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Jimmie Baugh

Other Wayne County, Michigan exonerations
On December 3, 2001, 43-year-old Craig Land rode his bicycle from his home on Manning Street to a convenience store near Seven Mile Road and Hayes Street in Detroit, Michigan. He bought some beer, and on his way home, near the intersection of Hayes and Novara Streets, a Jeep swerved in front of him, forcing him to stop. A passenger in the front seat of the Jeep got out, demanded his money, and when Land balked, the man shot him in the leg.

Land fell to the pavement and tossed $29 toward the man. At that point, another vehicle approached. Panicked, the driver of the Jeep yelled at the gunman, who fired another shot at Land, then got back into the Jeep which sped away. The second gunshot pierced Land’s aorta. Land, whose formal name was Landczykowski, died at the scene.

An autopsy showed that Land had been shot with a .22-caliber pistol.

The following day, police arrested four men for a different carjacking in Detroit: 35-year-old Jimmie Baugh, Ricky Sailes, Lafayette Dearing, and Robert Kwasniewski. Police recovered a .22-caliber shell casing in Kwasniewski’s pocket. While the men were in custody, Kwasniewski and Baugh, who was charged under the name Jimmie, both made statements to Detroit police Detective JoAnn Miller about Land’s murder.

Kwasniewski said that he had stolen the Jeep and later picked up Baugh, who said he was $100 short on his rent and needed to “hit a lick,” meaning commit a robbery. Kwasniewski said after seeing Land with cash at the convenience store, they picked him as a target. Kwasniewski said after following Land a short distance, Baugh suggested Kwasniewski hit him with the Jeep and knock him off the bicycle. Instead, Kwasniewski said, he simply pulled in front of Land.

Kwasniewski told the detective that Baugh rolled down the window and told Land to hand over his money. When Land hesitated, Baugh shot him. Kwasniewski said that when Baugh got out to grab Land’s money, he “let off another shot.” Another vehicle approached, so Baugh jumped back into the Jeep and they “mashed off,” Kwasniewski said.

Baugh gave a distinctly different account. He said that Kwasniewski and Dearing had stolen the Jeep. Dearing was driving, Kwasniewski was in the front passenger seat, and Baugh was in the back seat. Baugh said they stopped at a gas station at Seven Mile Road, and Hayes and Kwasniewski went inside. When they emerged, he said that he saw Land who had “got some loot on him.” Baugh said that Kwasniewski and Dearing agreed to rob Land against Baugh’s wishes. Baugh said Kwasniewski rolled down his passenger window as Dearing cut off Land with the Jeep. Baugh said Kwasniewski got out and attacked Land. Land swung a bag he was carrying at Kwasniewski. “That’s when [Kwasniewski] shot him,” Baugh said.

Baugh said Land fell, Kwasniewski got back in the Jeep, and Dearing drove off.

All four men were charged with the December 4 carjacking.

In addition, Kwasniewski and Baugh were charged with the robbery and murder of Land.

On April 24, 2002, a preliminary examination hearing was held for Baugh and Kwasniewski in the murder case. Because they were codefendants, the court permitted Kwasniewski’s statement to be used only against Kwasniewski, and Baugh’s statement to be used only against Baugh. The prosecution called Sailes, the co-defendant from the December 4 carjacking charge. The prosecutor asked Sailes if he knew Baugh or Kwasniewski and Sailes replied “No.” Sailes then left the witness stand.

Based only on Kwasniewski’s statement, the court found probable cause to believe that Kwasniewski had committed first-degree felony murder. However, considering only Baugh’s statement, the district court held the state’s case lacked probable cause against Baugh and dismissed the first-degree felony murder charge against Baugh without prejudice to refile the charge.

On June 20, 2002, the prosecution offered Kwasniewski a plea agreement in which the prosecution would dismiss Kwasniewski’s charges in the December 4 carjacking and reduce his charge in the Land murder to second-degree murder instead of first-degree murder, leaving him subject to a sentence of 18 to 40 years instead of a possible life sentence. The deal required Kwasniewski to testify against Baugh in the murder case.

On July 18, 2002, a second preliminary examination was held for Baugh. Kwasniewski testified against Baugh and implicated him as the gunman. His testimony differed from his earlier written statement in that he testified that Baugh got out of the Jeep before telling Land to hand over his money. With the addition of Kwasniewski’s testimony, the court found probable cause to believe Baugh had committed first- degree felony murder and bound over his case for trial.

In November 2002, Baugh went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court on the December 4, 2001 carjacking case. The prosecutor was Augustus Hutting. Kwasniewski had pled guilty, as had Dearing and Sailes. On November 4, 2002, the jury acquitted Baugh of robbery and other charges, but convicted him on a single charge of possession of stolen property. On November 21, 2002, Judge Gregory Bill sentenced Baugh to 10 to 50 years in prison on that charge.

On January 13, 2003, Baugh went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court on the murder charge. Judge Bill presided over this trial as well, and the prosecutor again was Hutting. Just before the trial began, Hutting submitted a previously undisclosed statement from Kwasniewski’s mother. In the statement, she claimed that the day after Land was killed, she heard Baugh “bragging about shooting this guy, and how he fell, and he robbed him of his chain.”

Defense attorney James O’Donnell objected. When Judge Bill asked Hutting why he was so late in offering the statement, Hutting said, “You know, Judge, because [Kwasniewski’s mother] didn’t really say much [to] the investigator…And I guess I forgot about it.”

Judge Bill permitted Hutting to use the statement. At the same time, Judge Bill refused to allow O’Donnell to inform the jury that Kwasniewski avoided a possible life sentence by striking the plea bargain with the prosecution.

