Evidence lacking in case of man accused of dressing up as wife, shooting her new boyfriend: attorney

BY Hannah Leone, Chicago Tribune

On the afternoon of the third day of Jermaine Baker’s trial on charges he shot his estranged wife’s new boyfriend three times in the head in Aurora in 2014, jurors finally heard opening statements from Baker’s lawyer.

Baker, who has pleaded not guilty to felony charges including attempted murder and home invasion, maintains his innocence, said defense attorney Marc Wolfe.

“The bottom line is, he is not guilty,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe had been waiting until prosecutors were done presenting their evidence to make his opening statements, which focused on the state’s burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Wolfe told jurors that prosecutors had failed to meet that burden.

Baker, who is in custody but has been allowed to wear street clothes to his trial, has elected not to testify, Wolfe said.

Prosecutors called a handful of witnesses, including Anthony Townsend, the man Baker is charged with trying to kill; Arlen Casaya, the woman Baker allegedly shot Townsend over; Baker’s former boss; and several Aurora police officers who had various roles in the response and investigation of the shooting.

The defense called one anticipated witness, Aurora Police Det. Kevin Jenkins, who also testified for prosecutors on Tuesday; and subsequently recalled Townsend, who had been observing the trial from a courtroom bench. Wolfe has indicated he’ll call at least one witness Thursday, when the judge told jurors they should be prepared to deliberate.

Townsend has said his shooter woke him up and stood near his bed wearing one of Casaya’s dresses and a wig of long brown hair, like hers.

During his questioning of Townsend, Wolfe brought up a photo of Baker that Townsend confirmed his brother had shown him in the hospital after the incident, to ask if that was the man who shot him. That was before police ever showed him a photo lineup, Wolfe said.

“There (was) plenty of time for you to convince yourself that’s who it was?” Wolfe asked Townsend, referring to the more than three years since the August 2014 shooting. Kane County Circuit Judge David Kliment sustained prosecutors’ objection to the question.

Townsend doubled down on previous statements that Baker shot him.

“No doubt in my mind,” Townsend said. “That’s who shot me in the face.”

With the jury not present, Wolfe asked Kliment to make a directed verdict to all counts in favor of Baker, or essentially to tell the jury to find Baker not guilty. Wolfe argued the state presented a minimum amount of evidence, hinging on Townsend’s identification of Baker and lacking a weapon, fingerprints, DNA evidence and independent witnesses.

Kliment denied Wolfe’s motion.

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