Despite the Indiana Parole Board's vote of 3-1 in favor of execution last week, Gov.r Mitch Daniels has commuted the sentence of convicted murderer Arthur Paul Baird II to life without the possibility of parole. Indiana had scheduled Baird for execution before sunrise on Aug. 31. On Sept. 6, 1985, Baird murdered his parents, 78-year-old Kathryn and 68-year-old Arthur, and his pregnant wife, 32-year-old Nadine, in Montgomery County. He was 39 years old when he committed the murders.
According to the governor, the nature of Baird's crimes justifies the death penalty. "Nonetheless," Daniels said, "given certain unusual, probably unique circumstances in this case, a different outcome seems more just."
Courts recognized Baird as suffering from mental illness at the time he committed the murders, and Indiana Supreme Court Justice Ted Boehm recently wrote that Baird is "insane in the ordinary sense of the word."
At trial, lawyers introduced evidence that Baird believed the federal government was about to pay him $1 million in return for his advice regarding the national debt. In reality, Baird was in debt and had just lost his job. Baird maintains the murders were a result of "irresistible impulse" spurred by mental illness. His attorney, Sarah Nagy, said Baird believes that a big, burly man was moving his arms and forcing his participation in the crime.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Howard E. Wooden testified that at the time of the murders Baird suffered from a "delusional disorder" accompanied by a "psychotic reaction." According to Wooden's diagnosis, Baird acted and functioned in accordance with fanciful beliefs or delusions. Wooden said that at the time of the trial, such delusional disorders were not available for firm independent diagnosis but were considered mainly in conjunction with substance abuse.
While Daniels did consider Baird's mental health, he based his clemency decision primarily on the fact that life without parole was not a sentencing option when Baird was convicted.
"To me, it suffices to note that, had the sentence of life without parole been available in 1987, the jury and the state would have imposed it with the support of the victims' families," Daniels said in his clemency statement. "I conclude that the proper and just result in this case is for Arthur Paul Baird II to serve a term of life without parole, and I therefore commute his sentence accordingly."
Indiana has executed four death row inmates so far this year with at least three more executions scheduled this fall. The state is currently on track to execute more inmates in 2005 than during any other year since 1938.
This year's surge in executions is the result of the large number of death sentences handed out during the 1980s. Courts across the state handed out 57 death sentences during the 1980s, as compared to 28 during the 1990s, two between 1977 and 1979, and 10 so far between 2000 and 2005.