Long Jailed, Man Awaits New Trial
December 14, 1999

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - After sitting in prison for 26 years for a murder he said he didn't commit, Eddie Baker was released on bail Tuesday despite prosecutors' continuing effort to keep him in prison pending a new trial. 

Asked what he would do now that he is free, Baker said: ``I'm going to leave that up to my family. 'Cause I don't know what to do. I've been in jail for 26 years.'' 

With his head bowed earlier Tuesday, Baker smiled as relatives and old friends clapped and blew kisses to him following the hourlong bail hearing. His aunt whispered ``thank-you'' several times, grateful that her nephew was finally coming home - two years after a judge set aside his murder conviction and ordered a new trial. 

The new trial was ordered after prosecutors' key witness, Donahue Wise, confessed to the murder in a court hearing and acknowledged that Baker was never involved. 

The judge ordered bail, but the district attorney appealed, holding up his release. A year later, a Superior Court panel unanimously affirmed the lower court's ruling, and in late October, the state Supreme Court refused to hear the state's appeal. 

On Tuesday, Common Pleas Judge C. Darnell Jones II ordered Baker out of prison again on $50,000 bail. 

``Mr. Baker, I caution you. You're granted a new trial and the commonwealth still has a right to prosecute you,'' Jones said. 

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Diviny said he plans to appeal on Wednesday. 

``We're greatly disappointed because we still believe that Mr. Baker is in fact guilty of the crime,'' Diviny said. 

Baker, 43, was convicted at age 17 of killing his South Philadelphia neighbor, 75-year-old Stephen Gibbons, who was hogtied, gagged and stabbed in the neck with an ice pick. 

Baker was ordered under house arrest while he lives with his cousin. He will only be allowed to leave the house while going on job interviews, going to work and going to church, and must be accompanied. 


Note:  Although it is not mentioned in the foregoing report, the investigation that led to Eddie Baker's release was conducted by Centurion Ministries.

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