Baker wants to be his own attorney at trial
By Beth Kramer firstname.lastname@example.org October 12, 2012 7:56PM
Updated: December 12, 2012 1:58AM
After a judge declared him mentally fit to stand trial Friday, the Deerfield man accused of bludgeoning his girlfriend’s mother to death asked if he could represent himself in the proceedings.
Daniel Baker also inquired if he could have a judge preside over the case in a bench trial rather than have a jury of his peers.
Baker, 24, was before Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes on Friday for the conclusion of the mental fitness hearing. Shanes had said last week that he was considering calling Baker to testify, but he was not called to take the stand.
Baker’s attorney Ed Genson had said he would seek a finding of not guilty based on insanity, meaning that Baker was incapable of knowing right from wrong at the time Marina Aksman was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat in her Vernon Hills home April 1, 2010.
However, Baker may mount his own defense at his trial next week. Shanes said the parties would discuss Baker’s requests Monday before the start of his scheduled trial.
“Baker does not want to be found incompetent. We, as his lawyers, have witnessed Baker’s inability to work with us,” Genson said.
Baker has said that prosecutors should be jailed for misconduct, Genson said. He also said his client has denied that he is charged with anything.
Baker believed he will stand trial soon and will be exonerated at its conclusion, Genson said.
“He’s a smart boy. I’m suggesting he needs to be medicated so we can properly defend him. I think there is some question whether he understands. He considers the motivations of everyone here as tainting the proceedings,” Genson said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Patricia Fix reminded Shanes that Genson stipulated to Baker’s mental fitness to stand trial in 2011. She also said the state’s psychiatrist had no problems communicating with Baker. The state’s psychiatrist found him fit to stand trial while the defense’s psychiatrist did not.
Shanes said he found the state’s psychiatrist’s testimony more credible than the defense’s.
“Fitness is a defendant’s ability to understand proceedings and assist in his defense,” the judge said.
Defense psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Obolsky testified mostly about the mental illnesses he believed Baker has, Shanes said. “They are interesting, but they are not really on point,” Shanes said.
Once Shanes ruled that he found Baker mentally fit to stand trial, Genson withdrew his request to delay the trial.
What evidence will be allowed to be introduced at trial Monday was also discussed.
Crime scene photographs, Baker’s recorded confession to police, as well as an answering machine message, are among the items of evidence to be admitted. Baker had left a message on Aksman’s answering machine about 15 minutes before he crashed his car into the family’s house April 1, 2010, prosecutors had said at Baker’s bond hearing in 2010.
The state wanted to introduce evidence from the Aksman guardianship case as proof of Baker’s motive, Fix said Friday. Baker had a relationship with Marina Aksman’s cognitively disabled daughter Kristina Aksman. Kristina, now 22, witnessed Baker taking a baseball bat to her mother, prosecutors said.
Kristina’s mother sought and obtained legal guardianship of Kristina because of issues arising from her relationship with Baker, Fix said. There was an incident in which Kristina and Baker took a road trip to Kansas City. Kristina was hospitalized for not taking her seizure medication when she and Baker disappeared, attorneys said Friday.
Marina was granted the guardianship of her daughter before her murder.
“I believe the defense is going to argue that Kristina was not impaired ... the (murder) victim is her guardian. That’s our motive evidence,” Fix said.
Shanes said evidence establishing guardianship is admissible, but the contents of the petition detailing why is not. Shanes said he did not see the relevance.
Baker is in custody at Lake County Jail.