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updated: 10/5/2012 7:06 PM

Trial in Vernon Hills murder case delayed

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  • Daniel Baker

      Daniel Baker

 
 

Murder suspect Daniel Baker could possibly take the stand next Friday and tell a judge whether he thinks he is fit to stand trial.

The extremely unusual ruling Friday came after Lake County Judge Daniel Shanes couldn't decide if he should declare Baker mentally incompetent of understanding the trial.

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Shanes said Baker "has the right to be fit for trial" but said to have the best information possible, he would "consider calling the defendant to testify."

Because of the decision, Baker's trial has been postponed from its scheduled start Tuesday morning. In the meantime, Shanes ordered Lake County Assistant State's Attorneys Ari Fisz and Patricia Fix, as well as defense attorney Ed Gensen, to research if there are any violations of Baker's Fifth Amendment rights if he takes the stand in the fitness trial.

"It's rare, but the judge is permitted to call a witness during a fitness hearing," Fisz said after Shanes ruled Friday. "Because of the question, he asked us to research the issue, then decide what will happen if we call him."

Baker, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of 50-year-old Marina Aksman of Vernon Hills in April 2010 after the woman tried to end a romantic relationship Baker had been having with her daughter, Kristina, then 20.

The high-profile case had been working its way through the courts for the past two years, but nearly two weeks before going to trial, defense attorneys questioned whether Baker was mentally fit.

Gensen said he would definitely seek an insanity plea for Baker after psychiatrists said the former Deerfield resident suffers from a personality disorder. The disorder causes Baker to not understand how relationships form, often leads to severe anxiety and forces people into odd behavior, and gives them a tendency to turn inward in social situations.

Prosecutors said that Baker was declared fit to stand trial in 2011, and that defense attorneys are stalling by bringing the issue up again.

However, psychiatrist Alexander Obolsky said under oath Friday that the stress of the approaching trial is causing Baker's condition to get worse.

That determination led to Shanes' decision Friday to potentially put Baker on the stand.

The two sides will meet again next Friday morning to make the decision.

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