The question some people have about Matthew Baker Jr’s case is, why is he being charged? Baker, 24, is facing 30 charges and potentially the death penalty for a Henry County, Georgia quadruple murder from 2016. However, the district attorney failed to bring forth evidence proving he had anything to do with the crime.
Read Honeysuckle's previous investigations of Baker's case here and here.
Matthew Baker and Georgia Accessory Law
In October of 2016, Baker attended a bonfire party with his friends, Kayla Head, Brook Knight, and Jacob Williams where Jacob Kosky was with his sister, Mackenzie Jude Walton. A few hours after Baker and his friends left, Kosky asked Brook to come get him to bring him home. Baker went for the ride and when they arrived back at the house, Kosky asked him to meet him outside of the house. Kosky then opened fire on the remaining party guests inside the house with two firearms he stole from the house.
Angie Lanier, Matthew’s mother, said Baker’s defense attorneys attributed Baker's charges to the accessory law. The Georgia accessory law (OCGA 16-2-20) states:
Any party to a crime who did not directly commit the crime may be indicted, tried, convicted, and punished for commission of the crime upon proof that the crime was committed and that he was a party thereto, although the person claimed to have directly committed the crime has not been prosecuted or convicted, has been convicted of a different crime or degree of crime, or is not amenable to justice or has been acquitted.
The key phrase in the breakdown of this law is that the party to the crime “intentionally” participated or aided and abetted in the commission of it. Both Baker and Kosky told Honeysuckle Baker had no idea what was going to happen when he met Kosky in front of the house. The question then becomes, if Baker claims he did not know who the victims were nor what Kosky had plans of doing, how could he have intentions of doing something criminal?
A subset of the accessory law concerns conspiracy which states that one act by one of the co-defendants becomes the act of all defendants. However, because Baker failed to withdraw from the “conspiracy” at hand (which includes preventing the completion of the crime or informing local authorities of the incident) the state could hold him accountable. However, Baker stated in his interrogation with Sgt. David LeCroy that Kosky threatened to kill him if he said anything.
“Kosky said ‘Alright, let’s go’ and said he’ll shoot me if I say anything. I was scared for my life, and myself because you don't know he could've just been like I think you're going to tell and just shot me and I would've been one dead in the house,” Baker previously told Honeysuckle.
The accessory law also includes anyone who helps the commissioner of the crime flee the scene. The other three witnesses involved, Jacob Williams, Kayla Head and Brook Knight, have not been charged the same as Baker. Instead, they were charged with obstruction of justice, per previous reports. Head and Knight are listed in Georgia’s court docket as co-defendants. In Knight’s pre-trial hearing, Superior Judge Arch McGarity said she made a false statement to the police claiming Baker was not at or near the scene of the crime.
Violation of Matthew Baker's Constitutional Rights
Currently, the only angle to prove Baker’s innocence is the violation of his 6th Amendment rights. Defense attorneys Christina Rudy, Shayla Galloway and Nathanial Studelska have argued that Baker’s statements to Sgt. LeCroy are inadmissible as evidence because Baker was unlawfully detained.
The defense argued Baker was not aware he was in custody while he spoke with LeCroy. Per the interrogation footage, Baker was locked in the room after LeCroy handed him a paper and pen to write his statement. It wasn’t until nine hours later when the door opened and that was the moment he was arrested. The sheriff who placed him in handcuffs is heard asking Baker if he’d been Mirandized and proceeding to zip tie his ankles without reading him his rights.
The prosecution argued Baker was still not considered in custody even after being locked in the room: “He didn’t know the door was locked when he wrote his statement. Cases out there specifically address a locked interview room. Did he know that the door was locked? It’s clear he didn’t and tried to open the door twice.”
The prosecution also argued Baker’s rights were not violated because he was not entitled to be read his Miranda rights during arrest or after he had agreed to make a statement.
“He would have a very strong argument that he was in custody for purposes of Miranda and was entitled to receive Miranda warnings,” Georgia State University Law Professor Russell D. Covey said. “The fact that they locked him in the room is, I think, evidence of that. Arrest without being Mirandized is okay. The officers asking if Mr. Baker had been Mirandized suggests knowledge that he had been already placed in custody.”
