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Jury delivers 50-year sentence

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, August 11, 2018
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A Fort Worth man convicted by a Wise County jury this week of evading arrest with a vehicle was sentenced to prison for a fifth time.

David Ray Baker

David Ray Baker, 45, was found guilty of trying to flee from an officer on a traffic stop by speeding through the parking lot of a retail center the week before Christmas last year.

The jury delivered a 50-year sentence after deliberating for close to two hours Wednesday at the conclusion of the two-day trial in 271st District Court in Decatur.

Baker was arrested Dec. 18, 2017, after he sped away from a Wise County Sheriff’s deputy, driving through the four-way stop sign in the parking lot between Cici’s Pizza and Tractor Supply in Decatur. Jurors watched video from the pursuing officer, which showed Baker narrowly missing hitting at least two vehicles before driving through a fence behind Tractor Supply and crashing into a creek bed. Baker then attempted to run on foot before being caught by officers.

Deputy Robert Sparks testified that he was alerted to the fact Baker was possibly traveling through the county on his way to Bowie with drugs in his vehicle. Sparks located Baker’s pickup and followed him as he exited U.S. 81/287 at Farm Road 51 in Decatur.

The deputy said he attempted to stop Baker after he failed to signal a turn at least 100 feet before an intersection. After initially beginning to stop, Baker sped off in the parking lot.

“The vehicle took off at a high rate of speed narrowly avoiding collision with multiple vehicles in the parking lot,” Sparks said.

Reaching speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, Baker drove to the back side of Tractor Supply before crashing through a fence. A few seconds later, his vehicle came to a stop in a ditch, so Baker fled on foot.

Body camera video of the chase showed Sparks chasing Baker on foot near a wooded area before he and other officers were able to catch and detain him. The video also shows officers locating a baggie of a substance that would later be determined to be methamphetamine that Baker had discarded during the chase.

Baker’s attorney, Bruce Isaacks, pointed out that Baker slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting vehicles while he fled.

“During this short chase, he had numerous opportunities, if wanted to hurt someone, he could have. But he took evasive action so no one would get hurt,” Isaacks said to the jury during opening arguments.

Isaacks also had Sparks point out the length of the chase, which was 25 seconds.

While the chase lasted less than half a minute, Sparks and Wise County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. James Mayo both testified that the way Baker was operating his pickup could have caused serious bodily injury or death.

The jury later determined Baker’s truck was used as a deadly weapon. That finding means Baker has to serve at least half his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

During the punishment phase of the trial, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry showed the jury evidence of Baker’s prior felony convictions, which included assaulting a public servant, drug possession and evading arrest. Baker pleaded “true” to both an enhancement paragraph and three habitual offender paragraphs related to the convictions. That made the punishment range 25 years to life in prison.

Mayo testified Wednesday afternoon that during his interview with Baker at the jail, Baker admitted that he was headed to Bowie to pick up more methamphetamine and then travel to Tennessee to sell it.

During his closing arguments to the jury, Berry pointed out that Baker had been sent to prison four times over a span of 21 years and sentenced to a total of 62 years. He asked the jury to return a verdict of 99 years.

“This is one of the guys flooding our community with methamphetamine,” Berry said in his closing argument to the jury. “Our kids are the victims of this crime.”

Isaacks asked the jury to return an “appropriate verdict.”

“They’re asking for a life sentence for 25 seconds. That’s a lot of time for 25 seconds of a person’s life. I’m asking for one year for every second – 25 years. We’ve got to have some common sense,” he said.

Following the 50-year verdict, Isaacks said Baker does plan to appeal.

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