Despite repeatedly expressing his desire to give his version of what happened the night Marina Aksman was bludgeoned to death on April 1, 2010, Daniel Baker ultimately followed his defense attorney's advice and stayed off the witness stand.
"I have my rights intact unlike in Montana," Baker said Wednesday. "That's why I plead the Fifth."
Prosecutors say Baker, 24, murdered Aksman in her Vernon Hills home because she wanted to end his relationship with her daughter, Kristina Aksman. The couple fled the scene and was found four days later in Cut Bank, Mont., where Baker confessed to the crime during a recorded police interview with Lake County detectives.
With Baker declining to testify and the defense resting its case in the sixth day of his bench trial -- he waived a jury against attorney Ed Genson's advice -- prosecutors called a psychiatrist to the stand to counter the defense's argument Baker was insane at the time of the murder.
Dr. Stafford Henry said Baker's behavior just before, during and after he killed Aksman was organized, based in reality, focused and goal-oriented -- all signs he appreciated the criminality of his conduct.
Especially significant, Henry said, was the threatening voice mail Baker left the Aksman household minutes before the 4:30 a.m. murder. He said there was going to be trouble and his girlfriend's parents shouldn't mess with true love.
"He was clearly speaking in a calm, collected manner to the Aksmans," Henry said.
Henry said Baker's subsequent behavior was consistent with the antagonism, animosity and resentment he demonstrated in the voice mail, particularly during the vicious baseball bat attack against Marina Aksman. During one of his interviews with Baker, Henry asked why he kept hitting Aksman.
"Marina's brain was already out," Baker said to Henry. "I don't know. It felt good."
Henry diagnosed Baker as having several mental disorders including bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorders, as well as a personality disorder with "schizotypcal, borderline and obsessive-compulsive features." However, those would cause symptoms such as mood instability, unstable relationships, impulsivity and eccentric and peculiar behaviors and speech, not a psychotic break, Henry said.
Genson challenged Henry's diagnosis and opinion, pointing out letters Baker wrote his family that were filled with delusional statements, such as Baker saying he didn't want to use a phone because he used Jesus Christ to communicate with his mother.
Henry said while he took such behavior into account, it didn't change his opinion that Baker was legally sane at the time of the murder.
He "respectfully disagreed" with Dr. Alexander Obolsky, a defense witness who testified Marina Aksman threatened Baker's desperate need to feel normal when she called him bipolar and said he couldn't see her daughter.
Due to scheduling conflicts, the trial will resume Friday, Nov. 2. Both sides say they'll be prepared to give their closing arguments at that time.