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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jul 30, 2013

Head Comment: CORRECTION: The District Attorney's name has been changed.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Randy Chaffin, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stephen Baker.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Assistant Attorney General; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and Anthony Craighead, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): SMITH

Appellant, Stephen Dewayne Baker, was indicted by the Putnam County Grand Jury in January of 2010 for one count of first degree murder, one count of felony murder, one count of aggravated robbery, one count of arson, and one count of tampering with evidence. Appellant was convicted by a jury of all offenses as charged in the indictment. At a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the first degree murder conviction with the felony murder conviction and imposed a life sentence. Appellant was also ordered to serve twelve years for the aggravated robbery conviction, six years for the arson conviction, and six years for the tampering with evidence conviction. The trial court ordered the arson and tampering with the evidence convictions to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the life sentence and sentence for aggravated robbery, for a total effective sentence of life imprisonment plus eighteen years. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Appellant initiated this appeal. On appeal, Appellant contends: (1) the trial court erred by denying a change of venue; (2) the trial court erred by denying Appellant’s motion to suppress; (3) the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions; (4) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of Appellant’s prior bad acts; (5) the trial court erred in admitting the dying declarations of the victim; (6) the trial court erred in admitting testimony of Harold Harp about Appellant’s behavior; and (7) the trial court erred in admitting a photograph of the victim’s body. After a review of the record, we conclude that the trial court: (1) did not err in denying a change of venue where there was no proof that the jury pool was tainted from exposure to information about the incident; (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to suppress where consent for the search was valid and the search warrant was properly procured; (3) properly admitted evidence of Appellant’s drug use and past violent behavior; (4) properly admitted the dying declaration and excited utterances of the victim; (5) properly admitted the testimony of Mr. Harp; and (6) properly admitted photographs of the victim’s body. Additionally, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.