Original article no longer available
The Effingham Daily News
February 16, 2011
Cathy Thoele Effingham Daily News Wed Feb 16, 2011, 07:48 AM CST
VANDALIA Attorneys for a Loogootee teen charged with murdering a couple who lived nearby tried to suppress statements made by the teen, including a videotaped confession that was viewed in court Tuesday.
The attorneys claim law enforcement officials coerced 15-year-old Clifford W. Baker into making statements and a confession they say were involuntary and violated his constitutional rights. The motion also alleges Baker was not allowed contact with his family. Baker is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and home invasion in connection with the deaths of John Mahon and Debra Tish on Aug. 4.
In an at times emotional hearing that included testimony from Baker’s father and law enforcement officers who responded that morning, witnesses recounted the events the morning of the murders that started when Baker woke his father, Jeff Goldman, about 3 a.m. because he couldn’t sleep.
Goldman testified he then awoke a half an hour later to his son shaking and saying, “I killed ’em, I killed ’em all.”
Goldman’s girlfriend at the time, Justina Jones, who was living at the residence with Goldman, testified she thought Baker was dreaming.
“He kept talking in gibberish. Nothing made sense,” she said.
Jones reiterated that Baker said he had killed, but thought he said “I killed my ma,” referring to Goldman’s deceased mother, who Baker referred to as ma.
“I said, ‘he’s dreaming. He thinks he killed your mom,’” Jones said as she choked up on the stand.
After police arrived, Goldman and Jones couldn’t recall during testimony where Baker was after he was tasered by police who, along with Goldman, tried to calm him down as he was screaming and acting irrational.
Goldman said it was not until he called the sheriff’s department that he was notified his son was in the hospital. As they were questioned, the two said they were told not to leave the property that morning.
Illinois State Police Investigator Albert Gallatin testified Goldman granted him verbal permission to question his son about what happened earlier that morning because Goldman wanted to know what happened. He also gave permission for his house to be searched, said the investigator.
However, Goldman testified that he was not informed by police that he had the right to be present during questioning or that Baker had a right to an attorney. He also was not told any information he gave could incriminate his son.
When questioned, Goldman said he and Jones were not told where Baker was, but admitted he didn’t recall asking about his son’s whereabouts. Officers also testified Baker’s father did not ask where his son was and was given a number to call if he had any questions.
A juvenile officer was called to the scene before Baker was taken to the hospital and another was present during questioning. Baker was made aware such an officer was present during questioning, but the defendant’s attorneys pointed out it was not explained to him the duties of a juvenile officer to act as an advocate for Baker.
In the hours following the murders, it was discovered Baker had taken an estimated six pills of the anti-depressant Cymbalta prescribed to him following a suicidal episode a couple of weeks earlier in which Baker attempted to kill himself by firing a gun into his right abdomen and then fatally shooting his dog. Baker did not incur major injury from the shooting.
Baker also confessed that in the hours before the shootings, he had consumed beer, vodka, marijuana and a handful of pills, he identified as Zanax.
Baker was taken by ambulance to Fayette County Hospital where blood and urine samples were taken and was accompanied by an Illinois State trooper, who said Baker was talkative.
“Baker said ‘they’re going to execute me,’ after needles were inserted to draw blood,” said trooper Stacy Hesetlon.
Hesetlon said she again advised Baker of his Miranda rights after Baker was Mirandized at his father’s house by another officer. However, Baker was not given a paper to sign documenting he had been read his Miranda rights until the taped confession.
The confession was taped later the same morning of the shooting while Baker was at the hospital. Gallatin awoke Baker, who had only been sleeping for about an hour and was handcuffed to the bed naked with only a sheet. Lying in bed, Baker appeared calm, but sleepy. Gallatin said he did not interview Baker before the confession and the only words spoken off camera were to ask for his permission to record the interview.
In the confession, which brought tears to Baker and the victims’ families during viewing, Baker said he got drunk following a fight with his dad, who he said drank and they often argued. As Baker recounted the early morning events, he was inaudible and would periodically stray from the events, mumbling about a man giving him pills to kill his father.
But as Gallatin would repeatedly go over the events, Baker became more alert and sat up. He recalled the shootings and hitting a woman, Tish and Mahon’s neighbor, with a knife he found in the shooting victims’ home.
Baker said he had no personal problems with the couple and shot them because he was scared of going to jail.
“If you could say anything to those people, what would it be,” asked Gallatin during the confession.
“I’m sorry. I wish it would have been me instead of you,” he answered.
During the hearing, Baker’s attorneys contended his mental capacity also should be a factor in suppressing the statements and confession along with his age, education and intelligence. Attorney Monroe McWard noted Baker is a special education student with an IQ of 85. However, Fayette County State’s Attorney Stephen Friedel pointed out Baker was a good student in first and second grade.
Judge Michael McHaney also heard a defense motion for the county to pay for an adolescent psychiatrist McWard said may link Baker’s behavior that day to the drug, Cymbalta.
