State v. Baumruk

85 S.W.3d 644 (2002)

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State v. Baumruk

Missouri Supreme Court
85 S.W.3d 644 (2002)

Facts

In 1992 Kenneth Baumruk (defendant) attended a divorce hearing and shot his wife, her attorney, his own attorney, a bailiff, a security guard, and a police officer. After shooting his wife in the neck, Baumruk shot her in the head, killing her, and chased the judge in an effort to shoot him, too. Police officers shot Baumruk nine times with two shots to the head, but Baumruk lived. In 1993 Baumruk was indicted for murder in the first degree and other charges in St. Louis County. There was massive media coverage of the killings. Baumruk’s first case was transferred to a different venue, and he was found incompetent to stand trial for the foreseeable future due to his brain injuries. After various proceedings, the charges were dismissed in that venue. However, five years later, in 1998, Baumruk was indicted again in St. Louis County for murdering his wife. Baumruk was found competent to stand trial despite having amnesia because he was then able to understand the proceedings and aid his attorney with his defense. In 1998 a poll of St. Louis County residents had shown that 70 percent recalled the shooting, and of that group, 80 percent thought Baumruk was guilty and 18 percent found Baumruk’s guilt probable. At the time of the trial in 2001, most of the jurors remembered the shooting, and one indicated his initial belief in Baumruk’s guilt based on the press coverage. Baumruk again moved for a change of venue but was not unsuccessful. The trial judge felt enough time had passed to make the selection of an impartial jury possible. Baumruk’s trial was held in the same courthouse where he killed his wife and shot so many others. Jurors used the same hallways, staircases, and escalators as the victims had in trying to escape the shooting. Although the trial was in a different courtroom, jurors essentially adjudicated the case while sitting in the murder scene. Also, the prosecutor made a point of asking that Baumruk be penalized for his conduct in the courthouse. The jury convicted Baumruk of murdering his wife, and he received the death penalty. Baumruk appealed, arguing, in part, that his change-of-venue motion should have been granted.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wolff, J.)

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