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Steven Wiggins sentenced to death in murder of Sgt. Daniel Baker

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Posted at 11:56 AM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 17:10:46-04

CHARLOTTE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Steven Wiggins was sentenced to death for the murder of Dickson County Sgt. Daniel Baker. Jurors reached the verdict after deliberating for about two hours.

During closing arguments on Thursday, the defense asked jurors to consider Wiggins' mental illness, which the state rebutted, saying much of that report was based on firsthand information from Wiggins, and he was caught lying during some of it. The defense also said Wiggins had "cognitive abnormalities" as a child, calling him "maladapted."

"I'm not asking you to forgive him. I wouldn't. You couldn't," the defense said. "All he's asking you to do is put him in a box for the rest of his life. He will walk into a TDOC facility and he will leave in a casket." "He'll be surrounded by cold steel without the warm embrace of his family and friends. That's a serious punishment."

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Steven Wiggins appears in court.

The defense also argued that since Wiggins is medicated, he's not a danger anymore due to his lack of incidents while incarcerated. They also said the death sentence would harm his son, saying,"his son didn't have nothing to do with this."

Meanwhile, prosecutors said Wiggins had five active warrants and that Baker was executing his lawful duties to take him into custody. "Wiggins murdered Sgt. Baker to keep from being arrested," according to the state.

They also played the confession video in which Wiggins said he knew law enforcement was looking for him. He had packed and was leaving town. He confessed to giving a fake name in another attempt to avoid arrest.

"Sgt. Baker was in uniform. He was driving his patrol car. He was dispatched to that intersection. He asked for the suspect's ID. He was doing his job," the state said.

The state also presented autopsy reports of Sgt. Baker, saying that 10% of his body was covered in 2nd and 3rd degree burns. They said there was no soot material in his airways, which indicated that he was dead.

Earlier in the day, the defense argued that Wiggins has a diminished capacity to control his impulses due to his mental health and drug use. A history of family abuse was also brought up.

However, the state used his "crush your enemies" and "no mercy" tattoos, as well as a jailhouse phone call where he instructed his 10-year-old son to kick his mother in the stomach when he found out behind bars that she was pregnant, to show that he had a reckless disregard for others.

The defense argued that these tactics were prejudicial and most of the past two days revolved around whether or not some of that could be heard by a jury in a death case.

Last week, Wiggins was found guilty on all counts in the murder of Baker after jury members deliberated for just over one hour.

Sheriff Says They 'Lost A Hero' When Deputy Was Killed
Sgt. Daniel Baker

The jury found Wiggins guilty on the following charges: premeditated first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder in perpetration of theft, false reporting, theft of property, criminal impersonation, criminal impersonation of law enforcement, tampering with evidence, arson, abuse of a corpse.

As the sentencing phase began on Saturday, Lisa Baker, the widow of Sgt. Baker, was the final witness to speak. She gave an emotional victim impact statement, causing several jurors to cry while it was read. She spoke on how their daughter calls Sgt. Baker every night on her play phone and how he won't be around for her life's biggest moments.


IN-DEPTH: A look at Tennessee laws/how jurors must decide the sentence

The sentencing options for a jury in a capital case are death, imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole or imprisonment for life (with the possibility of parole after 51 full calendar years).

The decision on the death penalty comes down to specific aggravating circumstances and specific mitigating circumstances.

If the jury unanimously finds that the state did not prove any aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury must return a sentence of imprisonment for life. However, at least one aggravating factor has already been proven (murder of a law enforcement officer).

If the jury unanimously finds that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt, the sentence must be death.

If the jury unanimously finds that the aggravating circumstances do not outweigh the mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt, the sentence must be either imprisonment for life (possibility of parole after 51 full calendar years), or imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.