The judge took issue with the psychiatrist’s estimated fee of $400 an hour, anticipating the total cost could exceed $50,000. However, McWard said the psychiatrist’s cost estimate is about $15,000. He further said he and two other attorneys have currently not been paid in representing Baker, who as a minor is indigent. He added the child developmental psychiatrist is essential to the case and the defense has no way to pay for it.
“I believe everyone is entitled to a defense with every fiber of my being. Issue is am I obligated to make Fayette County pay for it,” said McHaney.
Friedel questioned since Baker was voluntarily intoxicated with other substances besides Cymbalta, whether a psychiatrist is even relevant. McWard countered Baker was prescribed the drug even though it carries a warning not to prescribe to people under 18.
The judge will issue a written order on the motions. In the meantime, Friedel said he would search for other psychiatrists who may be more affordable.
Cathy Thoele can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original article no longer available
Drug prescribed to teen focus of pretrial hearing — (The Effingham Daily News)
Thu Jan 13, 2011, 08:15 AM CST
Civil lawsuit possible following murder trial of teen accused of double homicide
Cathy Thoele Effingham Daily News
VANDALIA Several motions were heard Wednesday at the pretrial hearing of a Loogootee teen charged with double homicide, but one motion points toward a possible civil lawsuit against a drug maker of a popular antidepressant.
Clifford Baker, the teen charged with the Aug. 4 shooting deaths of 53-year-old Debra Tish and 60-year-old John Mahon, appeared in Fayette County Circuit Court where his attorney, Monroe McWard, filed a motion for the appointment of a forensic pharmacologist regarding the medications Baker was prescribed prior to the day of the early morning shootings.
The motion stems from a suicidal episode Baker had about a week before the shootings in which Baker was prescribed the antidepressant Cymbalta after being treated at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and Gateway Medical Center, St. Louis.
McWard noted such antidepressants have been known to cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors in people under the age of 18. Baker turned 16 last week. Safety information about the drug warns of the risk and, therefore, states it is not approved for those 18 and older.
McWard said he intends to have the pharmacologist discuss what happened to Baker after taking the drug and “whether he understood what he was doing and whether it led to insanity.”
Judge Michael McHaney, however, questioned how a forensic pharmacologist can render an opinion of insanity.
“He can render psychosis,” McWard said.
McWard added Baker’s father discovered six Cymbalta pills missing the day of the shootings.
McWard is looking for the pharmacologist to support the theory the medication induces violent and suicidal behavior.
Fayette County State’s Attorney Stephen Friedel questioned McWard’s motive for hiring a pharmacologist and whether the state should pay the expert’s fee.
Friedel said while McWard, who is working pro bono, might be a legitimate reason for paying the fee, the attorney was retained privately by a third party. He added it is a different matter if McWard is planning to use the testimony for a potential civil lawsuit and said the state shouldn’t be asked to pay for someone to be used in a civil suit.
McWard said during the hearing he is looking at a potential civil suit against the manufacturer of Cymbalta in which Baker was misprescribed the medication.
“Why should Fayette County be ordered to pay for your expert?” asked McHaney.
McWard responded if he can’t find a funding source to pay for a pharmacologist for the criminal trial, he would have to remove himself from the case or not be prepared for trial.
McHaney complained the motion didn’t spell out a fee schedule or contain a preliminary report supporting the theory.
“Is the theory based on research or is it junk science?” he said.
While McHaney added he wasn’t ruling the theory junk science, he denied the motion for lack of written evidence to support it at this time. He, however, told McWard he could amend the motion and bring it back before the court.
Later in the hearing, McWard said there is a possibility Baker’s father may be able to pay for the pharmacologist and the request may be withdrawn.
In another motion, McHaney ordered Baker be allowed to view written discovery in the case at the Madison Juvenile Detention Center where he is being held, provided the documents not be distributed to anyone, including family.
A motion to preserve evidence also was granted. The motion filed by the defendant asks that blood drawn from Baker on Aug. 4 not be destroyed. McWard said during the hearing he plans to use the sample to determine whether Cymbalta was present in his system. McHaney granted the motion provided the hospital has not already destroyed the sample or consumed it during other testing.
A hearing date of Feb. 2 was set for 1 p.m. regarding two motions to suppress statements. Because the state needed time to review the motions, the jury trial originally scheduled to begin Jan. 31 was moved to 8:30 a.m. April 4. While granting the later trial date, McHaney warned there will be no further delays in the case.
Cathy Thoele can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 126 or email@example.com.
To view complete article click here
Murder trial delayed Judge considers change of venue request (The Leader-Union)
By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The jury trial for a Loogootee teen charged with murdering a neighbor couple was pushed back at the last minute due to a strategy change by his attorneys. And the judge overseeing the trial for Clifford Baker is expected to decide by Friday whether the teen’s murder trial will still be held in Fayette County.
