State opposes shaken baby killer’s motion for new trial

The Ada County jury that in 2013 convicted a Boise father of inflicting fatal injuries from violently shaking his young daughter had ample evidence to find him guilty of first-degree murder, the prosecutor in the case said.

Deputy Ada County Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu wrote in a recent court filing that Jeffery A. Baker should be denied a new trial for the death of 11-week-old Gracelynn Baker.

Baker, 55, who was sentenced to 15 years to life, claims the jury had no basis for ruling out that Gracelynn might have died from other than criminal means. The guilty verdict was “contrary to the evidence presented at trial,” defense attorney Randall Barnum wrote in the motion for a new trial.

Akamatsu disagreed.

“The state presented testimony from multiple doctors that Gracelynn’s death was caused by non-accidental abusive head injury that was inflicted while she was alone with the defendant,” Akamatsu wrote in her response.

Fourth District Judge Patrick Owen, who oversaw the trial and sentenced Baker, is scheduled to hear Baker’s motion for a new trial on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Ada County Courthouse.

The infant was taken to St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center on May 10, 2010. She died four days later, after being removed from life support. Authorities said she died from an abusive head injury.

Physicians called by the prosecution and the defense in the trial disagreed whether Gracelynn showed signs of being fatally shaken.

Dr. Lucy Rorke-Adams, who specializes in central nervous system tumors in infants and children at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, testified for the prosecution that Gracelynn was injured from being shaken, lost consciousness and later slumped forward, cutting off her air supply and causing her death.

Dr. John Plunkett, a Minnesota pathologist and a leading critic of shaken baby syndrome, said the infant died from natural causes from a blood clot in her head. Plunkett and other critics say medical evidence is lacking that shaking alone could cause brain injury to a baby.

According to Barnum, the jury found that Baker shook his daughter hard enough to cause brain damage or render her unconscious but did not leave any outward signs of injury, which should have been seen in a case of shaken baby syndrome.

In her response, Akamatsu said at trial a longtime associate of Baker, Brian Keim, who spent time in prison with Baker, testified Baker told him the baby was crying and he slammed her into the bed. Moments later, Gracelynn stopped crying, slumped over and quit breathing, Keim testified that Baker told him.

At trial, prosecutors said Baker did not call 911 but told a neighbor that the baby lost consciousness while choking on formula as he fed her. Baker later told police the baby choked on formula after he left her alone in another room.