Prosecutors say Kennae Baker didn’t intend to kill D’Andre Pete when he went to his apartment last July.
Instead, they say, Baker planned to rob the man he called a brother of drugs and money but ended up shooting him in the process.
“This was a robbery and a burglary gone bad that resulted in the loss of D’Andre Pete’s life,” Assistant Prosecutor Ty Graham said Friday during closing arguments in Baker’s murder trial.
Defense attorneys, however, argued that Baker shot Pete because he thought Pete was about to shoot him. They said prosecutors failed to prove Baker didn’t act in self-defense.
“These facts do not warrant guilty verdicts,” said Joe Gorman, who represented Baker with attorney John Greven. “They warrant a not-guilty verdict.”
Jurors must now decide which side is right. Baker’s five-day trial in Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty’s courtroom wrapped up with closing arguments Friday afternoon. Jurors deliberated for about 2½ hours and will resume their talks Monday morning.
This was the third time in the past month that a defendant has claimed self-defense in a murder trial in Summit County, with the other two cases resulting in convictions. A new state law recently kicked in that put the burden on prosecutors to prove that deadly force wasn’t warranted.
Baker, 20, is charged with two counts each of aggravated murder, murder and aggravated burglary; three counts of felonious assault; and one count each of aggravated robbery and theft. Several charges include gun specifications.
Baker shot and killed Pete, 24, on July 13 in his Spring Hill apartment in Akron, where both men lived.
Jenna Smith, Pete’s girlfriend, testified that Baker also fired at her, breaking a glass table and sliding glass door. She said she climbed onto neighboring balconies to escape.
Spring Hill has numerous surveillance videos throughout the building, but not in residents’ rooms, so the shooting wasn’t captured. Prosecutors, however, played videos of Baker before and after the shooting.
Baker was the lone witness for the defense, taking the stand Thursday. He said he bought marijuana from Pete and then began selling pot for him in both large and small quantities. Baker said he sold a pound of marijuana to his cousin on the day of the shooting, gave the drugs to his cousin and got the money, then returned to Pete’s apartment to pay him.
Baker said Pete had previously threatened to kill him if he ever cheated him out of the cash he was owed. He said Pete got upset when he counted the cash for this latest deal and found it came up short. He said Pete punched him about 10 times, backed up and reached into his pocket where he started to pull out a gun. Baker said he shot Pete, then turned around and ran.
“I feel really bad,” Baker said of the death of a man he saw as a brother. “I was in fear for my life. I thought he was going to kill me.”
During closing arguments Friday, Gorman questioned why Baker would rob someone in the building where he lives and is well known and where he’d be captured on video going into and out of the apartment. He said Baker would have to be “the dumbest man in America” to do this.
Gorman also criticized police for steps they failed to take during the investigation, including not talking to a few people who went in and out of Pete’s apartment before police arrived. He theorized that one of these people could have taken Pete’s gun and the money from the drug transaction — both of which were missing when police got there.
Gorman also said Smith’s account of what happened — and in particular her claim that Baker shot at her — aren’t supported by the physical evidence.
Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Mayer, however, said jurors should evaluate the evidence presented and — when they do — will find there’s enough to convict Baker.
“Self-defense in America is a right but it can — and often times is — abused,” Mayer said. “I leave it to you. The only evidence of self-defense they give is his word. Is that enough?”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.