The emotions of the trial spilled out into a courthouse hallway. Jurors had just found Dejon Baskin guilty of trying to kill his wife, her mother, and her brother.
Baskin's trial took five weeks, but jurors spent less than four hours in deliberations before finding him guilty. And when they were done, ten of the 12 jurors spent an hour-and-a-half crying and laughing with the victims.
Catharsis for Rachel Baskin came in the form of an outpouring of support from the people who found her ex-husband guilty of trying to kill her.
"It's been over three years and it feels like we can finally breathe," she said. "We're free."
Dejon Baskin drove from his Marine base in San Diego to this Reedley neighborhood where Rachel lived in July 2009. He shot his estranged wife and slashed her throat. He shot her brother Chris point-blank in the head. And he slashed her mother Linda's throat as well.
The former Marine sergeant never denied he did it, but he claimed he only intended to see his young daughter one last time before committing suicide.
His attorney said Baskin suffered from PTSD that may have fueled his act. But jurors who greeted the victims after the verdict told Action News they discounted the PTSD theory. And they said Rachel and her family impressed and inspired them by surviving such a brutal attack, and hearing their stories brought on some extreme emotions.
"I'm not going to lie," said juror Satnam Grewal. "I kind of broke down. It was, to me, I'm thinking, 'Why? How? Why?'"
The victims will bear the physical scars of the attack for the rest of their lives, but they're hoping the verdict is the beginning of the healing process for their emotional scars.
"That's the most important thing is to continue to live your life after something like this happens, or else he won basically," said Rachel's brother, Chris Gentsch.
Dejon Baskin is set for sentencing at the end of October and he'll get a life sentence. His attorney tells me he's going to ask for a new trial.
STATEMENT FROM ERIC H. SCHWEITZER
While Sergeant Baskin never claimed to have been involved in combat during his three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, he did have occasion to be present and to function as he was taught to function in basic training, as an infantryman. In such situations, he saw military and civilian casualties, and suffered exposure to an IED attack. Such experiences can easlily cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Although hotly disputed by the prosecution. Sergeant Baskin's presence in forward areas with expeditionary forces was thoroughly proved by the evidence during the trial. His exemplary service in 2007 in Ar Ramadi, along with 30 or so other Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 is well documented. One of the prosecution's main witnesses had to admit this during trial. Contrary to the prosecutuon's case, Sergeant Baskin was not on a luxury vacation in Al Tacaddem air base during this time. He served his country well, and he has the decorations to prove it.
Like tens of thousands of returning troops, Sgt. Baskin delayed his reporting of suffering the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most of these symptoms were verified by his ex-wife, who is one of the three victims in the case. This is common. Witnesses for the prosecution verified this aspect of military service. Most civilians do not recognize what PTSD is when they see it. Chronic Alcoholism, which Baskin suffered from, is one of the most common side effects. Hallucinations and dissociative flashback episodes are commonly reported as well.
In the words of the United States Supreme Court in the 2009 case of Porter v. McCollum:
"Our Nation has a long tradition of according leniency to veterans in recognition of their service, especially for those who fought on the front lines as Porter did. Moreover, the relevance of Porter's extensive combat experience is not only that he served honorably under extreme hardship and gruesome conditions, but also that the jury might find mitigating the intense stress and mental and emotional toll that combat took on Porter."
This case signalled the legitimacy of PTSD as a possible defense to criminal charges in the United States.
This was the essence of our defense theory, along with proof that Sgt. Baskin stood nothing to gain by murdering his wife and her family. His true intent was to grant them all and his infant daughter with the benefit of a half million dollars in military life insurance, that pays off even in the event of suicide. This was proved up at the trial.
It now appears that no amount of proof can roll back the fear and emotion which played out on the open 911 line on the morning of July 16, 2009. The prosecution presented the tape at the beginning and the end of the trial. In closing arguments, the prosecutor announced three times over that a verdict of not guilty would result in no punishment for Sgt. Baskin. This was unnecessary and wrong. I made all the apporopriate objections to this and the record is now preserved.
The prosecutor presented the case to the jury in a strong manner. There is nothing wrong with that. But to such make arguments about punishment over and over, before a jury in a criminal trial has no legitimate place in a California courtroom. California law is clear, punishment is for the Court, not the Jury to decide. We are concerned that this improper argument improperly swayed the verdict, and we will be filing the appropriate Motion fo New Trial accordingly.
ERIC H. SCHWEITZER
Attorney for Dejon Andrew Baskin.