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LIVINGSTON

Matt Baker claims innocence to News Channel 25 from prison

by Bruce Gietzen

LIVINGSTON - For the first time since he was convicted more than 4-months ago, former pastor Matt Baker is speaking out. He's pledging to continue his fight for a new trial to prove he didn't murder his wife.

News Channel 25's Bruce Gietzen interviewed Baker for nearly an hour Wednesday at his new prison home in Livingston, Texas where he is serving his 65 year sentence.

Baker's mother filed a complaint with the state judicial board claiming he got ineffective counsel in his murder trial from attorney Guy James Gray, who admitted one day after the verdict he only "gave about 80 percent in the trial, not the 110 percent he usually gave" in the courtroom.

"That one comment alone should get me a new trial, when your attorney purposely says 'I botched the case', that's ineffective assistance of counsel", Baker said.

When asked what would happen in a new trial, he said "I'd have a better attorney and I'd win, because I'm innocent."

How would you prove that?  Baker said "it would be up to an attorney.  There's not one piece of evidence that says I'm guilty.  There's emotion, but no evidence."

He says he was dumbfounded when his attorneys passed up a number of opportunities to thoroughly cross examine witnesses, and then called only one witness in his defense.

"I'm sitting there (in court) thinking I'm getting screwed, pardon my French, but I'm getting screwed by my own attorney when he doesn't cross examine witnesses."

Gray told News Channel 25 after the trial Baker lied to him about the affair with Vanessa Bulls, the state's key witness in the trial, and he and his attorney hardly spoke after the extra-marital relationship came out six weeks before the trial.

Baker admitted having the affair was wrong, and lying about it to his attorney was a mistake, too.  He also believes there were other mistakes that cost him in the trial, like not speaking up in his own behalf when his attorneys wouldn't.

The convicted felon also revealed he wanted to take the stand and testify in his own behalf.

"We went into the trial and I was told I wouldn't testify unless we needed it," Baker explained.  "I said I would gladly do that, and I'm not sure what they were afraid of having me do that, but at that point late in the trial it wouldn't have hurt me."

Knowing testimony hadn't been favorable, he was admittedly scared as jury deliberations dragged on.

Then once the guilty verdict was read, "I was destroyed, devastated, knowing I didn't do it and my attorney could care less," he said.

Bulls testimony was not a surprise to him, but he said most of it was lies.  Baker denied telling his girlfriend how he killed his wife, or discussing their relationship if something happened to Kari Baker.

He divulged details on their relationship in the interview, which will be the focus of a story Friday on News Channel 25 at 6 PM. 

Baker also discussed other accusations of inappropriate conduct with different women who testified against him in the punishment phase of the trial.  He claimed one of them, a Baylor student, admitted lying about her claims.  Another he said he'd never seen before and didn't remember, and a third was a flirtatious relationship with a high school girlfriend.

Despite the conviction and the prospect of spending 65 years in prison, Baker says, "I know I loved my wife even though I made a mistake having an affair.  I did not hurt her, suffocate her, give her pills to kill her or try to kill her, and I'm waiting for the day I can say that in court."

Baker also spoke with ABC's 20/20 for a story Jim Avila is doing to be aired later this month.

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