The defense suffered another setback as well. O’Donnell had planned to introduce into evidence a statement that an eyewitness to the murder, Gerves Crawford, had made to police at the scene that appeared to implicate Kwasniewski as the gunman. Prior to the trial, Hutting had shared his witness list with the defense, which listed Crawford as a witness.

O’Donnell, believing that he would have an opportunity to cross-examine Crawford about his statement, had not identified Crawford as a defense witness. During a recess during opening statements, Hutting asked Judge Bill to exclude Crawford’s statement because Crawford had died. No one had told O’Donnell that the only eyewitness besides Kwasniewski was dead. Judge Bill excluded the statement.

Detective Miller testified and read into evidence a report she prepared following her interview with Baugh. That statement said that Dearing drove the Jeep, Kwasniewski was the gunman and Baugh was in the backseat. She said Baugh told her that when Kwasniewski first proposed robbing Land, Baugh had declared “No, man, f--- that.”

Kwasniewski then testified, and, as he had at the preliminary hearing, he told the jury that he was driving and that Baugh shot Land.

On January 16, 2003, the jury convicted Baugh of first-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and illegal possession of a firearm. At his sentencing hearing, Baugh maintained his innocence.

“I am not the shooter,” he declared. “The shooter got away. The shooter is the one who said I did the killing.”

Judge Bill noted that the jury “elected to give a lot of weight to the credibility of Mr. Kwasniewski’s testimony.” Judge Bill then sentenced Baugh to life in prison, which, in Michigan, meant without parole.

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions in 2004. In January 2019, Baugh filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Christopher McGrath, who at the time was an attorney at the Federal Community Defender Office in Flint, Michigan, was assigned to represent Baugh. The petition was based on a statement that Sailes had made to Detective Miller when she was questioning him about the December 4 carjacking case.

When Miller asked if Sailes knew anything about the Land shooting, Sailes replied that Kwasniewski “told me he had shot a white guy on N[o]vara and Hayes. He told me Jimm[ie] was driving and they pulled up on the white guy. He ask[ed] him for his money[,] he said the white guy didn’t give him all of his money. The white guy started to run and [Kwasniewski] shot him. After he fell to the ground the white guy gave him all the money. Then Jimmie Baugh drove off.”

When Miller asked what kind of gun Kwasniewski had, Sailes replied, “A .22 he called Peggy Sue.”

Miller asked who was there when Kwasniewski shot Land. “It was me, Jimmie Baugh and Lafayette Dearing,” Sailes said.

Sailes had been sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison in the December 4 carjacking case. He had waited until 2015, after he had been released from prison and discharged from parole, to send the statement to Baugh in prison.

The petition said that Baugh had contacted O’Donnell, his trial attorney, who said he had never seen or heard of that statement. In an attempt to verify whether the statement had been disclosed, Baugh filed a public records request with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office. The request was denied because the office said it could not find the prosecution’s file.

Baugh had sought relief in the Michigan state courts based on the statement, but had been rejected under the theory that no matter whose version of the story one believed, Baugh’s presence in the Jeep made him liable either as a principal or as an aider and abettor.

So, the petition noted, Baugh turned to the federal court. After an evidentiary hearing, U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington denied the petition, ruling that there was not clear and convincing evidence that Sailes’s statement would have resulted in an acquittal for Baugh.

McGrath, by then in private practice, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In September 2022, the Appeals Court reversed Judge Ludington. The court ordered the writ be granted and that Baugh be retried, or the charges dismissed, because the prosecution had not disclosed Sailes’s statement to Baugh before his murder trial.

“After fourteen years in custody, Baugh discovered a never-before-seen statement that contradicted the material allegations of Kwasniewski’s testimony,” the appeals court said. Sailes’s statement could have been used to impeach Kwasniewski, the court said.

The court, citing Hutting’s late disclosure of the statement from Kwasniewski’s mother and the failure to notify the defense of Crawford’s death until after the trial began, noted that the prosecutor “had a proclivity to withhold information that would be helpful to Baugh’s defense.”

“The state had a threadbare case against Baugh with Kwasniewski’s testimony being the only evidence that inculpated Baugh,” the appeals court said. “Thus, we see no way a jury could find Baugh guilty beyond a reasonable doubt if Kwasniewski had been properly impeached.”

The court noted that Kwasniewski, Detective Miller, and Sailes all had credibility problems. Kwasniewski’s version changed over time, and he testified after striking a deal with the prosecution.

Detective Miller testified that it was her “usual practice to turn over all her investigation notes to the prosecutor,” the court noted. “[T]here is no reason to believe that actually occurred when only one of two statements made its way to the hands of defense counsel.”

Sailes also had given different accounts of how and when he sent his statement to Baugh, the court noted, and he had testified at the preliminary hearing that he did not know Baugh or Kwasniewski.

“Because Baugh’s statement that he was a backseat passenger cannot support a first-degree felony murder conviction, and his version of events is just as likely as Sailes’s statement or Kwasniewski’s testimony, we see no way that no reasonable factfinder could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Baugh is guilty of first-degree felony murder,” the court declared.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office filed a request to the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to appeal the ruling. However, that request was denied.

On September 19, 2023, the charges against Baugh were dismissed. He remained in prison, serving his 10 to 50-year sentence on his possession of stolen property conviction in the carjacking case. On January 30, 2024, Baugh was released on parole.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/16/2024
Last Updated: 1/30/2024
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Weapon Possession or Sale, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2001
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:35
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No