US prosecutor seeks death penalty after deputy killed
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against a man charged with killing a Tennessee sheriff’s deputy and burning his body and patrol car last year.
A federal grand jury indicted Steven Joshua Wiggins on Wednesday in the death of 32-year-old Dickson County Sgt. Daniel Baker, U.S. Attorney Don Cochran said in a news release Thursday.
The release says Attorney General William Barr granted authority to seek the death penalty for Wiggins, who is charged with federal carjacking and firearms violations that led to Baker’s May 2018 death.
A state prosecutor has already said he’s seeking the death penalty against Wiggins and Erika Castro-Miles in Baker’s death. The two have pleaded not guilty to the murder charges by the state.
The federal and state cases will proceed parallel to each other, said U.S. attorney’s office spokesman David Boling.
Court documents allege Castro-Miles was in the car when Wiggins shot Baker and that Wiggins dragged Baker’s body into his cruiser, drove it several miles, parked it and set the vehicle ablaze.
Wiggins then became the object of a massive 48-hour manhunt.
Wiggins’ state trial was moved to February. Assistant district attorney Margaret Sagi said Castro-Miles is awaiting a trial date and the decision over whether the state will seek the death penalty against her will be made after Wiggins’ trial. The two cases have been severed and, at this time, the state has only filed its intent to seek the death penalty against Wiggins, Sagi said.
The case spurred passage this year of the Sgt. Daniel Baker Act, a Tennessee law that removed the state Court of Criminal Appeals from reviewing death penalty cases. Proponents of the change called it a quicker route to justice for victims, though the Court of Criminal Appeals had been taking less than a year to go through death penalty reviews, with the last four only taking three to six months.
Federal courts account for the vast majority of the time it takes for death penalty cases to go through the appeals process.