Baer v. Neal

Baer admitted that he murdered a 24-year-old woman and her four‐year‐old daughter in their home. He did not know the victims. Convicted of two murders, robbery, theft, and attempted rape, he was sentenced to death. He filed a direct appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court, asserting prosecutorial misconduct. His convictions and death sentence were affirmed. Baer filed unsuccessful state post‐conviction proceedings alleging that his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of habeas corpus relief on his convictions but granted relief with respect to the death penalty. The Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling was unreasonable under “Strickland.” Evidence of Baer’s mental health and drug use were the cornerstone of Baer’s defense, and defense counsel’s sole strategy for avoiding a death sentence was ensuring that the jury considered and gave effect to that evidence. Yet, Baer’s trial counsel failed to object to instructions that effectively blocked consideration of this crucial mitigating evidence. Counsel also deficiently failed to object to a pattern of prosecutorial prejudicial statements. “The record reflects that the trial judge missed numerous opportunities to stop or clarify the prosecutor’s statements and his absence was noticeable throughout trial.” View "Baer v. Neal" on Justia Law