Missing Action From Matthew Baker's Defense Attorneys
Over the past six years of Baker sitting in jail, no forensic evidence has come forth to suggest Baker is connected to the crime. Jennifer Green, previous Henry County Police Department crime scene unit member, testified that she took major prints, photographs and gun residue tests for Kosky, Baker and the other three witnesses in attendance that night. Green confirmed that no clothes or items were taken from Baker with blood on them. The only items Green mentioned to be examined for evidence were Kosky’s shoes which contained blood residue.
There’s more evidence, however, to separate Baker from the crime that has not been brought before the court. Jacob Kosky has stated multiple times to Honeysuckle via JPay that Baker is innocent and had no idea he was going to kill anyone. Since his 2016 preliminary hearing, Kosky has been fighting for Baker’s release. “I was under the impression that when I took my plea, Matthew would be let go,” said Kosky via JPay.
Fighting Against Institutionalized Railroading (FAIR) activist and co-founder Damita Bishop, who has been instrumental in advocating for Baker, and his mother Lanier both said Baker’s attorneys have not confirmed whether they will consider Kosky’s messages as evidence.
“The defense, I think, would want to make that front and center in the case because that seems like extremely powerful evidence that Mr. Baker was not involved or aware of what was going on that evening,” Professor Covey said. “I would imagine that [Kosky], would be a key witness in a case like this given the fact that he’s already found guilty. There could be some questions about his competency if he is still struggling with mental illness.”
Kosky also pled guilty but mentally ill to all charges and was waived from the death penalty. Kosky’s public defender Brad Gardner said Kosky’s mental illness dates back to when he was only three years old. Reports said he was discharged prematurely from a mental facility days before the incident without medication. Kosky was reported to suffer from ADHD, schizophrenia and be on the autism spectrum.
Both Judge McGarity and Judge Robert L. Godwin have sealed nearly all of Kosky’s court records.
Kosky also told Honeysuckle that Baker’s defense attorneys visited him following his sentencing in February 2019 to ask him about Baker’s role in the murders. “They came and seen me [sic] right after I took my plea in February of 2019. They kept asking me about Baker and his role in my case and I kept telling them he didn’t do anything and he’s innocent,” Kosky said. “They wanted me to say he knew about the murders before it happened but didn’t shoot anybody. I told them he DIDN’T know about the murders before the crime.”
Baker’s attorneys declined to respond to Honeysuckle’s request for comment.
“As the case is ongoing, GPDC is not in a position to comment on it publicly. We are tasked with ensuring that each client whose cause has been entrusted to a circuit public defender receives zealous, adequate, effective, timely, and ethical legal representation. While we understand the interest in the case, the Office’s above-described obligations to its client preclude public or press statements at this time,” read an email from the Georgia Public Defender Council Director of Communications, Thomas O’Connor.
Lanier and Bishop have both voiced concerns regarding Baker’s public defense and the angle in which they are trying to prove Baker’s innocence. Baker told Honeysuckle the attorneys once told him “a win for them would be getting him life in prison” to which he would not be granted parole. Life in prison is part of the plea deal District Attorney Darius Patillo has offered.
Baker said his attorneys do not allow him to keep his discovery in Henry County Jail, nor do they show it to him in full, but rather in segments when they visit him. When Baker was reindicted last summer, Lanier and Bishop asked them to file a motion for a bill of particulars to detail the reasoning for doubling his charges. Lanier said the attorneys told her there was no such thing.
Bishop also raised concerns about Baker’s right to a conflict-free counsel. In Kosky and Baker’s arraignment in 2017, both Kosky’s representation and Baker’s representation stated they worked for Georgia’s Capital Defender Council. At this point in the pre-trial process, Baker would have had to ask the court for permission to receive new counsel.
“They’re the only attorneys who didn’t want to deal with me,” said Bishop. “I’ve had some explain to me why they wouldn’t use certain information and research I sent to them just for them to turn around and court and use it. They told me what I could and couldn’t say on social media. Matthew’s attorneys have just done a lot to push me out of the courtroom."
Christina Rudy has recently released herself from Baker’s counsel and the team has hired a new investigator, Baker and Lanier said.
Brian Nichols And The Death Penalty In Georgia
There’s a reason why it seems nearly everything in Baker’s case is going out of left field. The issue is simple: money – and the issue dates back to the case of courtroom shooter Brian Nichols from 2007. Nichols’ case drained Georgia of their capital defense funds, which is why the very things Baker needs to help his case haven't been offered to him.
