A judge ruled against a Boise man seeking a new trial in the 2010 death of his 11-week-old daughter, saying there was no justification for setting aside the jury’s murder verdict in the case.
Fourth District Judge Patrick Owen said he carefully reviewed the case and said a new trial for Jeffery A. Baker, 55, would only have been warranted if the verdict was contrary to law or the evidence presented, if there was new evidence that wasn’t available at trial or if a new trial was required in the interest of justice. Owen found that none of those conditions applied.
“In the court’s view, Baker received a fair trial and was found guilty on the basis of substantial although disputed evidence. In the end, substantial justice was done,” Owen wrote in his 21-page decision.
The Ada County jury ruled unanimously in 2013 that Baker inflicted fatal injuries on his daughter Gracelynn Baker by violently shaking her. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
Defense attorney Randall Barnum argued that the jury had no basis for ruling out that Gracelynn may have died from other than criminal means. He said the jury’s decision was contrary to the evidence presented at trial.
Owen disagreed. At trial, the prosecution presented six physicians with extensive experience handling child injury cases.
“These experts all agreed that Gracelynn’s death was caused by a nonaccidental head injury,” Owen said.
Two defense physicians testified that Gracelynn died from a blood clot in her head.
“In reaching its verdict, the jury plainly rejected the defense expert testimony,” Owen wrote.
Gracelynn was not breathing and had a white substance running from her nose when Baker carried her to a neighbor’s home on May 10, 2010. He told neighbors the girl had been drinking formula when she began choking. When paramedics arrived a few minutes later, Gracelynn was pale and unconscious, was not breathing and had no pulse.
She was taken to St. Luke’s Medical Center and died four days later, after life support equipment was removed.
Doctors testified that Baker’s explanation about what happened did not fit what they found. The six doctors attributed the girl’s internal head injuries to a violent accelleration and deceleration, consistent with shaking.
At trial, the state also presented testimony from Brian Keim, who shared a jail cell with Baker while he was awaiting trial. He said Baker admitted to shaking Gracelynn shortly before she lost consciousness.
Keim said Baker told him Gracelynn had been acting up, crying and screeching loudly on a trip home from a babysitter’s home but calmed down before they arrived home. He said Baker told him he tried to feed her but she would not cooperated. Baker said he became frustrated, put her on a bed and went into another room while the girl continued to cry.
Keim said Baker told him he “snapped,” went into the bedroom, slammed the girl on the bed and told her to shut up. She became uncounscious after that.
Baker tried to make it look like an accident, Keim said, focing formula into her mouth and nose before taking her to the neighbors’ home.