Though he was 15 at the time of the offenses, Baker is being tried as an adult. At a court hearing last Thursday morning, Baker’s attorneys informed Judge Michael McHaney and Fayette County State’s Attorney Stephen Friedel that they would now be presenting a defense that includes evidence of insanity and involuntary intoxication. It was an announcement that both the judge and the prosecutor did not like hearing… In a videotaped confession that he gave several hours after being taken into custody for the murders, Baker said that he had ingested more than the prescribed amount of Cymbalta, as well as some alcohol and some marijuana. Friedel said that he had an opportunity to have Baker examined and to obtain an expert witness for the insanity issue, “But all along, I am proceeding, I am told, ‘We’re not going to do this (insanity defense).’ “Then, they come in at the 11th hour and say, ‘By the way, we are going to do this,’” Friedel said.“And that’s exactly what you got,” McHaney said…
It would be “an unmitigated disaster to go through all of this and then run out of jurors,” the judge said. Discussion on the issue continued at a hearing this Tuesday, when McHaney considered the defense team’s renewed motion for a change of venue. Friedel said concerns about getting enough jurors could be addressed by increasing the pool of juror candidates from 60 to 100. “There is no way we’re not going to get one (a jury) out of 100 people,” the state’s attorney said. “Fayette County is a big county,” Friedel said. “There are pockets throughout. “There is no reason to believe we can’t impanel not only a jury, but an impartial jury,” he said.
Defense attorney Monroe McWard argued, “I think it would be a terrible mistake not to move this.” Defense arguments have contended that there has been extensive, prejudicial press coverage, but Friedel argued, “I don’t think there has been inflammatory press, and I don’t think people who have information (on the case) have (necessarily) drawn a conclusion.” McHaney said he would make a ruling on the change of venue request by Friday, at which time a new trial date could be set.
Also at Tuesday’s hearing, McHaney ruled on several pretrial motions, including one in which the prosecution asked that one of the defense’s expert witnesses be limited in his testimony. McHaney granted a prosecution motion stating that a pharmacologist can testify about drug interaction, but not about Baker’s state of mind on Aug. 4 of last year. During the discussion on Baker’s use of Cymbalta, and possibly Xanax, on the evening of the murders, McWard began to talk about about the destruction of a blood sample obtained from the teen. McHaney interrupted, telling McWard that this is not a case where the defense can present arguments about the destruction of evidence, “in no way, shape or form.
To view complete article click here
Ill. teen gets life for killing sleeping neighbors
By Jim Suhr, Associated Press
Published: Friday, Sept. 30 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT
FILE – This August 2010 file photo provided Sept. 27, 2011 by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department in Vandalia, Ill., shows then 16-year-old Clifford Baker. Baker, convicted of gunning down his neighbors John Mahon, 60, and Debra Tish, 53, in the tiny Fayette County town of Loogootee, was sentenced to life in prison Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, after having been tried as an adult.Â
Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, File, Associated Press
A judge sentenced a southern Illinois teenager to life in prison on Friday for sneaking into his neighbors’ home and shooting them dead while they slept, rejecting his attorneys’ pleas for a punishment that could have allowed the teen to taste freedom again in his late 60s.
- LOUIS — A judge sentenced a southern Illinois teenager to life in prison on Friday for sneaking into his neighbors’ home and shooting them dead while they slept, rejecting his attorneys’ pleas for a punishment that could have allowed the teen to taste freedom again in his late 60s.
Fayette County Judge Michael McHaney sentenced 16-year-old Clifford Baker to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing John Mahon, 60, and Debra Tish, 53, on Aug. 4, 2010 while they were asleep in bed. After Baker killed the two he broke into another neighborhood home and punched a woman there in the eye. He fled after the woman’s husband confronted him by name and was arrested a short time later.
The judge handed him additional 30-year prison terms for the home invasion charges.
Baker, who was convicted in August, apologized in court Friday for the pain he caused to his victims’ families and to his community, Loogootee, which has roughly two dozen residents and is about 80 miles east of St. Louis.
“Basically, he said he was accountable for what went on, and that he didn’t mean to cause the families that kind of pain and anguish,” Baker’s lead defender, Monroe McWard, told The Associated Press afterward. “He gave a sincere apology.”
Mark Wykoff, another of Baker’s attorneys, said they plan to appeal the conviction or to try for a new sentence that would give Baker the “opportunity to show he reformed his ways.”
“There was an opportunity to treat Mr. Baker other than an adult perpetrator of a double-homicide crime. The judge rejected any consideration of that,” Wykoff said. “I don’t disparage him for doing that. But I think Mr. Baker is a juvenile, and there should be other factors taken into consideration.”
Stephen Friedel, Fayette County state’s attorney in Vandalia, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.
At trial, Friedel offered no explanation for jurors as to why Baker attacked his neighbors.
But McWard said Baker was in a haze the night of the attack because of a drug for depression he had been prescribed two weeks earlier. He was put on the medication after he shot himself in the torso and killed his family’s dog.