Nichols’ defense costs totaled nearly $3 million of taxpayer money, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution. These funds were disbursed across mental health experts, shelter for the defense team, defense experts, lawyers and the most expensive were fees for the defense lawyer’s firm. Nichols was represented by four lawyers from the Georgia Capital Defenders office but after they withdrew from the case, his new representation was brought in from out of state, costing more money. The Georgia Public Defender Council had petitioned the court for more money after paying the new team $1.2 million but were rejected by the Judge, reported The New Yorker. Their budget began to decrease.
Because this is another death penalty case, Baker’s pre-trial and jury selection processes will weigh heavily on county taxpayers. Additionally, costs for psychiatrists, crime-scene specialists, experts to research childhood or background will add up. However, Baker told Honeysuckle those resources have not even been offered to him. Nichols’ case could be the reason as it drained the council created to help people like Baker from their funding.
Former Henry County District Attorney Tommy Floyd said other district attorneys think capital punishment would “financially break” them. According to Henry County’s annual budget, spent only $1,296 of their $75,000 budget for indigent public defense in 2021. For 2022, the budget has decreased to $6,751. Additionally, death penalty cases hold a higher price than regular crime cases. In records obtained by the ACLU, it was found that the Federal Bureau of Prisons spent nearly one million dollars per execution authorized under the Trump administration.
Money isn’t the only factor to contemplate with this case. Georgia has a history of abusing capital punishment. The state was found to have applied “cruel and unusual punishment” unevenly since 1972 in Furman v. Georgia. According to FindLaw, the Court found Georgia’s laws were biased against Black defendants. Then, in 1987 with McCleskey v. Kemp, the Court had to take another look at social injustice within death penalty cases. Social scientists found prosecutors were 70 percent more likely to seek death sentences against Black people accused of killing white people than any other group.
Further, the study found those Black defendants were 22 more likely to actually receive the death penalty. Though the Courts weren’t completely convinced without “exceptional clear proof” of racism, research confirmed the likelihood of racial bias in capital punishment. Fifty percent of Georgia’s Death Row inmates are Black.
Georgia's Jury Issues: Systemic Racism In Matthew Baker's Case
The last problem is the jury. The study found the awareness of systemic racism in the US plays a role in how jurors account racial bias in their decision making. Though Baker’s defense neglected to request a change of venue, there’s still a possibility to find an unbiased jury.
Professor Covey said there may be a significant expense to moving the trial however the upside is that Baker would be more likely to get a neutral jury. Another issue Covey noted is that a jury may be convinced Baker is guilty based on the 30-count reindictment. However, the jury has to be free to consider any other sentence besides death, per The New Yorker.
Baker has since sent a letter of demands of what he wants his attorneys to do to help prove his innocence. Baker is considering hiring new counsel if they do not meet his demands.
Read Matthew Baker's Letter To Attorneys Demanding They Prove His Innocence
Matthew Baker's full letter to his attorneys is below.
How Can I Support Justice For Matthew Baker?
To support justice for Matthew Baker, like and share the Justice for Matthew Baker Facebook Page and tune in to the following podcasts to learn more about his case.
Mystery Mom Dracc
"Why Isn't Anyone Talking About Matthew Baker?"
"Let My People Go Show: Justice For Matthew Baker Jr."
A.E.M. To H.E.L.P. LLC
"Matthew Baker Jr. sits in Henry County Jail wrongly charged for a crime he didn't commit!"
Wedlock: Chronicles of a Prison Wife
"Interview with Matthew Baker Jr's mom Angie Lanier"
All Things Relevant Media
"UNJUST: Matthew Baker Jr. Trial"
Stay tuned for further updates on Matthew Baker’s case and sign his petition at Change.org. To support a fair trial and investigation for Matthew Baker, you can send letters or make phone calls to the Henry County Justice Department:
Christina Rudy email@example.com
Shayla Galloway firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathanial Studelska email@example.com
Georgia Capital Defense Council Office
Phone: +1 800-436-7442
Henry County Superior Court
Mailing: 1 Courthouse SQ, McDonough, GA 30253
Clerk of Superior Court - Barbara Harrison
Mailing: 44 John Frank Ward Blvd,McDonough, GA 30253
District Attorney Darius Patillo
Mailing: 2nd Floor, West Tower, McDonough, GA 30253
Phone: (770) 288-6400
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Featured Image: Matthew Baker with niece in 2016, courtesy of Angie Lanier.