Jan 12, 3:56 PM EST

Appeals court tosses death sentence in 2004 slayings


ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) -- A federal appeals court has thrown out the death sentence of a man convicted of killing a central Indiana woman and her 4-year-old daughter at their rural home during a robbery.

The 7h U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case of Frederick Baer back to Madison County on Thursday for resentencing.

Baer's conviction on murder charges for the deaths of 26-year-old Cory Clark and her daughter, Jenna, along with attempted rape and theft convictions, were allowed to stand, The Herald Bulletin reported .

The court cited ineffective legal counsel for failing to object to instructions that kept the jury from considering mitigating circumstances and failing to object to instances of prosecutorial misconduct. It also criticized the decisions of Madison Circuit Judge Fred Spencer and the Indiana Supreme Court not to consider Baer's appeal on similar grounds.

Baer, 46, of Indianapolis was convicted of the February 2004 slayings of the mother and daughter at their Madison County home near Lapel, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Indianapolis. Prosecutors said at the time that Baer robbed and sexually assaulted Cory Clark, then slashed the throats of both her and her young daughter.

Baer admitted to the crimes. At the time of his 2005 trial, he sought to plead guilty but mentally ill. Spencer denied the plea, finding insufficient evidence to show mental illness. Baer's attorneys had said he suffered from numerous mental disorders and brain damage from huffing as a teenager

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings predicted "it will be a long time" before Baer returns to Madison County for resentencing.

"The Indiana Attorney General will appeal to have the case heard by all the judges of the 7th Circuit and maybe to the U.S. Supreme Court," Cummings said Friday.

Cummings said the case was going to be reversed because of the erroneous jury instruction given by Spencer.

The 7th Circuit ruled that the jury instructions removed a reference to intoxication. During the trial, Baer maintained he was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time the crimes were committed.

The court noted defense attorneys Jeff Lockwood and Bryan Williams failed to object to the removal. Messages seeking comment from both attorneys were left Friday by The Associated Press.

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Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com

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