By GARY POPP
A 25-year-old Jeffersonville mother of three was performing a sexual act on her drug dealer in a parked pick up truck in Oct. 2011 when her uncle approached the vehicle and murdered the man who was known to deal in prescription pills.
Katrina Baker has spent the last 18 months in jail awaiting trial. She is facing two A felony robbery charges and possibly a long prison sentence.
Her case is currently being tried in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1.
Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Harmeyer is nearing the end of her case, and has claimed to a jury of six men and six women that Baker conspired with her uncle Joseph Mayes to rob Anthony Redd the night of Oct. 21 near her home.
Mayes accepted a plea deal in the same court in Nov. 2012. The plea modified his murder charge to voluntary manslaughter.
Harmeyer said Baker received $60 and 18 prescription pills for her role in the alleged conspiracy and robbery.
Baker is represented by court appointed attorney Thomas Bird, of New Albany, and co-counsel Bradley Jacobs, of Jeffersonville.
After Thursday’s proceedings, Jacobs said there is a contradiction in convicting one suspect of voluntary manslaughter — a charge that specified Mayes acted out of sudden heat at the sight of seeing his niece in the act of performing oral sex — and charging Baker with conspiracy to commit a robbery.
“[The prosecution] can’t argue on one hand that Joe Mayes did it in a split-second decision, but Katrina Baker had the plan part of it,” Jacobs said. “It doesn’t work.”
The defense will present its case after the prosecution, which was expected early today.
Jacobs said he does not anticipate that Baker will take the witness stand in her own defense.
“I would rarely let a client testify unless it absolutely has to be done,” Jacobs said. “And I don’t think in this case she has to say a word.”
In the first two days of the prosecution’s case, Harmeyer, who has shared a table with Jeffersonville Police Detective Todd Hollis throughout the trial, has called a small cast of Jeffersonville police investigators to testify, along with James Lawson, the father of two of Baker’s children.
Lawson told police during their investigation in the days after the murder that Baker had said she and Mayes were planning to rob Redd of cash and drugs.
Lawson lives at 213 Kopp Ave., a home he shares with Baker, her child and her parents. Mayes also lived in the home on an off-and-on basis.
Jacobs said Baker had no intent to rob Redd, but that Mayes had overheard Baker talking to Redd on the phone, learned of their plan to meet for a drug transaction and saw an opportunity to rob Redd.
“Joe Mayes overheard something, and he acted on that,” Jacobs said. “He is an opportunist.”
During her presentation to the jury Thursday, Harmeyer showed a video of Baker being interviewed by Jeffersonville police detectives, including Hollis, after a search warrant was executed at the home and she was taken into custody.
The video shows two Baker interviews, both conducted on the same day.
During the first interview, Baker denied knowledge of the crime and told the investigators she had never left the home during the night of Redd’s death.
She said Redd was a friend who would supply her pills for money and, at times, for sexual favors.
“We got our little thing,” she said. “We do.”
The second interview began with Baker sobbing, saying she feared for her life.
“Keep me safe,” she pleaded to the questioning Hollis.
Baker then proceeded to provide Hollis her account of what transpired the night of the murder.
She said Redd had come to the house, she had gotten in the his pick up truck and the two drove to an alley around the home and began their sexual activity, something that was not out of the ordinary.
She said her uncle then came to the window and asked Redd, who had rolled the window down several inches, if he had and pills. When Redd said he did not, Baker told police her uncle began firing into the vehicle.
“One spark was all I saw,” Baker told the investigator.
She said she then panicked, quickly left the vehicle and returned to her nearby home.
On the recorded interview, Hollis continued his attempt to get Baker to admit she conspired to rob Redd, but Baker didn’t budge.
“I use my body, instead of rob,” she told Hollis.
As the video was played on a large flatscreen television in the courtroom, Baker diverted her eyes and cried, a wadded-up tissue sat on the table before her.
Harmeyer said she wanted to show the video to the jury to support placing Baker at the scene and reveal that she received $60 and 18 pills from the crime.
“We don’t believe she, herself, physically took them [the stolen property], but her aiding in the robbery makes her culpable in the crime. Whether or not all the elements are proved against her, she aids in a crime or conspires to commit a crime, she is still guilty of that crime,” she said.
Jacobs said the video supports Baker was not involved in a conspiracy.
“Baker was asked eight times if she planned to rob Redd,” he said “Her response was always the same. There was no agreement.”
Harmeyer said the prosecution had considered calling Mayes as a witness, but decided against it.
“It is just a strategic decision by the state to not call him as a witness,” she said. “That is his niece, and we believe he would attempt to protect her.”
Harmeyer explained prosecutors had previously offered Baker a blind plea to accept a B felony, which has an advisory sentence of 10 years in prison with a maximum of 20 years. Baker did not accept the offer.
The term blind plea sentence would have been the up to the discretion of the presiding judge, and could have resulted in a probation term, Harmeyer said.
Presiding Judge Daniel Moore told the jurors before adjourning for the day that they can expect to go into deliberation early this afternoon.
The case was scheduled to reconvene 10 a.m. today.