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.