Friday, August 26, 2005

Arthur Baird: Rehearing Denied, Dissent, and the Story . . .

Marcia Oddi reports in this post over at the Indiana Law Blog that a divided Indiana Supreme Court has issued an order clearing the way for Arthur Baird's execution next week. I'm not sure what the division is about. I guess we'll see when Justice Boehm's opinion dissenting from the order appears in the ether . . . if it does. Justice Rucker apparently concurs in the dissent.

It's all just a little odd. On July 19th, a unanimous court denied Baird the opportunity to file a successive state post-conviction petition. Opinion here. So what has changed in a month and a week for two justices? Maybe there was something persuasive in the rehearing petition. Maybe.

I will always recall reading Justice DeBruler's plainly elegant rendition in Baird's direct appeal of what happened:

Appellant and his wife, Nadine, lived in a house trailer located on the forty-acre farm near Darlington, Indiana, that he jointly owned with his parents, Kathryn and Arthur Paul Baird, I. His parents lived in the farmhouse and appellant's maternal grandmother, Noradean Fleming, lived in another trailer on the property. At approximately 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. on September 6, 1985, appellant and Nadine were getting ready to drive to Crawfordsville to go shopping. They planned to visit with Nadine's parents, Lemoyne and Margaret Altic, after they finished, as was their habit on Friday evenings. Nadine was ready to leave before appellant and due to the heat she lay down on the bed and turned a portable fan on herself while she waited for him. After appellant finished getting ready, he walked back to the bedroom and strangled his wife with his hands, then tied a plaid shirt around her neck.

Nadine's parents called the trailer twice that evening. Around 6:00 p.m., appellant told her parents that they would not be visiting because Nadine was sick. The Altics were worried because Nadine was about six months pregnant and they wanted to check on her, but appellant told them not to come over because she had gone to bed. The Altics called back at 10:00 p.m., after also having called appellant's parents to inquire as to Nadine's health, at which time appellant told them that Nadine was still asleep.

Appellant spent the rest of the night in the trailer watching television, writing notes, and periodically lying down next to his wife's body to hold her. He went to his parent's house at about 7:00 a.m., finding them already awake. He fed the chickens and brought the newspaper to his father, and his mother gave him a hair cut. His father then went outside to the washhouse and his mother returned to the sink to finish making some pickles she had started. Appellant then grabbed her from behind, covered her mouth with one hand, reached for a butcher knife, and stabbed her several times in the abdomen and throat as she struggled and screamed for help. As soon as she fell to the floor he headed for the back door and met his father who was entering the house. Appellant mentioned something about a disturbance, and before his father could react appellant stabbed him in the abdomen and throat as the victim attempted to fight him off.

Appellant went back to the trailer and gathered items which he then loaded in his parent's car until the rear end nearly touched the ground. Margaret Altic called between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m., and appellant told her that Nadine was alright but still in bed. He stated that they were going to leave soon for their realtor's office to close the deal on a 253 acre farm that they had been attempting to purchase for approximately a year and that they would stop over afterwards. Mrs. Altic called again at 9:45 a.m. and appellant again told her that he was about to awaken Nadine and that they would come over after the closing.

Appellant left in his mother's loaded down car but turned around in a neighbor's driveway to come back for a pair of pliers that he thought he might need to open some canned food jars. He left again around 11:00 a.m., driving south toward Lagoda through Darlington and Crawfordsville and then on back roads to Huntingburg, where he was apprehended, two and one half hours from his home, at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 8th, while watching a softball game.

Baird v. State, 604 N.E.2d 1170, 1175076 (Ind. 1992).

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