Baird, noticeably jubilant, sat with his attorney Bobby Guttridge as County Judge David Morgan read the verdict. Baird shook people's hands as he got congratulations.
Jurors deliberated just less than two hours hours after the three-day trial, which included a full day of jury selection.
Apparently a note handed to the judge by an alternate juror as the jury was leaving the courtroom to begin their deliberations, did not affect the outcome. The note suggested one of the jurors may have been predisposed to making a decision.
The handwritten note said the juror "told us that she was a friend of a woman who was excused as a juror because her daughter was killed by a drunken driver. And that she (the current juror) in this case attended the child's funeral."
The last testimony at the trial was Wednesday morning, and the last prosecution witness said he bought a mixed drink for Baird about a half hour before Baird’s arrest in Vero Beach at 10:26 p.m. May 16.
Witness Peter Armfield saw Baird at a Youth Guidance volunteer program party near Wabasso. Just prior to Baird leaving the party shortly after 10 p.m., Armfield said he ordered Baird a mixed drink, brown in color.
Armfield couldn’t say if in fact the drink had alcohol in it, but he said that is what he paid for.
When Baird was stopped by Vero Beach Police in Vero Beach, an officer saw a spilled drink and ice on the floor of Baird’s jeep, according to trial testimony.
But no tests were run on the spilled drink to say if it contained alcohol. And there was no testimony that Baird drank any of the cup of liquid Armfield gave it.
At the time of his arrest, Baird said he had had a few drinks earlier in the evening. Witnesses who attended the party said they saw him drink about two beers.
Prior to Armfield’s testimony, defense witnesses including Baird’s girlfriend and administrative assistant both testified Wednesday that he has balance problems, which Baird’s attorney said contributed to his failing a roadside sobriety test conducted by Vero Beach Police following his being stopped on 21st Street.
In closing arguments, Baird’s attorney, Bobby Guttridge, called on jurors to give Baird the benefit of the doubt.
“This man’s liberty and reputation are at stake,” he said.
Guttridge said the roadside sobriety tests are abnormal tests of physical ability, requiring people to stand on one leg or walk a line. The tests “are ridiculous,” he said. And he told jurors police rushed to judgment and lied some in testimony.
Assistant State Attorney David Dodd told jurors that Baird’s contentions he has balance problems, called vertigo, is just an excuse.
Baird refused a Breathalyzer test following his arrest. Dodd told jurors Baird “should have begged to take the Breathalyzer test” to prove his innocence. “He should have run to (the police department) to give that sample.”
Also Dodd told jurors that witnesses who testified on Baird’s behalf lied.
“Every one of the defense witnesses had an interest in how this case comes out.”
Baird’s long-time girlfriend, Karen Diegl, who lives with him, testified “He has a lack of balance on a daily basis. He cannot do any activity that requires balance.’’
He can run, ride a two-wheel bicycle, but he cannot put on shoes or pants while standing on one foot, she said.
Diegl’s testimony was corroborated by Baird’s administrative assistant, Dori Roy.
When Baird walks, he “lumbers one foot to the other,’’ she said. And, occasionally, when Baird gets up from a desk, he has to reach out and touch something, Roy said. “He almost seems to be working to get his balance.” She said she sees that several times a week.
Also, she was at the Youth Guidance fundraiser near Wabasso that Baird attended shortly before his arrest. She said she saw him shortly after 10 p.m., and “I didn’t feel like he was impaired. I didn’t think he had too much to drink.’’
Roy said that when she heard of his arrest for DUI, “I was shocked.’’
Other witnesses testifying Wednesday were people who were at the youth guidance fundraiser that Baird attended, and they said they saw no signs of Baird being impaired before driving to Vero Beach, where he was arrested for DUI.
Copyright 2009 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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