CHARLOTTE, TN (WSMV) - The judge presiding over the case in the shooting death of Dickson County Sheriff Sgt. Daniel Baker agreed to delay the trial’s start date because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Circuit Court Judge David Wolfe set a start date of July 29, 2021, to begin jury selection with the trial beginning in early August.
The defense team for Steven Wiggins, who is accused of shooting Baker multiple times and then setting his patrol car on fire on May 30, 2018, requested the delay citing inability to complete investigations into Wiggins’ mental health because of coronavirus protocols.
According to his defense team, Wiggins tested positive for COVID-19 while in jail.
The defense also cited potential complications to the trial process including social distancing with the jury, in-person appearances by Wiggins, media and others attending the trial and mask use prejudices while in the court room.
Wiggins in charged with first degree murder, vehicular arson, abuse of a corpse, impersonation of a law enforcement officer and other charges. He has pleaded not guilty. The state can seek the death penalty if convicted.
Wiggins’ defense team noted this case could be one of the first in Tennessee to seek capital punishment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state prosecution team argued the right to a speedy trial and due process for the victim’s family and argued there were enough protections within the courtroom against COVID-19 to allow the case to move forward.
Wolfe sided with Wiggins’ defense on the bases the Tennessee Supreme Court has allowed local courts to decide if a jury trial can be performed safely. Given the scope of the case, he agreed the pandemic proposed serious complications and felt if forced to push the trial forward, the case could end up in the Supreme Court on the basis of the state seeking the death penalty during a pandemic.
According to investigators, Baker encounters Wiggins and Erika Castro-Miles in a stolen vehicle with a flat tired. Baker then reportedly ordered Wiggins and Castro-Miles out of the car. According to court documents, Wiggins told Baker that his door was stuck, so the officer ordered both suspects to exit the vehicle from the passenger side.
When Baker walked around the rear of the car, Wiggins allegedly fired at least five shots from a .45 caliber pistol. According to court documents, Baker was hit by at least one of the bullets and collapsed several yards away.
Wiggins the allegedly approached Baker and fired several rounds at close range. The autopsy reports Baker sustained six gunshot wounds, including three to his head.
Officials said after shooting Baker, Wiggins placed Baker back inside his cruiser and set the car on fire.
Federal authorities have also filed charges against Wiggins and are seeking the death penalty against him. His federal trial is set to begin Oct. 5.