, presumably to counter the defense’s insanity defense.
Baker was aware of who he was and what his role was, Stafford said of their interview last week.
“He was a little more hostile than he was (in previous sessions), but he was generally cooperative,” Stafford said.
Baker told Stafford that he knew Stafford found him sane, Stafford testified.
Stafford found no evidence that Baker was psychotic. He also said Baker was manipulative.
Baker articulated an understanding of what he was charged with and named Marina Aksman as the victim, Stafford testified.
“He had great respect and admiration for his attorney. He called him a legend,” Stafford said.
Baker said a jury of 12 people would “provide the verdict,” identified the judge as the one who supervised the court room and ensured the law was applied and defined the role of prosecutors to “seek the truth,” Stafford testified.
Contrary to Stafford’s findings, Obolsky said he did not believe Baker was fit for trial.
Obolsky met with Baker six or seven times in the last year and a half, most recently on Sept. 30, he said.
Unlike Stafford, Obolsky found Baker unresponsive and indirect during their interview. For example, when Obolsky asked Baker about his relationship with Genson, Baker’s response was about his attorney being on medication and that people were looking through the door while the interview was taking place. There was nobody observing the interview outside the door, Obolsky said.
“Baker said people are trying to brainwash him. I think it’s really clear ... that he is exhibiting suspicion (that) there are forces of evil against him,” Obolsky said.
Obolsky also said he believed the approaching trial (originally scheduled to begin Oct. 9) was exacerbating Baker’s condition. He diagnosed baker with borderline personality disorder and said that Baker is “sicker than Dr. Stafford thinks.”
“He is severely mentally ill ... he is not fit because of his mental illness,” Obolsky said.