Alleged killer of girlfriend’s mother found mentally fit to stand trial
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org October 15, 2012 12:22PM
Updated: October 15, 2012 5:16PM
Murder suspect Daniel Baker blames his alleged victim for her beating death and suspects his lawyer is working for the Russian mafia, Baker’s mother testified Monday at his mental fitness hearing.
But Diane Weber said her 24-year-old son nonetheless is eager to go to trial for the 2010 slaying of his former girlfriend’s mother.
“He said he’s ready for trial, he wants to do this,” Weber testified at a last-minute hearing sought by Baker’s attorneys, who contend he isn’t mentally competent.
Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes already ruled last week following a separate hearing that Baker is fit for trial.
Despite acknowledging Baker, of Deerfield, has “significant mental health issues,” Shanes reached the same conclusion again Monday following a brief second hearing, then ordered his trial to begin Tuesday.
“I agree with Mr. Baker. I think he’s fit to stand trial,” said Shanes, who will preside over the proceedings without a jury.
Defense attorney Edward Genson said in court he had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Baker to ask for a jury trial.
Questioned by Shanes, Baker said he had decided against having a jury decide his fate.
“I’d like for a judge to hear the case,” Baker said calmly.
Baker’s mental state is expected to be the key issue in the trial, with Genson saying he will raise an insanity defense.
Baker is accused of using an aluminum baseball bat to fatally bludgeon 50-year-old Marina Aksman on April 1, 2010, after slamming his car into the front of her Vernon Hills home.
Baker allegedly was upset that Aksman was trying to end his romantic relationship with her 20-year-old daughter, Kristina, who has mental disabilities, prosecutors have said.
After the slaying, Baker fled with Kristina Aksman in her mother’s car. The young couple was stopped by police six days later in northern Montana.
Baker was charged with first-degree murder, while Aksman — who was home when her mother was killed — is expected to be a key witness against her former boyfriend.
Genson has argued Baker isn’t mentally fit to stand trial because of psychological problems that prevent him from assisting in his own defense.
“At times, he can be rational. At other times, his thought processes can be very disordered,” Genson said.
Weber testified her son is “paranoid” and suspects Genson is working with the Russian mafia because Aksman’s family is of Russian ancestry.
“I’ve asked him to listen to his attorneys and work with them, but he’s voiced his opinion that people are getting in their heads and swaying their thoughts against him.” Weber said.